To be alienated from something isthe situation where one doesn’t completely identify with something and rathersees it as an abnormal and possible deterrent in one’s way. Estranged labor can be separated into fourparts of alienated labor which include: the alienation of the worker from theproduct of his labor, the alienation of the worker in the process ofproduction, the alienation of the worker as a species-being, and the alienationof man from the others.
In every oneof these cases, the subject of estrangement is the worker and it happens in theaction of labor. Marx alsoviews the non-worker as another type of alienated subject with its owncharacteristics. In thissense, alienation is not exclusive to the worker, but it is fundamental. The result being that in our present-daysociety, the process of alienation has extended from the process of productionto the process of consumerism. Theprocess affects not only the worker and non-worker, but additionally theconsumer as well.
This paperaims to show that albeit a bit dated and still wrong, Marx did have some validpoints in his essay on Estranged Labor. Thefirst form of estranged labor is the alienation from the product of labor. The worker is estranged from the product thathe ultimately produces because it is owned and sold under the discretion of thecapitalist. In all social ordersindividuals utilize their creative abilities to create objects which theyutilize, trade or offer. Under capitalism,be that as it may, this turns into an alienated activity because the laborercan’t utilize the things he produces to keep alive or to participate in furtheractivities of production. Marx claims inhis essay on Estranged Labor, “The alienation of the worker in his product meansnot only that this labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that itexists outside him, independently, as something alien to him.” (Marx,pg.
72). The creativity is lost to the laborerforever, which is the reason under capitalism work doesn’t fortify orinvigorate us and open the door to “unconquered territory”, but instead consumesour energies and abandon us feeling exhausted. For Marx, the situation is unique tocapitalism.
In past societies, theindividuals who work harder could for the most part be expected to have moremoney and food to their availability. Undercapitalism, the individuals who work harder increase the power of anantagonistic system over them. Theythemselves, and their internal universes, wind up poorer than the past generationsbefore them, “The worker becomes an ever-cheaper commodity the more goods hecreates. The devaluation of thehuman world increases in direct relation with the increase in value of theworlds of things.” (Marx, pg. 71). Thesecond element of alienation Marx identified is the lack of control over theprocess of production.
We have nosay over the conditions in which we work and how our work is organized, and howit affects us physically and mentally. Thislack of control over the work process transforms our capacity to work creativelyin its opposite, so the worker experiences “activityas passivity, power as impotence, procreation as emasculation, the worker’s ownphysical and mental energy, his personal life – for what is life but activity?- as an activity directed against himself, which is independent of him and doesnot belong to him.” (Marx, pg. 75). The process of work is notonly beyond the control of the workers, it is in the control of forces hostileto them because capitalists and their managers are driven to make us workharder, faster and for longer shifts.
Present day methods of production haveincreased the fragmentation of the labor process since Marx’s day. The association of modernproduction is still based on the method of assembly lines. Scientific research isused to separate the production process down into its most important parts. This has led to, the deskillingof workers in white collar jobs and to a situation the owners have a monopolyon the control of the entire production process. Conditions of work, from the length of theworking day to the space we take up, is all thought up beforehand. The laborers are seen as lessof a person and more as a machine, with the goal of changing the subjectiveelement of labor into objective, quantifiable, controlled process. Thirdly, we are alienated from our fellowhuman beings.
This estrangement emerges to some extent because the oppositionswhich unavoidably emerge from the class structure of society. Weare alienated from the individuals who misuse our labor and control the thingswe deliver. “If the worker’s activityis a torment to him, to another it must give satisfaction and pleasure..
. Iftherefore he regards the product of his labor, his objectified labor, as analien, hostile and powerful object which is independent of him, then hisrelationship to that object is such that another man – alien, hostile, powerfuland independent of him is its master. If he relates to his own activity an unfreeactivity, then he relates to it as activity in the service, under the rule,coercion and yoke of another man.
” (Marx, pg. 79). Also, we relate to others through thepurchasing and selling of the items we create.
Our lives are touched by asubstantial amount of human beings consistently, people whose labor has madeour clothes, food, and homes, etc. Yet, we just know them through the items webuy and sell. Even though we are allrelated not as direct family, but as representatives of different relations ofproduction, the personification of finances, or property or labor. Thefourth element is our alienation from what Marx called our species.What makes us human is our capacity to deliberately shape our generalsurroundings.
Notwithstanding, under capitalism our labor is coerced, forcedlabor.Work bears no relationship to our own personal inclinations or our collectiveinterests. “It is true that labor produces for the rich wonderful things –but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces – but forthe worker, hovels for the worker. Itprocures beauty, but deformity for the worker. It replaces labor by machines, but it castssome of the workers back into barbarous forms of labor and turns others intomachines. It produces intelligence,but it produces idiocy and cretinism for the worker.
” (Marx, pg.73). Humans are social creatures. We the ability to act as one when it comes tofurthering our interests. In any case,under capitalism the ability is submerged under the ownership of the rich andthe class divisions that come as a result from it.
We can intentionally design our plans forproduction, to coordinate with what we create with the growing needs of society. Yet, under capitalism that capacity is turnedaround by the chaotic drive for profits. In this manner, as opposed to deliberatelyshaping nature, we can’t control, or even anticipate the results of our actions. ForMarx, the estrangement is not present only from the perspective of theconnection between subject-object; from the connection of the subject with itsaction, or the connection of the subject with its own species, yet additionallyin the connection of one subject to another. It is accurately in the later connection thathappens the close relation between the distinctive forms, or determinations, ofsimilar phenomenon. Certainly,the worker can alienate himself regarding the product, and his activity,because of the fact that he keeps up a specific connection with the other.
Estrangement of labor produces not just analien product, and an alien activity, but produces also a genuine connectionthat men stand themselves in an external and antagonistic connection.