Marx Alienated Labor Essay, Research Paper
Marx on page 327 of his essay “estranged labor” is describing what to him were
the fundamental conditions of labor under capitalism and why he found them
detrimental to man. It is an essay about how people experience work. Marx
criticizes capitalism by analyzing his theory of alienation.The theme for this essay
was how workers in capitalism are alienated from their work .It covers 4 forms of
alienation in capitalist society.
Alienation is the transfer of property from one to another; foreign strange,
unknown or to separate. Marx explains how labor negatively produces itself and
the workers as a commodity. The object that labor produces confronts the laborer
as something alien and a power independent of the producer. The product of
labor is labor, which has been frozen in an object.
In capitalism the loss of the object is loss of reality for the worker.
These facts are all tied to his concept of alienation. Alienation preceded
private property. It is not the separation between those who own the
material forces of production and those who don’t that causes alienation,
but rather it is the other way around. There are four forms of alienation:
The first form of alienation is alienation of the worker from the production
process. In order for the worker to produce the worker needs nature in which to
achieve the objectification of their subjectivity (to create an object) and also to
reproduce themselves. However in the capitalist system the worker receives
work (being productive is part of the species being) and receives
sustenance for work. Therefore in order to exists as a species being, the worker
obtain substance of their species being from someone else. Therefor by
selling the ability to work for a period of time (labor), the worker
is estranged from themselves and the production process. The workers are
not producing to improve themselves, but rather is producing and doing
their most basic life activity to survive. The labor process is purely a
means to satisfy an end, as opposed to being an end in itself. Which according to
Marx is what labor should be for the species being that is humanity.
Due to the fact that the production process is alien to the worker, the
product of this process is also alien to the worker. The object that they
create, that they put their labor and time into, does not belong to them, but
rather belongs to another human being.
Thirdly, humans are also estranged from themselves in this process. They are
not developing themselves and instead are using their most basic functions a
means to an end, as opposed to an end in itself. Humans are naturally
creative beings and this creative process becomes something that controls
them. People must work to eat, instead of working because producing is
what is the species being of nature. This alienation goes further because
the physical sustenance of humans becomes an end in itself, as opposed to a
means to an end. People are limited to their most base animal functions.
Also because people are in competition with each other, they see each other
solely as objects that are in the way of them earning a livelihood. The
social nature of people is then limited because interactions aren’t for the
sake of interacting, but rather are a means.
This leads to the last form of alienation. The alienation of people
from each other. If the object of production doesn’t belong to the worker,
then it can only belong to another human being. Furthermore the worker
sells their labor power to another human being. The act of production
therefore is not an act of free will, but rather a means to obtain survival
from another human being. Workers are also alienated from each other
because they compete against each other to get a job.
This is the general idea of the four types of alienation. For Marx the constant
struggle between the capitalist (bourgeoisie ) and the worker (proletariat) is the
history of alienation. Out of this alienation is the reason why laborers (proletariat )
work for a mere sub existence, for basic necessities. Wages are a consequence of
estranged labor. The low selling of labor power arises from this alienation.