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Alienated Labor Theory- Karl Marx

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Is That All There Is The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 is a compilation of thoughts regarding German economic and political concerns. Karl Marx conceives capitalist society’s responsible for the estrangement of the laborer. The capitalist mode of production ensures that man’s labor necessarily restricts him from acting in accordance with his humanity.

The theory of capitalism diverts him, in the sense that it provides false hope for betterment, while the structure of capitalism, in coercing him to fluctuate his priorities away from that of an autonomous social being towards that of a collective individual, debases man’s special bond to his species- what is self-contradictory is it asks him to abandon his deepest bond to humanity, while at the same time offering him the hope of becoming a better social being.

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As a result of this contradiction, Marx affirm, man’s labor alienates him from himself and from his species. Yet I am here to argue, although man may feel alienated from himself and product of work, man has the choice, option to free himself from notions of capital enslavement.

Within this essay, I will define estrangement of labor and the four main dimensions of alienation, evident in a capitalist society. I will discuss how alienated labor comes about as a result of capitalism and why said labor is not socially commend.

Furthermore, I will elucidate on what non-alienated labor would be like, compared to alienated labor, in a capitalist society. Ultimately, I will annotate why Marx’s critique of capitalism is unfound and how labor under capitalism is in fact, engaging. Estrangement or alienation is a means of objectification, in which man and his labor are manifested in a product that is, unfavorable, to him; alien in the sense that man encounters no self-realization from this process, instead upholds something both independent and foreign to him as agent (Gid 11).

Marx notes: “Labor is external to the laborer, it does belong to his essential being, in that in this work he does not affirm himself but denies himself, the worker does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely… but mortifies his body and ruins his minds” (EPM 74). It is clear that the end result is an object in which both the realization of labor and the loss of realization of the labor become definite. This object is both xternal to and empowered by the worker’s labor; it “becomes a power on its own… something hostile and alien” (EMP 72). Hence, according to Marx, the product of labor seems to be alienation, and the relationship between the worker and his product is an act thereof. Furthermore, alienation in the work domain is a fourfold aspect: man lacks control over his products, man is alienated in the work task itself, man is alienated from himself as producer, man is also alienated from the human community, from his species being.

The aim of the alienation of man from the product of his labor is the product, that is, the object that does not exits by itself but as a result of the human activity: labor. The worker lacks control over the disposal of his products, since what he produces is appropriated by and through others, so that he does not benefit from it (Giddens 12). What is more the relationship between labor and production is estranged as a result of the worker’s activity being both forced and external- forced in the that it is not voluntary, and external in the sense that, in laboring, the worker denies himself.

Thereby it is not only in the production of the object man feels separate from his product but also in contributing to the means of production, the activity of production, that the worker’s activity is objectified into a commodity which is alien to him and holds power over his being. This becomes a means to an end rather than an end in itself. This is shown by the fact that ‘as soon as there is no physical or other compulsion, men flees from labor like the plague’ (EMP 75).

Such labor alienates man from his species- being in that it estranges man from nature, and thus from himself. Man and nature relationship is dual, whereby man lives on nature and is at the same time a part of nature. Man’s species being (in essence, the natural mode of human existence or his humanity) involves society; man is a social being, and his conscious activity (which allows and determines that he is a species being) is directed at the species itself.

Moreover the activity of production is part of man’s character, but this character becomes perverted twice: first when man no longer produces freely that which he needs to exist (i. e. , when the labor is alienated), and secondly as man takes individual life rather than social life as the focus of his activity. For example, in Marx’s day when textile mill was the pervasive factory form, women would produce blankets, but it was no longer for their own “use value. Instead the blanket would be produced, by the alienated laborer, according to a plan that the worker did not devise herself; in that the actual work could have been broken down then the product would be taken from the laborer and sold at market value. Due to that what was produced by the labor was a commodity and the value of the blanket could be sold for its exchange value. It is simple to see how man is alienated from his labor as a result of the capitalist mode of production.

After all, capitalism strives off the private ownership of the means of production, its form entails competition, and its goal is the creation of goods to be sold for profit. Competition maintains that those firms whose productive activity is maximally efficient meet this goal best, and such optimization takes place only when laborers individually perform specific task, which contributes maximally to the firm. What makes matter worse is that the laborer, having nothing to sell but labor, has no choice but to labor in order to gain his means of subsistence hence, his labor is forced.

The commodities he helps to produce are then sold at a price, which is greater than the sum of its input costs (in order to make profit). Since the additional value comes only from the value extracted from the laborer during production, the capitalist, exact an arbitrary wage for the laborer that is less than the value per unit time added to the commodity by the laborer during production. This surplus value is widely recognized as the “American Dream,” we live in a country where capitalist are free to ‘exploit’ the working class in order to increase his profit. Is this necessarily a bad thing?

The question is up for debate; yet within this paper I claim that is one of the beauties of living in this country. I am by no means saying the exploitation of laborers is right (that would be Trump thing to say) what I am trying to claim is if capitalist wants to sell a laborers commodity at a greater sum than the sum of its input cost, then capitalist should be able to freely do so without being labeled a “degenerate” for attending his desires before those of society. Man looks out for himself, not for others, it is in man’s nature to look out for the individual.

Yes, I did just state a derogatory claim that is precisely what society deems as unacceptable; we live in a world filled of hypocrisy. Capitalist do what most individual would do if he or she had the power or resources to do so, in the sense that man would sell a certain commodity a laborer produces at a greater price than the sum of its input cost, why? To gain higher profits In the view of Marx, “man is not what he ought to be, and he ought to be that which he could be” (from ch. 5). Non-alienated labor is possible only when all of the alienating factors discussed herein are absent.

As seen when private property (capital) and social class are dissolved and a system is exacted in which man lives and works for his species and in doing so is able to achieve his human potential. This occurrence gives rise to a classless, state-less system called communism (EPM ). Communism supports non-alienated labor by allowing for activities which respect the agency of man as a consciously acting species-being in which the objectification of his labor is not foreign to him or his species, but instead empowers him.

Cite this Alienated Labor Theory- Karl Marx

Alienated Labor Theory- Karl Marx. (2016, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/alienated-labor-theory-karl-marx/

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