Alienation - NICE-IAS

 English term alienation is derived from the original Latin
noun alienato, which in turn is derived from the Latin
verb alienare meaning to “take away” or “remove”.
 The Latin usage of the term resulted in two meanings:
“Transfer of ownership of Property” and “a state of
separation or dissociation” between two elements.
 The meaning of the term as “transfer of ownership” was
largely used by social-contract theorists such as
Grotius, Hobbes, Locke , and Rousseau. In social –
contract theories, an alienated worker was one who gave
up or surrendered personal “rights”, “liberty”, “powers”,
and “controls” to the general will of the community or
 The meaning of alienation as a state of
separation was primarily popularized in early
theological writings. It was interpreted as a state
of separation from God. Most theologians found
the cause of spiritual alienation in worldly
(material and sensuous) involvement. In order to
avoid spiritual alienation, they encouraged
alienation from the physical and social world.
Hegel used the term alienation in both the above
JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE – (1790) – Alienation between the self and
G.W.H.HEGEL – Alienation is inherent in the nature of all spiritual
KARL MARX – Alienation is Product of human creation
MAX WEBER – Alienation due to Rationalisation/Bureaucratization
C.W.MILLS – Alienation of middle class Professionals in service sector
Andre Gorz; Herbert Marcuse – Alienation from work and leisure
Robert Blauner – Alienation and technology
Goldthorpw and Lockwood – Work alienation
M.Seeman - subjective or psychological facet of alienation
Inspired by Kantian Dualism –
What “is”
Coercion (Heteronomy)
No choice
What “ought be”
Since freedom involves choice, the power to do otherwise,
freedom is possible only if it is taken outside the sphere of
nature entirely and placed in intellectual or noumenal realm.
Critical to Fichte
Used in two senses. First, “Transfer of property” and “state of
Described in the books “Philosophy of rights” and
“Phenomenology of mind”. In the former it sensed “transfer of
property” whereas in the later it was used in both the senses
“transfer of property” (surrender or transfer of individual rights)
and “state of separation”. Former is desirable, later undesirable.
The conscious state of separation is undesirable and major
concern for Hegel.
Alienation is inherent in all spiritual creation
Individual phenomena
Provided a Non-historical approach
Sees alienation as a necessary characteristic that haunts people
through all time, irrespective of their material conditions.
Alienation is a state of mind, consciousness, idea which has
nothing to do with the material condition and undesirable.
Transfer of Property i.e. surrender
or transfer of individual rights
Deliberate for unity with
social substance
state of separation/consciousness
“a condition which occurs when a
certain change in a person’s self-Conceptions
takes place. It is neither something one does nor
the intended result of a deliberate action”
to be overcome through continuous and
deliberate relinquishment or surrender of one’s
personal interests
 Brought
Alienation from spiritual realm to
material realm
 Root of all alienation is economic alienation
steeped in the concept of private property
 Provided Historical approach
 Alienation was non-existent in primitive
communism. It originated during ancient
society due to surplus production and
consequent emergence of private property. It
reached to its maximum during capitalist
mode of production due to strictest concept
of private property.
 Worker lacks control over the disposal of his product since what he produces is
appropriated by others, So that he does not benefit from it. It is the core
principal of the market economy that goods are produced for exchange; in
capitalist production, the exchange and distribution of goods are controlled by
the operations of the free market. The worker himself, who is treated as a
commodity to be bought and sold on the market, thus has no power to
determine the fate of what he produces. The workings of the market act in such
a way as to promote the interests of the capitalist at the expense of those of the
worker. Thus ‘the more the worker produces the less he has to consume; the
more he creates the more worthless he becomes’.
 The worker is alienated in the work task itself. The work task does not
offer intrinsic satisfactions which make it possible for the worker 'to
develop freely his mental and physical energies’, Since labour is imposed
on worker by force of external circumstances alone', (Economic division
of labour) Work 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 free from labour like the plague’.
 The extreme division of the labour coerces worker to do a part of the
whole work. The repetitive nature of work doesn't satisfy worker.
In capitalist mode of Production workers becomes commodity
of exchange. Instead of creating object it becomes object itself.
Since all economic relationships are also social relationship, it
follows that the alienation of labour has direct social
ramifications. This takes Marx back to his starting-point; human
relations in capitalism, tend to become reduced to operations of
the market. This is directly manifest in the significance of money
in human relationships. Money promotes the rationalisation of
social relationships, since it provides an abstract standard in
terms of which the most heterogeneous qualities can be
compared and reduced to one another. He who can purchase
bravery is brave, though a coward. Thus, from the standpoint of
its possessor, it exchanges every quality and object for every
other, even though they are contradictory.
According to Marx, eating, sleeping and
procreating is essentially the nature of animal.
Human being is separated from animal in this
regard. During capitalist mode of production,
due to higher working hours and mechanical
work process they are reduced to consume,
sleep and procreate only. Alienated labour
reduces human productive activity to the level
of adaptation to, rather than active mastery of
nature. This detaches the human individual
from his species being, from what makes the
life of the human species distinct from that of
the animals.
 Bourgeoisie is also alienated due to anarchy of
market forces. He does not produce what he wants or
what is needed by others but those commodities
which is to procure more profit. He is enslaved by
market forces and his enjoyment is mere satisfaction
of capital accumulation. In other words, capitalists
doesn't produce to satisfy his creative instinct but for
The degree of alienation can be reduced
somewhat within the capitalist framework by
1.Reducing the working hours – thereby providing
leisure time to workers.
2.Making the working condition humane.
But Complete elimination is possible only
through the establishment of communist mode
of production. Even socialist mode of production
will contain some degree of alienation.
His analysis is rooted in his theory of action and
rationalization of society.
Types of Action
 Society is moving towards greater rationalization
and its greatest manifestation is in bureaucracy
which expects its members to act in “formalistic
impersonal” manner i.e. without passion and
hatred. Thus bureaucrats act like a machine loosing
human nature hence alienated.
Applies Alienation on non-manual American Middle Class study entitled
“White Collar”.
Explanation is limited to non-manual workers working in tertiary sector of
economy in advanced capitalist societies.
Just as manual workers become like commodities by selling their skills with
things, a similar process occurs when non-manual workers sell their skills with
persons' on the open market. Mills refers to this sector of the economy as the
'personality market'. A Market value is attached to personality characteristics
and as a result people sell pieces of their personality.
Because aspects of personality are bought and sold like any other commodity,
individuals are alienated from their true selves.
He goes to the extreme of referring these workers as prostitute as he says “in
the salesroom, in the boardroom , in the staff room, in the conference room,
men and women are prostituting their personalities in pursuit of personal
Worker’s are alienated not only during working hours
but also during leisure time in modern industrial
During Marxian period when he explained alienation in
1844, workers had to work around twelve to sixteen
hours, with no or little leisure time if they have any.
to subsistence wages and appalling living
condition workers had no means of self fulfillment.
Contrary to Marxian period, with the advance of
industrial society the wages of the workers have
increased and also they have been granted leisure time
through regulation on working hours.
It appears that the opportunity for self-fulfillment in leisure has
greatly increased but many Marxists argue that this opportunity
has not been realized.
Gorz and Marcuse present such pessimistic view of possibility
of self-fulfillment during leisure period. They picture a mindless
'happy robot' compulsively chasing 'false needs'.
work and leisure
Andre Gorz
French journalist and Sociologist
Capitalist society shapes leisure activity
in the same way as it shapes working
Creates passive consumers finding
satisfaction in consumption of products
entertainment industries.
Satisfaction in these products is a poor
substitute for self-directed and creative
Hence labour remains deprived of true
self-fulfillment hence alienated during
leisure time too.
Alienation from
Herbert Marcuse
American Sociologist
One dimensional man (book)
Applies to both capitalist and East
European communist societies.
Self-fulfillment during leisure time is
based on and directed by 'false needs'
which are largely imposed by a mass
media controlled by the establishment.
The people recognize themselves in their
commodities, they find their soul in their
automobile , hi-fi set, split-level home,
kitchen equipment .
Criticism of Marx’ theory of alienation
Marx's theory is based partly on a rather vague picture of
what man could and ought to be perhaps it says more
about the values of particular sociologists than it does
about man's essential being
Marxian perspectives are very general. They tend to lump
together diverse occupations and leisure activities and
created a simple model of 'man in industrial society‘ –
Robert Blauner
Marx and Marxists tend to ignore the meanings held by
members of society. If people claim fulfilment in work
and/or liesure, there is a tendency to dismiss their views as
a project of false class consciousness - Goldthorp and
Lockwood & Blauner
Wrote the article “Alienation and freedom”
Critical to Marxian treatment of uniform alienation across different sectors of
industries irrespective of the work nature and technology and the concept of false
Considers workers attitudes as a valid measure of their level of alienation. If
workers express satisfaction with their work, they are not alienated.
Associated the degree of alienation with the type of technology rather than the
relations of production.
Examined behaviour and attitudes of manual workers in the printing, textile,
automobile and chemical industries.
Blauner divides the concept of alienation into four dimensions
Powerlessness - The degree of control workers have over their work;
Meaninglessness - the degree of meaning and sense of purpose they find in
isolation - the degree to which they are socially integrated into their work;
self-estrangement - the degree to which they are involved in their work.
Out of the four sectors, Blauner has found workers of printing sector
(study was conducted at a time when mechanical type setting was not
widespread) as non-alienated along the four dimensions. Textile
workers experience powerlessness and meaninglessness but not
isolation and self-estrangement. Alienation is found in its most
extreme form in assembly line production in the auto-mobile industry
where they experience powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation and
self-estrangement all. In chemical industry because of automation,
workers do not feel powerlessness and also non-alienated in terms of
other three dimensions.
Affluent worker study in Luton
Do not see workers' attitude and behaviour as a function of production
technology. Instead, the way workers define and give meaning to their
work largely accounts for their attitudes and behaviour.
They found that across the production technology workers defined work
primarily as a means to an end, in particular as a means for obtaining
money to raise their living standards.
Refer the affluent workers' relationship to their unions as 'instrumental
 Separated a variety of different psychological states, which he measured by
attitude scales.
Powerlessness -refers to people's feelings that they cannot influence their
social surroundings,
Meaninglessness is the feeling that illegitimate means are required to achieve
valued goals.
Isolation -occurs when people feel estranged from societies norms and
Self estrangement -refers to an inability to find activities that are
psychologically rewarding.
Normlessness -refers to a condition which perceives absence of norms.

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