Karl Marx One of the Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Nevertheless, the relations between the workers are maintained open. In relation to one another the peasants are still people and not tools as in the capitalist view.

Capitalism - characteristics

What capitalism changed were the relations between people and the means of production. Until the birth of capitalism, the workers naturally considered themselves to be the rightful owners of the things that they produced. However, by the nineteenth century, the only thing that they get in exchange for their work is money. This is a paradigmatic change, since work becomes a mere product on the market.

The situation changes even more and workers are no longer able to decide upon where, when and how to do their work. All these aspects are decided and regulated by those who own the production means, that is the people who have large financial resources. Another change which occurs is represented by the relation between man and machine. If until then, the machine was a mere tool that man could use in order to make his work easier, the new mechanic character of labour transforms men themselves into tools. The worker performs his tasks together with the machines. From the general perspective, he is nothing but a tool. The fact that he is "alive" is irrelevant.

The division of labour

The division of labour existed even before capitalism in the sense that different people dedicated themselves to various types of works. The novelty that capitalism brought about was the division within each sector of production, a division which was more than detailed. This meant that people had to choose a single aspect of the work production process and become highly specialized in it "While the social division of labour subdivides society, the detailed division of labour subdivides humans, and while the subdivision of society may enhance the individual and the species, the subdivision of the individual, when carried on without regard to human capabilities and needs, is a crime against the person and humanity" (Braverman). Since the capitalist own the means of production, that is, the means of subsistence for the workers, it is safe to say that the lives of the workers depend completely on the existence of capitalism.

The situation become seven more dramatic if we are to consider that the worker is not important as a person, but as a sort of machine which fulfils a task, independently of his will and desires. Since work has been divided, one worker can not be considered a producer. A mass of workers is needed in order to achieve the final result, therefore the workers become important as a community (while of course loosing their individual value).

The alienation of the worker from his own species-essence/species-being

Marx defines human nature as species-essence or species-being. The synonymy relation between the expressions allows us to assume that essence and being are the same thing, whereas being is a synonym of doing. Man defines himself not only through himself, but most of all through his actions of creation. And most of the time this creation is directed at our environment. In other words, people's labour is, by nature, a purpose in itself, meant to allow man to express his power and creativity.

Such a situation is impossible if man can not decide upon any of the labour's characteristics (when, where, how, why). The market mechanism in capitalist societies is the following one: a rich elite has the property of the production means. The rest of the people use these production means in order to produce items which they can not use. Instead they receive money and they can use these money in order to buy the things they created in the first place.

The more they produce, the less they will be able to consume. In this manner, work becomes something against the nature of the worker. He no longer invests his creative energy, because it would be useless. Work is a mechanic action, done only for a financial reward. All the "sacred" meaning has been lost, putting man in an antagonistic position regarding his own nature.

The alienation between workers

The resources are more and more limited. Under these circumstances competition occurs between the workers who need to make sure they get a position which will allow them to survive. The normal relationships between humans can no longer be controlled, but are imposed by the mechanisms of the market. The most important aspect of Marx's theory is, under these circumstances, the one according to which the workers no longer act as "people," but as individual tools which are part of a bigger work organ. This very status is the one that will impose their relationships.

It may be argued that people have often demonstrated their solidarity when creating labour unions or when going on strike, but individualism becomes more and more present as the market conditions and the competition become harsher. It is more convenient for the capitalists to have a market where there is an exceeding workforce because this allows them to pay the workers less while earning more themselves. Therefore, the consequence is just a further alienation between individuals. Just like in a vicious circle, the more the workers produce, the poorer they become while the rich get even richer. It is true that the living standard of the workers has increased massively ever since the birth of capitalism. But it is just as true that the differences between proletariat and capitalists have been constantly growing as well.

The alienation of the worker from his product

It has already been shown that the worker is no longer the owner of the result of his work. From this point-of-view, he is no longer a creator, but a mere producer, that is a tool. The contemporary advancements in the areas of technology make it possible for the humans to have an unthinkable control over nature.

People live in a world which is almost entirely "human- made." The most important consequence of this fact is that workers end up being dominated by the product that they produce. The money that he is paid for what he creates are so much less than the money value for which the product will ultimately be sold:

Under capitalism, those who work harder increase the power of a hostile system over them. They themselves, and their inner worlds, become poorer. 'The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more goods he creates. The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation with the increase in value of the world of things" (Fischer)

The alienation of the worker from the production

We have seen that the worker has been estranged in relation to his fellow men, to the product of his work and generally speaking in relation to his own nature. The process that links all these elements is represented by production. Since man can not decide upon its dimensions and since creativity is no longer involved, this process becomes void and meaningless. If the act is alienated, the only direct consequence is that it will become an act of alienation itself.

Uses of the theory

The concept of alienation fascinated numerous thinkers and philosophers who lived in the centuries following Marx used it and transformed it. Stalinism for example was one of the political doctrines which took much from Marx' writings. Just like Marx took concepts from the works of Hegel and Feuerbach and transformed them, analyzing them from his own perspective putting the accent on the importance of the economic factors, others took his concepts and developed them furthermore. The economic dimension was took out of the equation and alienation became a concept referring first to a mood and then a state of mind which characterizes nowadays people. The fundamental estrangement is considered to be between people and themselves because the social, political and economic development of society has made them unable to find sustainable meaning in anything.


Karl Marx made a very deep and lucid analysis of the society he lived it. Thinking society in terms of relations, on the one hand, the relations of the individuals between the, and on the other hand, the relations of the individuals with their environment., he managed to find the source of the problem, convinced that once the source of evil is found, then evil can be eliminated by destroying its source.

Alienation is one of the most important concepts that can be found in his work. A result of the capitalist society in which private property divides people into owners and workers, alienations is the estrangement that people undergo in relation to their fellowmen, the process of perdition and the result of that process, namely the product. Unable to control the work he does, nor to own the final result of his work, man looses the meaning of the process. Work will no longer reflect and enhance man's nature, his species-being, which consists in free and conscious creation. On the contrary, it will become…

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