An individual’s sentiments of detachment from a circumstance, community, and culture are frequently described as alienation. The psychological and social isolation between oneself and one’s life experiences is known as alienation.
Karl Marx uses this idea concerning the fundamental relationships of capitalist production and their consequences on people’s minds. According to Marx, alienation is a product of the capitalist structure of the industry, which increases the distance between workers and the rewards of their effort. The isolation of employees from their tools and the finished product is one of the main components of the situation of alienation.
The capitalist class expropriates the worker’s surplus value and owns the means of production, controlling the working conditions. These actions result in alienating circumstances. Mechanization and specialization are becoming more prevalent, creating alienating working circumstances. These turn the employee’s active enjoyment of their work into passive hatred for the monotony of their jobs. Deprivation, loss of dignity, a sense of incompleteness, and most importantly, the perception that one’s existence is under the control of impersonal forces are all subjective characteristics of alienation, which is the sum of the objective circumstances of capitalist production.
Explanation: A Marxist analysis
Marx’s criticism of Hegel’s use of the word in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts is mainly responsible for modern sociological use. Hegel contrasts the “objectivity” of nature with human awareness by referencing alienation. Marx stresses the significance of the interaction between humans and nature in their social relationships of production for the advancement of society and, by extension, for the improvement of the individual.
Alienation refers to emotions of discontent, a lack of interest in work and people, or a minimum level of participation. According to Marx, these particular signs of alienation resulting from social interactions. Workers are not allowed to express themselves via their job, pursue their interests, or find intrinsic fulfillment under capitalism since employment is fundamentally imposed, and individuals are subject to the expectations and rules of others, the capital owners.
Along with emphasizing the importance of the relationship between the worker and the act of production, Marx also highlights the significance of the relationship between the worker and the goods they create. The commodities that employees create belong to their employers, not to them. In reality, individuals generate money and power via their labor for a class that oppresses them. Products are foreign items that do not belong to their creators.
According to Marx, the industrial process is crucial to the advancement of humanity. Therefore, it is an exploitation-based system that isolates employees from the production process and the goods they create and dehumanizes them. It distances people from “species being” in that it prevents anybody, except a select few, from realizing their full potential or using their creative faculties. Thus, alienation is examined in terms of capitalism’s social framework, including private property, commodities production, and class relations.
4 ways of alienation
Marx believed that workers are alienated in at least four different ways under capitalism because they lose control over their activity.
They are first cut off from the results of their effort. They are no longer in charge of deciding what will be created or how it will be used. Work is reduced to a means to an end—a way to get money so that you may purchase the things you need to live.
Second, employees are disengaged from the job process. Pace, pattern, tools, and methods of their labor are all in another person’s control.
Thirdly, since they are separated from their job, employees become distant from themselves. In contrast, non-alienated labor involves the same ardent engrossment and self-realization as hobbies and leisure activities.
Fourth, detached work is a solitary activity that is not a component of a coordinated attempt to satisfy a social demand. As a result, employees become alienated from both themselves and from others.
According to Marx, these four forms of alienation are at their height under industrial capitalism, and since alienated labor is by its very nature unsatisfying, it will inevitably result in workers wanting to alter the status quo. According to Marx, alienation is a significant factor that influences social revolution and the development of a society that is less alienated in the future.
Since Marx’s time, the phrase has been expanded to include nearly any kind of undesired separation, and it is often psychologized such that it now refers to a person’s internal discontentment with a situation rather than the situation itself.
It resembles Emile Durkheim’s concept of anomie in specific contexts and Max Weber’s analysis of reactions to the massive, impersonal, logical bureaucracies of the modern world in others.
In Robert Blauner’s Alienation and Freedom from 1964, the phrase is gain used concerning the sociology of labor in the 1960s. According to him, the degree of personal control inherent in diverse working modes was connected to the various sorts of alienation that emerged from multiple types of current employment. According to his developmental model, as production shifted from manual labor to factory assembly lines using machines, the level of human control decreased, and alienation increased. However, he concluded that as the job became more sophisticated and thus fulfilling in the ultimate stage, automated continuous-flow manufacturing, the worker once again took control of the labor process.