SOCY 151: Foundations of Modern Social Theory
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Foundations of Modern Social Theory
SOCY 151 - Lecture 9 - Marx's Theory of Alienation
Chapter 1. Marx’s Early Life [00:00:00]
Professor Iván Szelényi: Okay, so now we move into the nineteenth century. It’s unclear how long this nineteenth century lasted, whether it lasted from 1789 until 1914, or 1815 until 1914. Right? But it was a relatively long century. And yeah, John Stuart Mill was already twentieth century [correction: nineteenth century]. But Karl Marx did get into the middle of it; he was born in 1818 and died in ‘83.
And I tried to find a picture of Marx, what you may not have seen, when he was still quite a good-looking guy. All right, so a few words about his family background. His father, Karl Heinrich–no, no, Marx himself was born in 1818 in Trier, Germany, and his father was Heinrich Marx, who was actually a lawyer, quite a successful lawyer, but he was very much a man of enlightenment. He liked Voltaire and brought Marx up in the spirit of liberalism and enlightenment. Voltaire and Rousseau and John Stuart Mill, well these were the guiding lights of the time.
The paternal grandfather was Marx Levy, who was a rabbi of Trier. But he died early, before Karl was born, and in fact his father converted to Lutheranism. It did not matter much. He was not really religious. He was quite secular and Marx, Karl Marx, brought up in a secular family. So I found you a picture of Trier in the early nineteenth century. If you look hard, you’ll probably see somewhere young Karl walking around and shopping in the marketplace of Trier.
All right, his education. He attended, of course, high school in Trier. Then in ‘35 he was admitted to the University of Bonn, where he studied Greek and Roman mythology and history–already became involved in student politics. But he really was bored in Bonn and was attracted to go to Berlin, which at that time was becoming a fascinating place. And he was attending the lectures of Bruno Bauer. Bruno Bauer was a disciple of Georg Hegel. Bauer belonged to a group of philosophers who called themselves “the Young Hegelians.” They were the radicals of their time, and Marx already wanted to be a radical; he just did not know what kind of radical he will be or should be. In fact, he received his degree from the University of Jena. I think I cracked already this joke in the introductory lecture, because assumedly it was easier to get a degree from Jena than Berlin, and Marx was more interested already in philosophy and radicalism than legal studies. But he got his degree.
So here is Georg Hegel, one of the most important philosophers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. He was a German philosopher; and I will talk more when we get into Marx’s own work. He basically saw human history as the unfolding of human consciousness, and he also characterized the human condition as in the state of alienation in which subject and object were separated from each other. These are big words. You will get comfortable with it as I’m lecturing on Marx. Because this is very important for Hegelian philosophy–also for Marxism, the distinction that there is the subject, yourself, who are observing, and the object, the others or the material world upon which you are reflecting.
There is also another big word you will learn in the next two or three lectures, the word of totality; totality means when subject and object are together in one unity, that’s what is meant to be totality. Now Hegel’s idea was that subject and object became separated, and the separation of subject from object–when there is seen as worth outside of the subject as a separate object–that is the state of alienation; alien, to be a stranger, a stranger in the world, because what is around you looks like strange, as different from you. Right? That’s what he meant by alienation. But, you know, human consciousness is increasing, and as consciousness is increasing you will overcome this separation of subject and objects. Well, I’m sure it is not clear for the time being, but we’ll be laboring on this in more detail with Marx, and hopefully it will become a little more clear.
Bruno Bauer, he is this charismatic lecturer, the Young Hegelian whose lectures Marx attended. And there is no Marx and Marxism without Bruno Bauer; though most of his work is vitriolic criticism of Bruno Bauer. Well, Marx was quite a vitriolic guy. He liked to use overheated language. Occasionally it’s very beautiful, the language he’s using. Occasionally this is pretty outraging. Okay, what about Bauer and the Left Hegelians? As I said, you know, he kind of comes–he’s a Hegel disciple, but he tries to move beyond Hegel and offer a critical theory of Hegel and the Hegelian system itself.
Chapter 2. The Critical Critic [00:07:01]
These guys, the Young Hegelians–Bauer and his brother and others like Feuerbach, called themselves “the critical critics.” This is a term which comes up in Marx’s work sometimes, ironically usually. Why was it so? Because Hegel is seen in modern philosophy as the Founding Father of critical theory. You may have heard the word; if you studied philosophy I’m sure you have heard the word. What is critical theory? Well the essence of critical theory is that it believes that the major task of philosophy, to subject human consciousness to critical scrutiny–that there is some discrepancy between human consciousness and the human condition. Right? Our consciousness does not reflect properly the human condition, and therefore we have to criticize consciousness and get the right consciousness. Well who is actually the first of critical theorists? There is some controversy about this.
There are some people who actually name Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, as the first of critical theorists. Kant made a very interesting distinction between Ding an sich and Ding für sich; things in themselves and things for themselves. And one important Kant idea was that all the ideas what we have in our mind are things for themselves, and they do not correspond to the world around us. The world around us is so rich that the concepts what we develop cannot completely fit. Therefore, in the act of cognition–when we try to understand something–we select from the world stuff which is important for us. This is why it’s things for themselves. Right? We select, in the process of cognition, of learning, from the world elements what is useful for us. So, I mean, in some ways already Kant suggested that there is something problematic with the human consciousness. Right? We have to subject this human consciousness to critical scrutiny, and to be aware that the unexhausted richness of the world and reality cannot be ever captured by the human mind.
Now others do see really Georg Hegel as the real critical theorist, because now the central point is alienation. Right? Here the central point is that this is a big problem, and unlike Kant, who was an agnostic, he did not think we ever can develop concepts which capture the world. Right? Hegel believed that if you guys, you learn my philosophy, you will be all right. Right? Then you will overcome alienation. You will get the appropriate consciousness. Read my work. That was–you know, to simplify it a great deal. So anyway, he was seen as a kind of critical theorist.
Now, the Young Hegelians were the critics of the critique. Right? They wanted to apply Hegel’s critical method on Hegel’s theory. They said, “Why on earth Georg, Uncle Georg, believes that his theory is the right one? Why don’t we subject this system itself to the same critical scrutiny what Hegel suggests everything should be subjected to: critical scrutiny?” That is really the fundamental line of argument that greatly influenced Marx. Marx is, in many respects, a critical critic.
Now this is another Young Hegelian, Ludwig Feuerbach, who had another very important impact on Marx. Feuerbach called his approach “naturalism.” This is a term what Marx, the young Marx, also used for a while to describe himself. I think most of you in this room would think that Marx was a materialist, and eventually Marx used the term materialism, and even more specifically, historical materialism, to describe what he was doing. But in his early work he was shying away from materialism and he used the term naturalism. And naturalism really meant that you do not underestimate the importance of consciousness in spirit, just in the interaction with consciousness and spirit, and the nature itself,–you pay more attention to nature.
Now Feuerbach’s most important book–I don’t think it is in English–Das Wesen des Christentums, The Essence of Christianity, he also suggested that rather than God creating man, man created the idea of God, and they created the idea of God–this is actually not all that far from Bruno Bauer, just a more radical position. Right? Because it wanted to project the desperation of alienation into the idea of God. So, I mean, while so to say Bauer was not ready to draw the, if I may use this term, the ontological conclusions of his criticism of Hegel. Feuerbach went into ontology. Right? Ontology means the origins of things, and he believed that in fact the spiritual world is a reflection of humans as such. That’s why he called this naturalism, as distinct from idealism.
And we will talk about the distinction between idealism and materialism, or idealism as naturalism, which is very important for Marxism, and has been an important distinction in philosophy in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I don’t think in the last, you know, fifty or a hundred years that, you know, in philosophy there is too much discussion of idealism and materialism, though I don’t think it is quite a useless discussion, who are idealist and who are materialist. And well, we will talk very briefly about this. Let me just foreshadow. Right? You know, you are an idealist when you think that the material world is coming from an idea. Right?
If you believe that there was a transcendental being like God, and this transcendental being, by its act of will, created the world and created humans, then you are an idealist. If you believe that the ideas are explaining human behavior, then you are an idealist. Materialists are the ones who start from the material conditions and try to explain the ideas from the material conditions. Right? Feuerbach made this provocative statement that we invented God, rather than God creating us. Marx goes further and he will say, “Well you have ideas in your head. I can tell you why you have these ideas when I look at your material conditions.” And he will later on say that, “When I understand your position in the class structure, and I understand your economic interests, then I will be able to tell you why you think the way you think.” Right? This is the materialist’s approach, when you explain ideas from the material conditions, versus the other way around. And this comes from Feuerbach. It is Feuerbach’s inspiration. Right? So you bring together the critical theory of Hegel and the Young Hegelians, radical critical theory, and naturalism of Feuerbach, eventually pushing it further and to say, “Let’s not fool around it. It is materialism all right.” Okay?
Chapter 3. Marriage and Early Career [00:16:05]
Now what about–let’s continue with the life. ‘42, he moves to Cologne, the city of Cologne, and becomes a journalist for Rheinische Zeitung; eventually even becomes the editor of this journal. And what he’s writing is just liberal journalism. He’s not a radical yet. He’s a bourgeois liberal. He is writing articles about, you know, the freedom of the press and civil liberties. He’s writing stuff what John Stuart Mill would not object to at all. Right?
Then ‘43, he marries–I again cracked this joke before–after a long engagement, Jenny von Westphalen, who comes from, you know, a noble family, a very high class family– not a Jewish family, a high class family. Here is a picture of them too. Well he was graying fast. Right? Well he was running into some political troubles very soon.
Now we will very quickly see some extraordinary years in Marx’s intellectual development. 1843, ‘44, ‘45, just three years, it’s quite extraordinary what is happening in Marx’s mind and how far he goes. Already in ‘43 he is beginning to write some very important pieces of work. I will talk about them in a minute, when we will get to Marx’s work. One is called A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State, or Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, or Rights; it’s translated differently. And then he’s writing a very provocative essay, “On the Jewish Question” in which he’s beginning to distinguish himself from the Young Hegelians.
Both of these pieces, especially “On the Jewish Question,” are unacceptable to the German police and political establishment. So he had to leave Germany, and he escapes and he moves to Paris. And here it is, 38 Rue Vaneau. That’s where he lived, and that’s where Marx wrote his extraordinary unpublished manuscript, what is called The Paris Manuscript of 1844, but from which you have read something, and some of them are the jewel pieces of social science literature. Some of them are impenetrable, but some of them is quite penetrable and still blows people’s minds.
Okay, 1844 in Paris, he abandons this book, The Critique of Hegel but he wrote an Introduction, and I will talk about this later. This, in many ways, is quite an extraordinary piece of work. It’s a wonderful piece of poetry, and he’s sort of beginning to lay out his philosophy. And then in the summer of ‘44 he completes–no, doesn’t complete, he abandons The Paris Manuscripts; and for good reasons. And we will talk about this, why he never published it and never finished it; though, I mean, it is quite a brilliant piece.
And he meets a young man, Friedrich Engels, just twenty-four years of age, and became lifelong friends, and they’re beginning to work together. They are writing this book, The Holy Family. I strongly recommend you do not read it. I have read it a number of times and suffered a lot. So I want to save you from suffering. But there are some very important things in The Holy Family; just the price you have to pay to find the jewel is very high.
Okay, and then they write many other things together. The Communist Manifesto they write together. The German Ideology they write together; and many other things. Engels was a brilliant mind. In fact, he was a much more clearer analytic mind than Karl Marx, and he had a much better sense of empirical reality than Marx. Marx was a bit of an abstract guy. But Marx was really the genius. Right? Friedrich Engels was just a kind of Yale professor; you know, that Karl Marx was a sort of a genius really.
‘45, well even in Paris it is unbearable what they are doing, so they’re kicked out from Paris, and then they go to Brussels. And here is Engels when they met. Well there is–to continue the work–a big change in Marx in 1945 [correction: 1845]–as some people say, the epistemological break. Until ‘45, until The Paris Manuscript, Marx is still in some ways a Hegelian. Now he’s changing and he’s becoming a materialist, and he coins the term historical materialism to describe his position. One important piece is The Theses on Feuerbach. I make you to read that. I think it is a fantastic piece of work. He again did not publish it, and I will explain to you why, though it is brilliant, why he shied away and did not publish it; it is in tension with the main message what he tries to get through. And then ‘45, ‘46, together with Engels, they write again another unfinished manuscript, which was published only in 1904–and even in 1904 only partially–The German Ideology. Again, there are some extraordinary pieces in these incomplete manuscripts.
Then comes the year of revolutions. February 22- 24 in ‘48, a violent revolution in France. They sit down with Engels and within a week they write The Manifesto of the Communist Party. They just tell what the revolution should be doing. Well this is in a pamphlet–a pamphlet with a lot of disturbing statements, but a pamphlet with some very insightful, very important social analysis as well. A piece of work which cannot be ignored. It can be hated. It was loved by many but usually now it is hated. But even if you hate it or love it, you better read it, and you pay attention to some of the very important statements. And what is extraordinary–this is a pretty long manuscript. They were writing like crazy. I mean, I think I’m a fast writer, but I could not do it in a week. And a reasonably polished piece, especially in comparison with his other work.
Now he’s expelled from Brussels, but he moves to revolutionary Paris, on March 5th already. But the revolution continues. March 13th, Vienna is on fire. Right? But you have to wait only two days and Buda and Pest in Hungary is on fire. The revolution is spreading all over in Europe. March 18th, it’s already in Berlin. Paris, Vienna, Buda and Pest, Berlin, whole Europe is on fire. This is exactly what Marx was saying will be happening. Right there, it is happening indeed.
So Marx and Engels return to Germany. Now they will carry out the torch of the revolution. Well it doesn’t last for–that’s a picture, a bad picture of some of the revolution in Paris. It was quite a bloody event. And here is The Communist Manifesto, the First Edition–end of February 1848, when it was printed fast and distributed widely. Well, you know, revolution doesn’t last too long. In October ‘48, Austria carries out a counter-revolution. They oppress the revolution in Hungary. November the 8th there is a counter-revolutionary coup in Prussia. The revolution is depressed [correction: repressed].
And then December 1848–well this is not a violent counter-revolution, but the French go and vote on elections, and they elect a guy whose name is Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as president of France. It was a very stupid way to vote. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was the nephew of Napoleon. His father was Napoleon’s brother, younger brother, and he was the king–he was made king of the Netherlands until, of course, Napoleon fell and he was ousted, and Louis Napoleon Bonaparte grew up in Switzerland, in exile. Was not a particularly smart person and caused a lot of trouble in France. Well here he is when he was president. Later on he became an emperor of France; Napoleon III, he renamed himself, and kept causing trouble. Yeah.
Well Marx returned to Paris briefly and was hoping, you know, the French eventually will come to their senses and overthrow this jerk. Well the French did not come to their senses. Right? It looks like the French occasionally do silly political things, like the Jacobins did. Electing Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was not a smart thing.
But, you know, therefore they have to move to London, and that’s where he spends the rest of his life. This is where he has another go at the big book he wants to write. It is called Grundrisse, and I will ask you–it will be a little sweating to read it, but I promise I ask you to read the most readable part of the Grundrisse. So if you will have troubles reading what I ask you to read, remember the rest would be much, much worse. Right? So you have to enjoy reading it. But I think it’s–what I ask you to read is extremely important to understand who the real Marx is. Right? There are many faces of Karl Marx, and one of–one outcome most clearly in the Grundrisse. Then he writes finally the book what he always wanted to do, Das Kapital, in 1867.
Chapter 4. The Paris Commune and Its Aftermath [00:27:58]
Then there is another revolution in France, the Commune, and this is a real proletarian revolution–very much following what Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto. There are few instances in history when two people can claim, “We wrote it down, and here the masses put it into action.” They did it in France. And then already in ‘64 Marx created a political organization, what he called International–International, The Workers’ Organization; eventually we refer to this as the First International–with a Russian anarchist, whose name is Bakunin. ‘71, there is this proletarian revolution inspired by The Communist Manifesto. They proclaim a Commune in Paris. It’s not all that different from Soviet Russia or Maoist China–the same ideas. Does not last too long. Right? In two weeks it is suppressed and overthrown. And Marx dissolves the International.
There is a big fight between Bakunin and Marx. I think in this big fight Bakunin, who is actually not very smart, but in the–I think in the debate Bakunin is quite right about Marx’s state-ism–too much belief in Marx what the government should do, and Bakunin is bottom-up, right? Bakunin is an anarchist. He believes in the ordinary people and he wants to get rid of the state, rather than doing stuff by the state. Anyway, they dissolved the First International. Well the defeat of the Paris Commune was a very ugly affair. People were mass murdered without trial. Not very nice stuff. Though, I mean, the Paris Commune–of course, you know, if you, as the anarchists are saying, “Well, if you want to have scrambled eggs, you have to break a couple of eggs.” Right? So if you have a revolution, occasionally you shoot. Right? Well, there was shooting during the Commune–there was a lot of shooting after the Commune. Right?
Well after the Commune, we have a conservative epoch in Europe. Bismarck in Germany–right?–the Iron Chancellor. Queen Victoria–right?–ethical conservativism. Kaiser Franz Joseph, the Blue Danube. Right? The Operetta. Right? But a very conservative guy. I have so many nice anecdotes about him. Too bad the course doesn’t last two semesters because I could entertain you with great stories about Kaiser Franz Joseph. Big trouble the guy. He primarily caused the First World War, out of a completely stupid action, and caused the deaths of millions of people in a bloody, terrible, stupid war.
Well but there is no room in this conservative time for revolution. Right? Revolutionary Marxism. Marx dies in desperation. Actually if you read the later work, his mind is gradually disintegrating. And he’s buried together with Jenny in London Highgate Cemetery. There was just a piece in New York Review of Books on Highgate Cemetery–also names the Tomb of Karl Marx, which stands there, and Marxists go. Now a postscript well they create a Second International, after his death. Engels created it. It eventually became what we call a Social Democratic International. It still exists. Social Democratic parties occasionally meet on an international meeting. For awhile, when the Democratic Party was a kind of JFK liberal party, even the American Democratic Party sent observers to the Second International meetings. Right? Bobby Kennedy was kind of very sympathetic to the Second International–were kind of considering should not the Democratic Party join the Social Democratic International Movement?
1917, there is a Communist revolution in Russia. In 1919, they say, “Second International, this really sucks. This is not about revolution. This is about reform. We need a real revolutionary organization.” They create the Third International or Communist International, which lasts until the Second World War, when Russia, Soviet Russia, needs the help of the United States to defeat militarily Germany, and the U.S. said, “All right, but you dissolve the International.” So they did dissolve the International. There is actually a Fourth International–I don’t have time really to talk about this–created by Leon Trotsky. All right, so that’s about the life of one of our major authors, Karl Marx.
Chapter 5. The Paris Manuscripts and the Theory of Alienation [00:33:33]
And let me go on and talk about his theory of alienation. And I have, my goodness, twelve minutes to do that, though I could spend in fact a semester on this. Well but let me try to economize with my time, and I’ll just very briefly rush through what is leading to The Paris Manuscript and the theory of alienation. And I really have to talk about alienation, so I will skip a lot of stuff leading to the alienation. As I said, Hegel is the point of departure for Marx’s theory of alienation. But there is a kind of intellectual project for the young Marx. As I said, he writes–tries to write this book, a critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right. In this book Hegel suggested that there is a–the civil servants constitute a universal class. It is a critique of the French Revolution and the bourgeois society in which Hegel felt the workers and the capitalists are representing particularistic interests, and order can be brought into this only by civil servants, by the government, who represents the universal point of view. And Marx criticizes this book. Then he writes “On the Jewish Question”, where he said, “Well the state bureaucrats are not universal, but we need a universal standpoint, we need universal emancipation, as such.” That’s the point of view.
Then he writes this wonderful piece, Introduction to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and he said, “But who will carry out this universal point of view?” And it is the introduction for the first time in ‘44, January, and he said, “The proletariat.” But people say, “Why the proletariat? Goodness gracious.” That’s when The Paris Manuscript comes in. He said, “The proletariat, because the proletariat is the ultimate of alienation, and because they are alienated, they have the interest to overcome alienation.” Well I think I just have to rush through. I will put this stuff on the internet, but I really don’t have time to get into any detail. I want to get, in the last few minutes, into The Paris Manuscripts.
And this is the structure of The Paris Manuscript of 1844. You can see the line of argument, how he’s developing his argument. What is really interesting from The Paris Manuscripts is the first manuscript, which is twenty-seven pages. It is on wages, profits and rent, and culminates with the idea of alienation. Again, unfortunately I don’t have more time to work more on it. Especially Section IV is crucially important. And the second and the third manuscripts are of lesser important.
Now the major themes: wage, profit and rent, and private ownership, they all culminate in alienation. This is a re-interpretation of Hegel. Alienation does not come from ideas, it comes out of material conditions of the nature of capitalist economy. As I said, he does not have the notion of capitalism. It comes out of the nature of commodity producing commercial society. Right? That’s where alienation is coming from, rather than ideas, and the problem can only be solved if you fix the problems of commodity producing societies.
And then he identifies four characteristics of alienation. And I will talk to this. Alienation is from the object of production. The second is alienation from the act of production. Then alienation from species being; again, a very big word–Gattungswesen, in German. What makes us human, what makes us distinct from animals, that’s what the notion species being refers to. And finally alienation from fellow man. Well I have seven minutes to labor on this, so let me do that.
Okay, as I said he reinterprets Hegel’s alienation. Hegel wanted to overcome alienation in thought. Alienation was a problem of the state of consciousness. Marx wants to ground the theory in material practices. Right? And when emerges alienation? When labor is becoming a commodity and when profit drives the economy; that’s when we enter the stage of alienation and private property emerges.
Well I’ll just leave this section out, and let me speak to the four dimensions of alienation in the next six or seven minutes. So the first point is there is in–you know, we are talking about commodity producing commercial societies, to put it with Adam Smith. Right? Or Marx will call it later on–it will take him one more year to figure out what is really the nature of the society he’s talking about. But already in The German Ideology, as we will see it Tuesday or Thursday, he coins the term the capitalist mode of production. So in the capitalist mode of production, in a commodity producing society, the object which labor produces, labor’s product, confronts the workers as something alien from him, as a power alien of the producer. Right? Under these conditions, this realization of labor appears as the loss of realization of the worker.
In sharp contrast with petty commodity production, the work of the artisan where the work what you produce is part of your own life; you identify with the part what you produce. Right? You are a shoe-maker, you are producing a beautiful shoe. Right? You are proud of the shoe. You go to the church Sunday and you saw a nice lady walking in these beautiful shoes, and you proudly say, “This is my shoe.” Right? Then you are not alienated. Right? When you are working on the production line and you are mass producing, you know, Toyota Camry, you don’t know what you produce. Right? It’s an alien object from you. You put a little bit of work into the product, and the product is not you any longer; it is something which is alien from you. Well, of course, not all work is necessarily alienated. You know if you are an artist, if you are a scholar, you identify the work and you have copyright for the work what you produce. But ordinary workers usually do not have a copyright; you know they cannot license the work what they produce. It becomes alien from them. That’s the point. Right? The product.
Well then you are also becoming alien in the act of production. He said because labor is external to the worker–there are different points in this–external to the worker; it does not belong to his intrinsic nature. In his work he does not affirm himself but denies himself–does not freely develop itself. You know, you say, “Well it’s already 4:45. I have only fifteen more minutes to go and then I am free.” Right? Life begins when work ends. Right? You can see it. You go to the supermarket and the cashier can hardly wait, you know, to get out of here. I was trying to buy last night a little beer, and it was 8:45 and the cashier said, “Sorry, I cannot sell it to you.” I said, “Why not? Until 9:00.” She said, “It’s not nine yet?” She wanted to get out of there. Right? So it’s alienated from the process of production. Right? And labor is not voluntary but forced. Right? Well forced, not legally. You can starve. Right? But if you don’t want to starve and you want to have a place, a roof over your head, you have to work. So it is forced economically. And so it is not–it is, here is the–and your activity belongs to somebody else. It’s somebody else, you know, who commands you, who is the boss, who tells you what to do, and then you shut up. Right? And this is why, you know, in the act of production you have alienation.
The third one is that you are alienated from your species being, of your human being. And now Marx has a theory of man in nature. Right? What is man in natural conditions? What makes us man as distinct from animal? There are very different answers you can give. Well Schiller, the German poet said, “What makes us humans? That we know how to play.” Right? Play makes us human. Marx said what makes us human, that we work. Labor, that we transform the material world to meet our human needs, with a plan in our head, that’s what makes us human. There are animals which kind of work, like bees, but they don’t work with a plan. There are only humans who have an idea about my house we’ll build, and then you build the house as you had the idea about it. That is the essence of human beings. And he said the problem is that we, in a commodity producing society, we are alienated from labor, what makes us human. So we are alienated from our very human essence. That’s the most horrifying thing for Marx, in a commodity producing society. Right?
And then finally we are alienated from our fellow man. This is probably the deepest idea in the whole theory; namely, that we’re beginning to treat each others as object. Right? As we are entering the world of commodity production, profit maximization, self-interested individuals maximizing utility and thinking instrumentally around the world. What are the most least expensive means which gets us the cheapest to this end? When we’re beginning to treat each others as instruments. Right? And he said this is the worst alienation. Which is new, right? It has–this is very important to see in Marx’s theory of alienation. It’s not a general condition of humankind, as Hegel thought it. Alienation is emerging in modernity. It does not have the term capitalism yet, or the capitalist mode of production.
This is–the characteristics of modernity and modern industrial and urban life, that we are not interacting with each other as human beings, in an all-sided personal relationships, but we tend to treat each others as objects. Right? We treat the other person as a sex object. Right? The erotic complex relationship is reduced to a brutal act of sex. Right? We treat each other as an instrument to reach an end. Right? We call the others only when we need that person for something. Right? We act out of simply self-interest in interacting with the others. We lack compassion. Right? We lack love. Right? We lack sympathy. Right? You know, he probably did not read his Adam Smith carefully enough. Right? He has not been reading much Smith until ‘44. This is where he’s beginning to read Smith very carefully, around this time, in ‘44. Anyway, you see the point what he is making. And I think what Marx describes in alienation, particularly alienation from fellow human beings, is something what probably some people in this room can respond to, and to say, “Well yes, I did experience that. I have been treated as an object. When I go to the admission office, occasionally an administrator treats me like a piece of paper.” Right?
That’s when you are alienated, when you’re becoming an object rather than a human being. So that’s in a nutshell the theory of alienation. The rest will be up on the internet, and you may want to dig into the whole intellectual development which brings you to the peak of what we call the young Marx; Marx, the Hegelian Marx, who is not a materialist yet, not a historical materialist. He does not have the idea of exploitation. He does not have the idea of the capitalist mode of production yet. All right. Thank you.
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