Alienation and Exploitation

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Anthony Scalercio
English 117
Alienation and Exploitation
Marx’s theory of alienation and exploitation in labor is clearly portrayed throughout Charles Chaplin’s film “Modern Times”. The film, which takes place in the era of post industrial revolution, is set in the factory of the “Electro Steel Corporation”. The story portrays the demanding life of a factory worker, played by Charlie Chaplin, who’s job is tightening nuts onto a piece if metal as it moves down the assembly line. There are many factors of Karl Marx’s forms of alienation and exploitation in the workplace shown through the tedious and constant fast-past working style that Chaplin shows in his film. Also the many consequences of the poor working conditions is portrayed throughout the film. The assembly line lifestyle that workers were forced to live leads Chaplin’s character to eventually suffer from a nervous breakdown. Chaplin’s character in Modern Times is an ideal portrayal of Marx’s theory of the division of labor and how it causes workers to be alienated and exploited in the work place. The first scene of the film shows a huge clock with Charlie Chaplin hanging onto it, which seems to be a clear symbol that people in an industrial society live under a mechanically made measurement of time. This seems to be a great example of the phrase "Time is money”. We live our lives by the clock and by the clock that the bourgeoisie, or the company owners, make for us. We are constantly given deadlines and a strict schedule to follow to ensure that we are making the bourgeoisies as much money as we can. There are many other factors of the film that tie into Marx’s theory of capitalism, alienation, and exploitation of the working class. One example in particular is the machine. As shown in the film, Chaplin is working on an assembly line and all he does all day is tighten screws on metal boards that pass by. As stated by Jorn Bramann, “Like those of his fellow-workers beside him, his...
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