Alienation

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  • Topic: Max Weber, Capitalism, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
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  • Published : May 15, 2013
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Marx extract 1:
‘The worker is related to the product of his labour as to an alien object. The object he produces does not belong to him, but dominates him, and only serves in the long run to increase his poverty. Alienation appears not only in the result, but also in the process of production and productive activity itself. The worker is not at home in his work which he views only as a means of satisfying other needs. It is an activity directed against himself, that is independent of him and does not belong to him… Alienated labour succeeds in alienating man from his species. Species life, productive life, life creating life, turns into a mere means of sustaining the worker’s individual existence, and man is alienated from his fellow men. Finally, nature itself is alienated from man, who thus loses his own inorganic body’. Marx, K. ([1844] 1964) Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, in T. B. Bottomore -------------------------------------------------

(ed) Karl Marx: Early Writings. New York: McGraw‐Hill pp63‐219 -------------------------------------------------

In the excerpt, Marx outlines the concept of alienation, which he defines the deteriorated relationship between the labour and human nature as of capitalism. Marx highlights four compositions; alienation from the product, productive activity, from species and finally, from his fellow men. Alienation from the product occurs when it just symbolizes the worker, as the product would belong to the capitalist who owns production means. If the worker wants it, he needs to buy it. Moreover, it serves to increase his poverty, since in the long run fierce competitions would probably drive down the cost, including wages. If the product is alienated, so does productive activity for the worker has no right to alter the production as he likes, but the capitalist’s, resulting in work being merely a means for obtaining wages for survival. This reduces the human potential to the life of the species, like feeding and breeding, and this becomes a mere means of their physical being. Finally, nature becomes alienated from him, as his consciousness and his own will to fulfill his own purposes is lost, as he is reduced to fulfill capitalists’. Lastly, man is alienated from men because, like the capitalists, workers compete with each other for their survival, since there is absence of social relation, alienation arises. Let’s assume workers in an iPhone factory. The iPhone the worker produces doesn’t belong to him and he can’t even modify as he wishes, moreover he won’t have a clue about the whole process, as it is designed in California while it’s assembled in China. He just has to work for low wages paid in return, being alienated as Marx says. This might be the case in the developing economies, like India and China, since massive numbers of factories are located, just to exploit the abundance of cheap labour, resulting being estranged, however it’s unlikely in the developed economies of the EU and US, with the laws of minimum wage, working condition and child labour, meaning, the degree of alienation depends on what type of economy it is. Nowadays, people acquire the skills through education and training, on the field they want to work. This means work is less likely to be alienated from him. However, the level of the skill between the workers might be different to a greater extent. Moreover, the competition amongst workers for the bonus and promotions might end up them being alienated from each other. Looking at the contemporary competitive job market, some prefer to study for the high-demanded jobs for high job security, not what they really desire, Like me, I chose this course, as the chances for getting a high paid job are greater. Marx argues only workers are alienated, but in reality, in a free market, products should tally with the consumer preferences at the same time being competitive too, meaning the capitalists are alienated too. Moreover, I...
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