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Karl marx essays alienation



Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The concept of Alienation (estrangement) developed by Marx has been derived from the ideas of Hegel, a German philosopher. Its importance can be realized as it highlights a lack of relationship between a worker and his work. Several aspects of alienation are considered beginning from when a person fails to recognize his work (product). He is unable to find any satisfaction in his work and he is doing it just because he is forced to do it. It is a matter of survival for him to meet the basic needs of food, cover and shelter. The work does not match his nature and he fails to be at ease with regards to his work and only feels homely when he is not at work. He does not find any satisfaction in his work. Thus he is unable to recognize his work [1 ]. Secondly, the workers are unable to control the process of work as they lack the means for producing the product. These two are followed by a loss of control of any significant relations with other fellow workers and finally the worker gradually becomes isolated from every one till a time is reached when he loses his self also. This is to say a human being who in fact is a social being and who has always been a creative, expressive and cooperative individual who was ever-ready to help his fellow workers now has lost his social human nature [2 ] .

These aspects can be well understood if an example of a young boy, working as an aide to a mechanic is considered. His daily work comprises of screwing nuts on bolts for 8-10 hours. He is not concerned with what is he doing and for whom his product of work belongs to i.e. the car which he works on- he only knows at the end of the day he earns a little amount which is just sufficient for his living. The area where he lives and his family is least concerned about the product of his work. The young boy is not interested in his work, but because of no choice feels alienated towards environment. Similarly, a boy may be working in a factory of shampoo making but his family may never be exposed to the product. Thus, his work alienates him from others. If one deliberates on the concept it can be realized that Marx focuses on class differences. Beside the working class there is another powerful class of people who do not need to produce things. This class of people can exist by controlling the labor of other people. In this way capitalism emerges due to industrialization. The effect of this industrial capitalism results in the division of labor and workers specialize in small, atomized activities. In this way they are only able to use few of their creativity talent of which they are capable of. Ultimately the workers get dependent upon the capitalists and their intellectuality decreases. They are paid on daily wages. So the limited creativity of a human being is also dealt as a commodity. A system is established and a worker gets bound to the system. Any measures if taken to come out of the system are meant being deprived of a little work done to maintain life. Marx believed that alienation has increased and appeared in all activities of life [3 ] .

The concept of alienation adopted by Hegel had a religious connotation to it which gave an emphasis to his central idea of self realization. He focused more on the inner soul rather than externalization. He explained that when one concentrates on his or her soul he just forgets about every thing, he then is least concerned of what is happening around [4 ]. This reflects the Sufism in his thoughts. He was one of the many European intellects who were inspired by the renowned Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, which is indicated by the following extract:

'Besides the bed of Jalaluddin, all ears, is Hegel and sitting next to him is Marx. In a corner of the room stands Rückert, besides a seated Purgstall. On the other end of the room are Tholuck, Platen, William Hastie, Constantin Brunner, and a not so interested Goethe.' [5 ]

This is spiritual alienation where there is a keen sense of separation from the divine.

Hegel gave an important concept of 'concrete universal' which stresses the consideration of a totality or a whole rather than particular and universal experience separately. He believed that society and individuals co-exist. As the author has well explained by saying 'so also society is not the sum of individuals, but is actively and fully present in each of them.' [6 ] He further provides an insight to human social nature by referring to the biological needs of humans which do not allow them to survive without their fellow beings. This is how they are different from animals who may survive without a family. Languages are given by the society and help a person in building contacts with one another and rationally think and play an important role in building the identity of the individual. Sharing responsibilities builds human nature. He gives the notion of family, working together and as citizen of state. Self expression of loyalty depends on the relationship of one to another. This includes one's relationship with the state, loyalty, one's identity, association with culture, language build up by man, the way he thinks and feels about the world.

Hegel's philosophy is based on self-realization and the need for coherence, identity and self recognition of one's potentials and capabilities. A person can never be satisfied if there is lack of coherence in the work he is doing. If the work is not a true representative of a person's identity then he loses interest in his work. The pleasure, which was aimed to be accomplished during that work, becomes meaningless for e.g. a driver who waits for his master from eight to five in a parking area.

Self expression through one's work which is an objective expression to one's identity is an important concept and has been taken by Marx for the development of his views of alienated labor.

The need for activity is another important aspect which keeps a man being creative and makes the work interesting. It also happens that the same sequential work being done repeatedly tends to decrease interest. It then becomes monotonous and without any creativity and ultimately leads to frustration.

For Hegel alienation is an inescapable fate of humanity and its object world- alienation is thus inherent in human life which allows individuals to recognize that the object world is brought into existence by their own activity. Hegel describes alienation as "the extra work needed to raise an average person to a high level of culture" [7 ]. Hegel believes that the average person will find it impossible to attain such a high level of culture which will result in humiliating him. Those who manage to transcend this stage will rise from the average class to the cultured class. This is consistent with Rumi's ideas. According to Rumi one needs to lose himself in order to find "contentment, sturdiness, joy, the vitality of spring and companionship with the beloved" whereas not losing oneself results in the individual experiencing "sadness, weakness, wretchedness and separation from the beloved" [8 ] .

Thus, Hegel stressed one-sidedly upon the valuable functions that labor performed for humanity. On the other hand, for Marx, the central locus of alienation is no longer in the making of all human objects but it has been narrowed to work products. Marx stressed upon the "negative" side of labor. One notes that Marx does not perceive alienation to be a universal human phenomenon but links it to mode of production.

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