Exegetical Paper #3 Phil 436 For Marx, the structure of the relations of the means of production, or the relations of property, estrange us our world and work, ourselves, our species being, and others. What is estrangement, and what are its modes? How are they related? In Karl Marx’s Estrangement of Labor, Marx explains that there are 2 main classes of citizens under the economic arrangement of private land ownership; the citizens that own property and the working class citizens who do not.
Marx states that this 2-class environment proves to be hostile because the working class citizens suffer from mpoverishment and separation from not only the products they produce, but also from themselves and the rest of the world. He criticizes the political economy by saying that it does not tell us why there is a division between capital and labor, and that the economy is only concerned with wages and profits, which paves the way for competition; the precursor to many other violent consequences.
Marx begins his thesis by stating that in order to grasp the essential connection between the whole estrangement idea, we must not look back to a fictitious primitive condition that imply kicks the question down the road, but to the present economic period from which he can stem from ideas that are relevant in todays world. Estrangement means that as workers put increasingly more time and effort into their respective products and labor, the more alienated from the outside world and their natural relations they become because are contributing to a world completely foreign to them.
He goes even deeper into his definition by dividing estrangement into 4 categories, or relationships. The first is the relation of the worker to the direct product that he roduces. The second is the relationship between labor and the act of production within the labor process. The 3rd aspect of estrangement deals with the separation between the worker and his inner being. Finally, the fourth definition of estrangement deals with the alienation of men to all other men.
The worker becomes alienated from the product he manufactures because he does not, and will not own the product in which he is producing. He sees his product as a lifetime of work and effort that only contributed to a foreign society that he will never be a part of. “Labor ot only produces commodities: it produces itself and the worker as a commodity. So much does the appropriation of the object appear as estrangement that the more objects a worker produces, the fewer he can possess and the more he falls under the dominion of his product, capital,” states Marx on page 71 .
As a result, the worker feels alienated from his product and views it as something completely independent of his being. Estrangement is not only created in the result of production, but also in the act of production directly within the producing activity. “How would the worker come o face the product of his activity as a stranger, were it not that in the very act of production he was estranging himself from itself,” (page 73)? Labor is external to the worker and leads to the feeling that one’s work does not belong to them, which leads to discontent, and unhappiness.
Work denies the opportunity to develop one’s mind and exert mental and physical energy and as a result, work becomes involuntary and is seen only as means to satisfy someone else’s needs. The worker can no longer be engaged in any other outside activities besides the bare necessities of survival. Work lears one’s life of everything that pertains to their personal being and replaces it with an activity that benefits others which leads to self-estrangement. For man, work amounts toa life purpose. Being able to construct things out of inorganic material for survival is the core identity of who were are as human beings. Physically man lives only in these products of nature, whether they appear in the form of food, heating, clothes, a dwelling, whatever it may be. Man lives on nature, means that nature is in his body, with which he must remain in continuous intercourse if he is not to ie,” (page 76). This is the being and essence of what “man” is and is their species life. Men are superior to animals because an animal can only produce for itself while men can produce for all of nature. Through this system of private ownership that is so hostile, a man’s being is reduced to that of an animal.
Man cannot be physically and intellectually free while working because work is not the natural means of production for a man. This takes away from a man’s natural activity and one begins to feel estranged from their species life. Marx reaffirms this by saying “in tearing away rom man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his species life, his real species objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him,” (page 77).
Man is alienated from the source of his identity and the purpose for human life. As stated previously, all products that are made by a worker belongs to someone else. “The alien being to whom the labor and the produce of labor belongs, in whose service labor is done and for whose benefit the produce of labor is provided, can only be man himself,” (page 79). Since man already feels alienated from the produce of labor in which he is producing, then man must also feel estranged to the man of whom he is providing the labor for.
Through estranged labor, man feels alienated from every man that has anything to do with his labor or his final product. Marx believes that private property is the cause of the estrangement of all aspects of a man’s relations. The worker is proof of the fact that capital is a man who is a completely stranger to himself and that he has the misfortune of being living capital. Works Cited Marx, Karl: Estranged Labor (1844)