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An Analysis of the Centrality of Labor-Alienation in Capitalist Society

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  • May 21, 2013
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An Analysis of the Centrality of Labor-Alienation in Capitalist Society

Marx’s concept of the alienation of labor represents a fundamental transition in thinking regarding labor’s place in a civil, industrialized society. Europe as a whole was undergoing rapid and extensive societal and economic change when Marx crafted one of his first critiques of labor in political economy, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, in 1844. Marx’s analysis outlines many of the crucial problems inherent to capitalism, more importantly he relates them all back to one central source – the alienation of labor. The estrangement of labor in modern society contradicts the very notion of natural human purpose, namely that it gives rise to unimportant and trivial material interests as the central goal of man’s existence, which in no way fulfills the true fundamental social needs of human beings in society.

Marx often capitalizes on the notion that what distinguishes humans from other animals is rooted in 1) our existential purpose (through our relationship with nature and our surroundings) and 2) our social interaction (our relationship with other human beings) – in short, this can be thought of as labor (because, in the capitalist system, labor is a process which encompasses both of those things to some degree). In capitalism, both of those relationships are diabolically purported into a system in which the worker is subject to misery and suffering by nature of his occupation. In civilized societies, man’s primary goal in life is not constrained to the necessities of subsistence (food, water, shelter, procreation) because, according to Marx, if material production is the point of departure when analyzing capitalist society, we can accept the aforementioned as “given”. Without these limitations, human purpose expands exponentially, no longer are people required to do labor (as we have defined above, by the two principles) simply for the sake of their mere survival, but rather...