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Alienation Case

Essay by   •  November 24, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,568 Words (7 Pages)  •  867 Views

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Alienation according to the Oxford English dictionary is defined as estranged or to make hostile. Marx viewed alienation as being separated from something or loss of control, specifically the loss of control over labour. He believed that human alienation originated from the socially structured separation between humans and their work. He particularly blamed capitalism as the major cause of alienation since that was where most of the population in the world worked in order to satisfy their wants and needs. At the workplace, individuals were separated from ownership, control and direction of their work and as a result they could not express their own personal creativity. They also got alienated from each other due to competition and also from themselves since they were forced to work. In this essay, I will discuss the four main forms of alienation that Marx described, how relevant they are to us in this day and age and highlight some examples from my own experience.

Karl Marx, a famous German philosopher, in his economic and philosophical manuscripts (1844), described four main forms of alienation. The first one was that a worker was alienated from the product that he produces because he had little or no control over its production. He highlighted that normally people would use their creative abilities to produce products that they would either sell or exchange with other products but under capitalism, people had no control over what they produced and they could not use them either. This is vastly common in our societies as people produce products that are most of the time too expensive for them to buy or use and thus they get alienated from the products. For instance, people make cars that they will never get to drive, they manufacture clothes that they will never get to wear and build houses that are otherwise too expensive for them to set foot in. Marx argued that the alienation of the worker from what he produces is heightened because the products of labour in reality begin to take over the labourer (Ollman, 1976). I have experienced and seen people suffer to get food or a place to sleep while during the day they work in construction sites building houses meant for the rich in the society. According to my own opinion, the workers are usually paid low salaries compared to the kind of work they do and what they produce in the end. Thus, they lack motivation and they view the end product as a hostile entity in which they were forced to produce.

The second form of alienation that Marx described was the lack of control over the whole production process. He claimed that workers could not govern their working conditions and neither could they make any suggestions on how to produce a particular product (Mészáros, 1970). We work under different authorities, authorities that have more power and get to say what and how we should produce a certain product. Such authorities, most of the time, are hard on the workers and demand long and hard working hours. The working conditions are also sometimes below the recommended standards. Due to this, the worker views work as a burden instead of a way to express his creativity. The worker experiences proliferation as emasculation, his own energy both physical and mental as an activity directed against him and at the end of the day it is independent of him. This means that he characterises work in a negative form, a form that becomes alien to him and makes him detached from it. For example working at a manufacturing plant can dissipate the muscles and the entire body of a worker and seizes every glimmer of freedom both in mind and body. The managers divide the work load into various departments and assign different people to work under different departments. This causes the workers to work under one department for long periods of time and thus their work gets repetitive and they do not get to exercise their talents and skills. Technology in modern day has also influenced the division of labour and also rendered human creativity at the workplace useless since one cannot compete with machines and computers. The exceptional skill of each individual ceases to exist as an insignificant quantity when placed against the science, the enormous physical forces, and bulk of labour that are personified in the factory mechanism and, together with that mechanism, institute the power of the master.

Thirdly, a worker is alienated from other fellow workers or human beings in general. This form of alienation originates because of the resentment which arises from the exploitation workers face. They get alienated from the managers and other humans that generally control all the activities they do at the workplace. Most managers tend to be hostile and very authoritative over the rest

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