Marx's Theory of Alienation

In my article I will attempt to demonstrate that while alienation in many respects seems of only limited use as a thought for understanding modern working lives, it's been critical in shaping our current understanding and techniques of work. I intend to go through the work of Karl Marx among other sociologists to show how the launch of capitalism into industrial production specifically developed feelings of alienation in people's working lives. I've chosen to specifically focus on Marx as I find his thoughts and ideas on alienation to be of key importance in our current understanding of labour. I'll principally be looking at his Alienation Theory, which was his belief our labour in population developed different forms of alienation, and exactly how, if at all, this decides our inherent individual. I plan to assess whether theories on alienation at work are still relevant in modern society, and how they have got contributed to your current understanding of modern day working lives.

"Work, in its physical features and its linguistic description is socially built; there is no long lasting or objective thing called work. . . what matters as work can't be severed from the context within which it is available, and that context always changes through space and time" (Grint, 1998, 11).

Karl Marx presumed labour was in the centre of humanity, and that the conditions under which we work can vary. He experienced that alienation was a systemic aftereffect of capitalism which exploited employees and created a sense of isolation in people's working lives. He assumed that under a capitalist regime workers unavoidably lose any control they have over their lives by having the control over their labour recinded from them. Relating to Marx's Alienation Theory, there are four forms of alienation in labour, the first being alienation from the product of work. Marx claims that when an employee is producing something for someone other than themselves, in particular when they don't even understand who they are producing that for, the merchandise often becomes alien to them. In this example the worker will not have any emotional connection with the finish product they have created. In this manner Marx provides worker a direct connection to the product, which, alters it from being simply an abstract subject. Furthermore, Marx shows that the merchandise, which he is convinced ought to generate a positive connection, instead holds a negative disconnection. Regarding to Marx, when a person works for others rather than for themselves they could be seen to be employed in an alienating situation only to obtain their basic requirements to get by.

Marx's second form of alienation is alienation from the activity of work. This alienation occurs because of this of the staff member being alienated from the merchandise they create, as this means they need to also be alienated from the procedure they undertook to make it. Marx's aversion to capitalism is linked to this theory which proposes that as humans will work solely for survival, the work is necessary of them by others and so not natural. In which particular case the worker will not be doing work for themselves but instead for others therefore will inevitably become estranged from the procedure of work.

The third form of alienation is alienation from varieties being, signifying people become detached of their personal creativity and in a sense the heart of humanity. Marx maintains that the activity of work requires personnel' religious energy and for that reason when a staff member is alienated from the practice of work it is impossible to allow them to give themselves fully to their work hence becoming alienated of their basic human roots. If the process of labour which is in our innate substance becomes alien to us, then we might become alien to ourselves in some way. Marx attempts to convey that work is something that should be a natural instinct to humans, not at all something carried out purely for survival. He identifies humans as lively providers which contradicts the theory of folks being alienated off their working lives. Whenever a worker is compelled to create something for others rather than for themselves they'll see labour strictly as a means of survival which will become a burden they are forced to monotonously repeat and therefore may finish up becoming alienated from themselves.

The fourth and last form of alienation in Marx's Alienation Theory is alienation from others. Whenever a worker is obligated to make a product for someone else they too can be alien to the worker, and so in this manner people become alienated from other humans, which can result in a malfunction in society. This may bring about a type of hostility as the staff member may feel they are required to do work for others with more cultural capital and so a class section can happen. Marx says of the form of alienation,

"If man relates to the merchandise of his labor, to his objectified labor, concerning an alien, hostile, powerful object unbiased of him, he's so related that another alien, hostile, powerful man impartial of him is the lord of this object. If he is unfree in the relation to his own activity, he's related to it as bonded activity, activity under the domination, coercion, and yoke of another man" (Marx, 1844, 57).

So, how useful is this theory of alienation as a thought for understanding modern day working lives? Marx likens humans to animals only doing what we should to survive. In an excellent world we would participate in improve the love of it as we believe that it is meaningful and valuable. Marx boasts that under capitalist industrial creation systems in culture people become alienated at the job therefore of their lack of control. Capitalism creates a system where by the worker gives more capacity to the capitalist by producing better products. So that it can be seen that the more the employee produces the more they must rely on that product. Marx says,

"Labour, to be certain, produces marvellous things for the abundant, but for the labourer it produces privation. It produces palaces for the rich, but hovels for the employee. It produces beauty, but cripples the staff member. It replaces work by machines, but it throws part of the workforce back again to a barbarous kind of work, while turning others into machines. It produces class, but also for the workforce it produces feeble-mindedness and idiocy. " (Marx, 1844, 30)

The relevance of Marx's theory today seems limited. It is simple to observe that at the time of Marx's writing a big contributing factor to alienation at the job in the 19th century was the revolutionary form of labour known as Fordism, which identifies the production methods employed by Henry Ford in creating the Ford automobiles. C20th Marxist Antonio Gramsci often used the example of Fordism in his focus on mass production and consumer culture. Ford was greatly influenced by Frederick Taylor who developed technological management, and aimed to boost labour productivity. The machine was created to improve productivity and allow mass production; it was successful in cutting the cost of creation but also heavily deskilled labour. It observed a higher turnover rate of staff and prompted numerous strikes due to employees resistance to rate control and oppressive kinds of work. It got any control away from the workers by causing them work to the pace of the set up line; moreover workers rarely surely got to see what these were making as each employee would maintain charge of such a tiny area of the total creation of the product. Individuals often complained the labour was exclusively about profit motive and their electric power was completely subsumed by the managers who deskilled the workers to gain control and eliminate their power and decision making.

"Clinical management so called is an attempt to apply the methods of knowledge to the speedily increasingly complicated problems of the control of labour in speedily growing capitalist corporations. It lacks the characteristics of a true science because it assumptions reflect only the view of the capitalist with regard to the conditions of development" (Braverman 1974, 86).

But work today is far broader than mass production in a stock setting up. In her article "Alienation and New Work Practises - Reconstructing a Classical Concept" Amanda Damarin argues,

"Existing principles of alienation are insufficient for taking the associations among personnel, tools, and labour procedures which exist in new work organizations. Marx assumes that creation is industrial (standardized and resolved), that employers own the method of production, that possession is coextensive with control, which only human relationships between staff and employers are significant in shaping the experience of work. " (Damrin, 2005, 2).

One need only think about the growth in the service sector or indeed the health care industry to understand that Marx's Theory of Alienation is deficient in fostering our knowledge of modern day working lives. For example, he centers principally on the labour form of production, whereas if we were to check out retail Marx's description of the 4 forms of alienation seems less pertinent. In retail there is absolutely no product being created in the shop therefore less chance of shop assistants to feel alienated from it. Moreover although they might be selling to others it would never be the situation that they might sell to themselves so these are less likely to feel alienated from other fellow man. They can experience connection with the customers but not feel like they work immediately to them so in this manner I believe there wouldn't be predominant feelings of isolation. But if Marx's theory about the types of alienation may take seem less relevant to today's working environment; one cannot ignore the fact that work can indeed leave people sense isolated or powerless.

Marx views are central to the human experience. But why does man work? Looking to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we see employment fulfilling level 2 Protection needs but also, beyond that, our need for Love and Belonging can often be found via work. Even people in the most mundane of jobs often look to their co-workers as valuable providers of community. Marx posits that 'proper' work (that is not under a capitalistic routine) also provides people with a feeling of self-worth and achievements. But obviously this is true in present day working lives, even in capitalistic economies. Indeed Durkhiem, contrary to the views of Marx and Engels, provided a positive analysis of the professional contemporary society, with less emphasis on capitalism. He spoke of a far more heterogeneous culture and a far more segregated division of labour where people will be more dependent on one another. This interdependence he believed brought people mutually as you have to visit others to receive the necessary products for lifestyle. So contemporary society was viewed more as a body that functions together all together.

It is important to remember that Marx's alienation theory was part of his earliest work and perhaps an opening thought into his later more developed work on capitalism as an financial structure within world. If it is true, as I believe, that lots of of Marx's theories have significantly less relevance since breakthroughs made following the industrial revolution, I believe it is equally true that a lot of his focus on alienation has been vital in shaping our modern understanding and tactics of work. For example even in today's factory setting, personnel are now often asked for their opinions and ideas to improve conditions at the task place. And with 360 level feedback becoming typical in the European workplace, employees can comment on their managers' performance too gives them a sense of control over their working conditions and allows their voices to be noticed. It is not inconceivable to imagine that the advantages of 'employee voice' was aided by Marx's concerns about alienation. In fact an extremely successful British merchant, John Lewis Partnership, which I worked at for several calendar months, was founded on the principles of total worker ownership with the idea that this would create a primary link to the success of the business enterprise. However these improved conditions in work places are observed predominantly in American countries; factories in the developing world can be seen to maintain conditions much more comparable to that of the 19th century factories in Europe.

If one accepts Marx's idea that work is central to humans as a basic form of self applied realization then it isn't difficult to understand how the lack of job can be equally isolating. Although people may feel alienated at the job Braverman points out unemployment is even more degrading and isolating. In their study, "YOUR TASK NO MORE Exists! From Encounters of Alienation to Objectives of Resilience" Vickers and Parris suggest "We've entered age the contingent or temporary staff member where we are expected to be pliable and tractable; to squeeze in" (Vickers and Parris, 2007, 114). For instance, when a employee is fired off their job, there are often associated emotions of rejection and alienation which may be agonizing. They stated alienated workers tend to experience similar thoughts, "including powerlessness and cultural isolation as well as impact, betrayal, humiliation and pity" (Blauner 1964, 101).

So as working lives are constantly changing and being changed to suit fashionable society the very concepts that Marx used to portray the evils of capitalism may indeed be helpful in understanding reactions to the loss of that central way to obtain self realization, work.

I highly feel although Marx's original ideas about alienation at work appear overly focussed on 19th century working conditions, especially in the mass creation manufacturing world, the idea is not without merit in understanding how contemporary workers may come to feel a sense of isolation or powerlessness via work. Marx may took an extremely critical view of capitalism but in doing so he without doubt opened the door for a wider reputation of the value of worker tone of voice and engendering a feeling of owed or value to specific labour. Braverman has voiced his debt to Marx's focus on capitalism and alienation at the job, and even though he hasn't contributed much in the form of innovative ideas on this issue he can be seen to renew Marx's work in modern society. "The Managed Center" shows Hochschild's vigorous program of Marx's alienation theory while condemning the sensation of alienation experienced consequently of the comodification of human being emotions. However I have to speculate whether this comodification of feelings directly results alienation. Both Bolton and Boyd outwardly reject the thought of emotional labour as contending with wage labour as they believe that not absolutely all people's thoughts are automatically comodified through the labour process. They argue that personnel have a relatively large amount of emotional choice due to the narrow level that their emotions can be comodified, and therefore wouldn't experience much alienation at the job in the sense Hochschild identifies. Overall I believe in many ways alienation is apparently only of limited use as a thought for understanding modern-day working lives; however through the task of such sociologists as Marx it has been essential in moulding our existing understanding and methods of work. Modern society has a much broader spectrum of work than just mass development in factories but with the task of sociologists such as Gramsci and Braverman who have built on existing ideas of alienation by Marx yet others we can continuously deepen our knowledge and increase our understanding of contemporary working lives.

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