’s Alienation Essay, Research Paper
Karl Marx, who was arguably one of the most influential philosophers and revolutionaries of his time, stated that the alienation of man leads to man being viewed as nothing more than a commodity by society. Man, as he put it, was forced into labor and stripped of all human rights. He loses his identity and thus becomes alienated, even to the extent of being alienated to himself. Marx’s theories were based on his socialist principals in which an alienated man is one of little value to society as a whole. In today’s world, although an alienated man is not looked upon as a useless face to society, in many ways he still becomes nothing more than a commodity. The purpose of this essay will be to demonstrate that alienation still exists today, what forms it takes, and to describe what the term alienation ment to Karl Marx. I will take a two fold approach to this essay. First, I will discuss Karl Marx s concept of alienation, and second I will tackle the question of alienation today, and if I feel that it has increased of decreased.
Before answering this question, one must find the exact meaning of alienation to interpret what Marx ment. According to the Websters dictionary, Alienation is defined as a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person s affections from an object or position of former attachment. Marx believed this term was best present in the labor force at his time. He saw the capitalist society as exploiting workers and also stripping individuals of their own free will. This exploitation would be dominant enough that it set limits to the individuals creative potential, thus alienating man to himself. Karl Marx believed that labor, under the capitalist system, was forcing workers into work; consequently he came up with the term forced labor. He would also argue that in order for this problem to resolve itself, would be to abolish private property and the class relationships that emerge from the ownership and non-ownership of property. Being forced to work, would be enough incentive to believe that alienation would ensue. For example, if I was a factory worker and I was forced into work, would I be emotionally happy or sad? I would obviously be very un-happy as to my situation. Now suppose a whole factory of dejected workers are put in that situation. Would I be predisposed to work in that kind of atmosphere? Of course not! Marx went on to say that man is nothing but a mear commodity, the more he produces, the less he is worth, and the less he is worth, the more he is alienated. The worker is essentially producing goods that he will never have, or never be able to afford. If he keeps producing these products, then he is mearly increasing his problems. The more he creates, the less he is worth. The more he expends himself to work, the more powerful the products are, and the less he is able to belong to himself. This in turn would be why he is being alienated from himself. Work to man is now playing an external role, one which is not part of his nature, thus enhancing the feeling of misery rather than well being. A good point Marx made was by saying that the worker feels himself at home only during his leisure time, whereas at work he feels homeless. Man was in a dead end situation, he was producing products which were satisfying other needs, other than his own. He was put into a situation where the work he was doing, did not belong to him, but to another person. By doing this, Marx said that man s functions were reduced to that of an animal, where he was just eating and drinking ; he was mearly trying to survive. Basically, man was alienated from his work by means of the dominating product of labor, and he was alienated from himself by means of losing his identity.
Although alienation does not seem to be very present in today s world, traces of it are still evident through out the globe. For example, the Nike sweat shops in southeast Asia are prime examples of alienation in the work force. Now the individuals are not called man, they are called individuals because they could be male or female. The individuals are put into that situation because they want to survive. The more they produce, the less their worth, and so on. The people in those sweat shops have no identity, and no interest of being there, other than the fact that they might get paid $1.60 dollars per Nike shoe which in return sells for 200.00 dollars in the states. Is this a form of alienation? Yes of course. The people of southeast Asia who are put into those roles have no intention of buying anything they make, and the owners will obviously not let them have anything they make anyway. So the only reason they are working is to survive, once again we are reminded of the animal behavior which Marx pointed out earlier. Once theses people are at their work, the are away from home and away from themselves, totally homeless! Now getting back to our modern society, we are reminded of the role a housewife plays. Women are unfortunately still considered by many as just being a housewife. These women who have such roles are also being alienated. They are being forced into staying home and doing various chores around the house, which they do not want to do. Even calling them housewives makes it seem that they have lost their identity. Out of all places, the housewife loses her identity in her own house. Thus she is alienated from herself and worst of all her place of relaxation has alienated her also. Office workers are also in this category. For example, if I were a office worker, working in a big branch, there would always be someone above me. There would not be a time all the workers status would be equal to eachother. We are working for someone higher than us. Once again we are perceived as being commodities.
I believe that our society will never change and that alienation is a universal thing and will not be diminished in the near future. Or course there are self employment businesses that run from people s basements which might seem like they do not alienate their workers, but in fact they do in some ways. In Marx s time, alienation was a big factor in the work force. Although I believe that it still exists today, I am reluctant to say that it is as strong as it was back then. I feel that our society has learned to appreciate its workers and give them identities instead of treating them as commodities. Nevertheless, other countries govern themselves differently and there s no way we could all run businesses alike, but at least alienation has decreased since Marx s time and hopefully it will decrease even more, in the future.