Alienation !

For Marx, alienation is a condition occurring in pre-socialist societies where the human nature of man is made other than, alien to, what man is really capable of being. This is also the sense in which Rousseau used it, though his view was thal contemporary society had made man other, and more corrupt, than had once been so. Marx had a sophisticated theory of alienation, especially as it occurred in capitalism.

People could be alienated firstly from their own sells(i.e. from their true nature), secondly from other people(absence of natural fraternity) thirdly from their working life(because it was meaningless and involved”alienating in a legal sense, their labour for the benefit of others), and fourthly from the product of their labour(because most industrial workers do not have the satisfaction of designing and creating an entire product through the exercise of their skills). All of these are interconnected, and for Marx they all stem from the capitalist productive system, and especially from its practice of division of labour. This stress on human nature, and on the way in which man is turned into a wage slave, without respect for self. fellows or daily work. so much weakened in the later and more economics oriented work of Marx, but it has continued to be of vital interest and importance in social thought generally.

It has often been applied tar too loosely so that alienation frequently means no more than unhappiness, but some new applications are obviously legitimate extensions of Marx’s usage. as when feminists argue the capitalist society, as part of its generally dehumanizing effect, alienates men from women. However, there are serious objections to the concept of alienation.

Firstly, though Marx’s writing is often highly persuasive in regard to the existence of the phenomenon, many critics hold that alienation is created by division of labour endemic to any high-technology economy rather than by a particular system of property rights.