Sociology and Alienation

Topics: Sociology, Religion, Max Weber Pages: 4 (1409 words) Published: January 5, 2014
Alienation - Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim

Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim are two of the founding fathers of sociology. They have both had a profound influence on the development of sociology. This essay will examine two of their theories - Marx’s theory of alienation and Durkheim’s theory of anomie, and will look at the similarities and differences in their thinking. Marx (1818-1883) wrote the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts in 1844, and one of these manuscripts, entitled ’Estranged Labour’, contains his discussion of alienation - the experience of isolation resulting from powerlessness. Marx’s basic concern was with the structures of capitalism that cause this alienation. He offered a theory of alienation rooted in social structure. He wanted his theory to convey two central and dominant ideas. First, the idea that human beings make society, and at some point society is a natural extension of their nature and their being, and second, the idea that, as modern society develops, human beings begin to feels that society is not of their making, and no longer reflects their being or their nature, but instead appears to be alien. Marx believed that labouring was the primary means by which human beings realised themselves in nature and history. Alienation, according to Marx, breaks this fundamental connection humans have to the self-defining aspect of labouring activity. He went on to identify four components of alienation: (I) alienation from the product of labour; (ii) alienation from productive activity; (iii) alienation from the human species; and, (iv) alienation from fellow human beings. The first type of alienation, product alienation, occurs when workers become estranged from the objects they produce. The product of their labour does not belong to the workers, but instead belongs to the capitalists, who may use it in any they wish, usually selling the product for profit. Also, workers often lack detailed knowledge of the aspects of production they are not...
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