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Karl Marx: Alienation Essay

1119 words - 4 pages

For Marx, the history of mankind had a double aspect: It was a history of increasing control of man over nature at the same time as it was a history of the increasing alienation of man. Alienation may be described as a condition in which men are dominated by forces of their own creation, which confront them as alien powers. The notion is central to all of Marx's earlier philosophical writings and still informs his later work, although no longer as a philosophical issue but as a social phenomenon. The young Marx asks: In what circumstances do men project their own powers, their own values, upon objects that escape their control? What are the social causes of this phenomenon?To Marx, all major institutional spheres in capitalist society, such as religion, the state, and political economy, were marked by a condition of alienation. Moreover, these various aspects of alienation were interdependent. "Objectification is the practice of alienation. Just as man, so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his essence by an alien and fantastic being; so under the sway of egoistic need, he can only affirm himself and produce objects in practice by subordinating his products and his own activity to the domination of an alien entity, and by attributing to them the significance of an alien entity, namely money."24 "Money is the alienated essence of man's work and existence; the essence dominates him and he worships it."25 "The state is the intermediary between men and human liberty. Just as Christ is the intermediary to whom man attributes all his own divinity and all his religious bonds, so the state is the intermediary to which man confides all his non-divinity and all his human freedom."26 Alienation hence confronts man in the whole world of institutions in which he is enmeshed. But alienation in the workplace assumes for Marx an overriding importance, because to hi man was above all Homo Faber, Man the Maker. "The outstanding achievement of Hegel's Phenomenology . . . is that Hegel grasps the self-creation of man as a process. . . and that he, therefore, grasps the nature of labor and conceives objective man. . .as the result of his own labor."27Economic alienation under capitalism is involved in men's daily activities and not only in their minds, as other forms of alienation might be. "Religious alienation as such occurs only in the sphere of consciousness, in the inner life of man, but economic alienation is that of real life. . . . It therefore affects both aspects."28Alienation in the domain of work has a fourfold aspect: Man is alienated from the object he produces, from the process of production, from himself, and from the community of his fellows."The object produced by labor, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer. . . .The more the worker expends himself in work the more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his...

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