According to Marx, How Does Capitalism Alienate Workers? How Did Marx Feel That Workers Could Overcome Their Alienation?

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SS 2029 Basic Sociology
2011-2012 (Semester A)

Individual Term Paper

CHEUNG Kai-HO
(52596777)

7. According to Marx, how does capitalism alienate workers? How did Marx feel that workers could overcome their alienation?

1. Abstract

Alienation, a term used to describe the feeling of no connection with others or the separation from former attachment. When it comes to sociologist aspect, especially on Marxism, this term describes the stage of losing one’s identity. To Karl Marx’s belief, Alienation means the loss of control over the process and product of work (Bell, 1959). Thus, under the capitalism, workers are alienated by the production system.

2. Content A

First and foremost, from Marx’s point of view, alienation is the eventual outcome of capitalism. Capitalism itself is based on a mode of production, as stated by Marx. The capitalists own the capital, materials, properties for the production, as well as the products. The capitalists will then put the products in exchange with money and hence, gain profit. As capitalists can decide the salaries of workers, they will plausibly pay as little as they can, so as to gain the largest profit. Without the power of decision, workers have no choice but to earn their livings by selling their labor force. These create what indicated by Marx as the capitalist mode of production. Marx also explained that capitalists are the bourgeoisie class while workers are the proletariat class. Production process and output are controlled by bourgeoisie. Workers have little say on their own will. As mentioned by Michael Curtis, man is enslaved by the system of goods and commodities that he produces. Therefore, capitalism can gain the domination over the production as well as the workers and trigger alienation.

In Marx’s vision, there are four aspects in his theory of alienation. According to his writing, Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, alienation means that workers are alienated from the process of production, the products they produced, species being and other workers.

a) In the first aspect, alienation of workers and process of production, workers are alienated from the work itself. As mentioned above, workers have to work under the capitalist mode of production, which means that they have little or even no say on how they should carry out the process of work. Unlike other professions, workers cannot decide working hours, salaries, working procedures they are involved. Take Jorn Bramann’s example as an illustration, artists relatively have greater freedom on how they want to work. Not only do they have the choice of working hour, but also the working direction. Therefore, workers are alienated for the work they are involved. They cannot make the decision on the way they work.

Besides, workers are alienated under the process of production as capitalism follow the using of division of labor. Take a car factory as an example, the products, which obviously cars, consists of a great number of components. For example, engines, wheels, doors, head lights, rear view mirrors. The process of producing a car is apparently complicate; however, after the using of division of labor, the work process is then become easier. Each worker should be responsible for one repeated part only. Thus, Marx noticed the problem in this kind of production. He mentioned that alienated workers have to carry out repeated, less interesting, machine-like rigid procedure. They have to work in same position on the lines of production. Marx saw this phenomenon as domination. Workers are also forced to use machinery so as to perform production easily but Marx again noticed a problem in it. He believed that workers are no longer the user of machines while machines are designed to be extensions of workers. Hence, workers are eventually losing themselves from the repeated working method. Alienation is then sparked off by capitalism’s way of production.

b) In the second...
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