Known as the “Father of Communism”, Karl Marx have contributed much to the creation of Communism along with Friedrich Engels in the second half of the 19th century. Although he may be remembered as more of a revolutionary socialist than a philosopher, Marx has incorporated impactful philosophy into his work on several occasions. In my own piece, I will be exploring his theory of alienation, first explaining the theory itself and why labourers may experience this alienation, and next to how Capitalistic production is only adding onto this onslaught of disconnection among our people.
Capitalism and its drive to increase profit by placing its focus on advancing technology and forcing labourers to work in factory settings causes workers to lose their sense of individuality and sense of life. Karl Marx’s theory of alienation refers to the disconnect and lack of humanity one might feel due to living in a society made up of social classes. Labour itself isn’t the culprit here, as Marx believed that labour is a process that is natural to both man and animal. The difference that separates the two involve the use of imagination and the presence of purpose. Man works not for nature, but works to mold her into forms that suited his own needs, straying from the original animalistic purpose of performing mindless labour.
Labour itself can work as a tool for man to use and shape into whatever he needs, always starting with an imagined goal in mind, which is achieved by the end of said process. For comparison, Marx mentions spiders and bees, how their labour holds some similarities with human labourers. Bees are architects with effectively built combs, and spiders are intricate weavers, their homes made from carefully spun webs. All are examples of labour from nature, but Man has been able to use labour as a gateway for expression instead.
Labour permitted Man to not only survive and address basic needs, but also provided a platform for him to express his potential and advance. Marx believed that through labour, human beings can establish a personal relationship with their working power and product, therefore understand themselves in this sense. Feelings of accomplishment and connections created from labour shows that it is not just physical, but from its ability to help one find himself can bring self-actualization.
With more and more time spent in an environment where man is unable to express this creative nature, a breakdown of his natural connections between his work, friends, family and eventually himself. Capitalistic production creates this dynamic where the machine uses the man rather than the man uses the machine. The purpose of Man changes in the type of labour he partakes in. With the usage of tools and his own guidance, Man’s hand creates actions from them, and performs as the main mechanism. In a factory setting, the action of the machine controls the man, making him into just another small part of a larger process.
He has no say in the creation of the final product, as he is there to create out of productivity rather than creativity. This work habit will soon start to become purposeless and repetitive, the process losing its connection with the labourer. With the rise of this kind of factory labour, labourers no longer need individual special skill in order to work, when all they need to do is to complete repetitive tasks for the machine instead of themselves. The labourer becomes increasingly distant from his work, changing from a man to a cog, working for the sake of working rather than the original goal of working with imagination and purpose. In Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy, he states that:The object produced by labour, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer..
.And this is extremely important, recall, as human beings are defined by their work. He does not own the tools, set the pace, or determine his actions on the job” (Marx,1867, pg 122) Due to the meaningless of the labour, the worker has no connection or relationship with the object he created. In order for production to be alienated, the process must be alienated as well. Technology that is used is also foreign and disconnected from humans, so the increased usage of them also promotes an increase in alienation. Capitalism strives for profit, therefore resulting in an increase of technology to keep costs lower while keeping production high.
This alienation turns labour into something that is unnatural to man, turning the process against his natural habits. He doesn’t feel a connection to his work in the same way that he doesn’t feel a connection to what he creates. As mentioned before, this move against nature stumps the expression and growth of each individual. While becoming alienated from their products, labourers also become increasingly alienated with themselves and others. Separating themselves into two parts, a “working part” and “non-working part”, the more time spent unsatisfyingly working causes the labourer to lose themselves to this meaningless work. Humans are creative creatures who strive on creating from imagination, therefore gaining that feeling of accomplishment and connection with their work, giving it meaning.
This alienation from work leads to alienation from self, from fellow human beings, and finally from life itself. In the end, it is clear that alienation stems from a lack of purpose and increases from Capitalistic production methods. Through