Marx’s Theory of Alienation

Topics: Capitalism, Karl Marx, Property Pages: 9 (3152 words) Published: May 13, 2014
Marx’s Theory of Alienation
This paper will attempt to analyze Karl Marx’s theory of alienation. The paper will analyze what economic factors lead to Marx’s theory, what he meant by alienation, and how this alienation affected a certain class of people who lived and worked in the time of Karl Marx. It will also compare Marx’s view of alienation with that of Hegel. The paper will also address Marx theory and how it is associated with his theory of commodity fetishism. Marx’s theory of alienation can be better understood by analyzing the economic conditions that lead up to it. In chapter one of Marx’s “Manifest of the Communist Party,” he details how the economy of Europe, and the newly formed American Colonies moved from a feudal system of industry to capitalism, and how in turn, this lead to the alienation of the worker. According to the textbook, “Philosophic Classics, Volume IV: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Third Edition, by Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann, Marx explains, in the first chapter of his manifesto, how the feudal system of old had given rise to a new economic system. As farmers left their land for jobs in the city, and as serf of the middle-ages climbed their way up the economic ladder, the “first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed” (342). In other words, as the markets grew, and the demand for goods increased, people who came to the city became guild-masters, landlords, and shop owners. The birth of the industrial revolution, and even before, gave rise to an ever-changing economic structure. According to Baird and Kaufmann, Marx writes, “the feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolized by closed guilds, now, no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets” (342). What Marx means is that cobblers, clothing makers, people who made goods by hand and then sell them to the public, these people could not keep up with the ever growing demand for their product. For example, a cobbler made shoes, and he made them one pair at a time. Each pair of shoes was unique as it was tailored to the exact size of the person they were made for. But, as demand for the product grew, because more and more people were relocating to the city to find a job, these types of tradesmen lost their customers to the manufacturing middle-class who could produce the goods faster and cheaper. However, as the markets kept growing, even the manufacturer could not keep up with demand, and as a result, because of advancements in technology, according to Marx, “The place of the manufacturer was taken by the giant, modern industry, the place of the industrial middle-class, by industrial millionaires – the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois” (Baird and Kaufmann 342). What this means is that the middle-class manufacturer, like the cobbler, could not keep up with the demand for product. For example, the manufacturer could make shoes faster than the cobbler, but the manufacturer was also making them one pair at a time. The manufacturer may have had more workers making many more pairs of shoes, but demand for shoes had grown exponentially due to millionaire industrialist hiring more and more people, and because new markets were opening up around the world making the demand for products ever greater. How, then, does this all lead to the alienation of the working man? What is the explanation Marx gives to his understanding about the alienation of the laborer? What stands in the way of man’s happiness is the greed of the property owner. Before the industrial revolution, before millionaire industrialists and the middle-class manufacturer, and before the advancement of technology, the worker was allowed to rise to the status of guild-master, and the “petty bourgeoisie” was allowed to “develop into a bourgeoisie,” or property owner (Baird and Kaufmann 346). According to Marx, “The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and...


Cited: Baird, Forrest E. and Kaufmann, Walter. Philosophic Classics, Volume IV: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Third Edition. Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 2003. Print.
Elster, Jon. Karl Marx: A Reader. Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. New York. 1995. Print
Lavine, T.Z. From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest. Bantam Books. New York. 1984. Print.
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