Alienation (Marxism)

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In Marxism, alienation is a feeling that people have when they don't feel connected to the society around them and their work.

According to Marx, there are four types of alienation in a capitalist society:

  1. Alienation from the product of a person's work
  2. Alienation from the process of work
  3. Alienation from others
  4. Alienation from self

Because of alienation, people have no control over their lives or over the things they make. Instead, the products of their labor are exchanged for wages in order to survive.

Types of Alienation[change | change source]

Alienation from the product of a person's work[change | change source]

In this type of alienation, a worker cannot relate to the work he or she is doing. For example, someone can screw parts into a toy without seeing the rest of the toy when it is done. This type of alienation increased after people started doing work in assembly lines. Before then, people would make things from start to finish.

Alienation from the process of work[change | change source]

A worker does not control the means of production. He or she just does the things that is taught to them. For example, a worker might need to make shirts in the same style and cannot experiment with patterns or designs.

Alienation from others[change | change source]

In a capitalist society, a worker will be in competition with other workers for a small number of jobs. Because of this, they cannot cooperate with each other and fight for their shared interests as workers.

Alienation from self[change | change source]

Finally, people are alienated from their identity that they get from doing their work. Marx called this identity Gattungswesen (German for "species-essence" or "human nature"). For example, someone who just screws parts into a toy will not feel like a toymaker because he or she is not really "making" toys.