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Theory of Alienation by Karl Marx

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1952 words Published: 11th Jan 2018

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Karl Marx has been dubbed as one of the most prolific and influential thinkers of the nineteenth century. He advocated the creation of a classless society that would be guided through proper democracy and equality. In essence, Marx criticized the capitalist system as an order in which the powerful firms have gained considerable power and clout. He argued that workers are treated as commodities under this system. The theory of alienation argues that workers are disenchanted with their work because it is controlled and supervised by hierarchies of managers and supervisors. The individual creativity and freedom has been stifled in the name of efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, Marx argues that the abject poverty of workers means that they cannot live in prosperous conditions. The capitalist system reaps tremendous profits but gives meager wages to its workers. Marx also believed that alienation resulted in workers being suspicious of each other due to the competitive nature of capitalism. Finally the workers are instructed to perform specific tasks which are against the intrinsic nature of humanity. This nature helps them to attain creativity and design robust challenges to new problems. This report will seek to analyze the four types of alienation that are observed in Marx’s theory. The personal experiences of the researcher will also be included in this report.

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Aspects of Alienation

Karl Marx argued that alienation was a natural consequence of capitalism because of several reasons. This is because the workers are manipulated by the forces of capitalism in order to increase productivity and output. The results are that the workers will ultimately lose hope and determination (Leopold, 67). This is because the capitalists strive to ensure that the work activities of the workers are oriented towards specific goals and objectives. The desire of organizations is to ensure that workers can be exploited to attain the maximum surplus value. The worker is considered to be an instrument which leads to the loss of personal identity. It can lead to frustration and resentment since the modes of production are privately owned.

Alienation from Products of own Labor

Marx argued that the capitalist system seeks to create an illusion that workers are adequately compensated for the work that is performed. In essence, the capitalist system seeks to control the workers by deriving the benefits from the work activities of the latter. This can create alienation which can lead to serious consequences for entire society. In addition, the consumers are manipulated which is achieved through the offering of products (Desai, 93). The huge profits reaped by the capitalist system also can cause high levels of resentment and frustration among the workers.

Alienation from Act of Producing Itself

Marx believed that the capitalist system encouraged mechanical and repetitive work patterns that do not create any intrinsic value for the workers. The power of workers is transformed into a commodity which is manifested in the form of wages (Carver, 78).

Capitalism controls the destinies of the workers by supervising and directing their work activities. This creates serious resentment among the workers who feel deprived of their destinies. In addition, the workers are unable to consume the products that are developed by them within a capitalist system.

Alienation from his or her species being

Marx argued that human beings have the capability to develop dynamic thinking through the pursuit of multiple endeavors. Thus humanity retains the ability to contemplate the surrounding environment and develop robust challenges to problems. Marx therefore argues that human society is characterized by a constant state of flux and change. The social classes emerge to overthrow existing orders and manipulate the masses (Carver, 78). The results are that a new class relationship that exists in capitalism eventually stifles the creativity and innovation of human beings. This can create resentment which leads to serious consequences.

Alienation from Producers

Marx argued that capitalism eventually confines labor to the position of a commercial commodity. This means that social relationships are ignored while human beings under the system strive to attain endurance or betterment. The competitive nature of capitalism eventually creates conflicts and disputes. This can cause high levels of alienation and resentment among the masses (Carver, 80). The basic structure of the capitalist system is such that it can cause deterioration in social structures and relationships since workers must compete for scarce resources in order to survive.

Personal Alienation

I have been working as a sales coordinator for a large organization that is involved in the sale of curtains, sofas, beds, and other furniture. Marx argues that the primary form of alienation is when the workers’ feel disillusioned with the work activities. This is true for me in many ways. A sales job can be frustrating as we are told to meet basic targets and increase the revenues of the firm. Marx argued that pre-capitalist societies allowed artisans to have a degree of independence in their work activities. Modern capitalist organizations tend to have hierarchies in which the workers are controlled through a system of checks and controls (Wolff, 91). Managers seek to develop the targets and ensure that compliance with organizational policies is achieved.

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As a sales coordinator, I feel disillusioned with my work activities because of the absence of any incentives. The long hours means that I have to ensure that goals are being met in an efficient and effective manner. The sales strategy promoted by the firm is based upon the notion that existing approaches will be implemented. There is no concept of workers’ autonomy which could lead to high levels of creativity and innovation. This creates problems because Marx argued that it was essential for workers to be given high levels of autonomy in order to increase their motivation. The second point of Marx’s theory is the fact that workers are living in abject poverty due to the conditions of capitalism. He argues that workers are unable to meet their basic requirements due to the wage structure and working conditions of the capitalist system. As a sales coordinator, I believe that this is true because I have to ensure that targets are being met in an efficient and effective manner. The commissions earned from direct selling are often inadequate to meet the basic requirements of life. Wages earned from a sales position are adequate for sustenance but they do not enable me to improve my quality of life. It means that I continue to remain trapped within my specific social class due to the structure of the capitalist system (Wolff, 96). Income disparities remain in the United States as top executives are earning remuneration that is fifty times greater than sales coordinators like me. The income gaps create a sense of resentment and alienation towards the system. Therefore my organization is an oligarchy which does not have the proper functions of a democracy.

Marx argues that workers do not control their destinies because the capitalist system tends to have overwhelming influence over the modes of production. The results are that workers are unable to increase productivity and output. They cannot derive significant social relationships from each other (Wolff, 93). Marx argues that capitalism has created a system whereby work activities are confined to a set of mechanical and repetitive tasks. For these tasks, the workers are provided meager wages that are inadequate to respond to their primary needs and requirements. As a sales coordinator, I have always focused on competition rather than creating a collaborative network with my fellow colleagues. This is because it is essential for sales coordinators to improve the revenues and profits of the firm. Each worker strives to move up the ladder through competitive strategy. the concept of cooperating or  working together as a team has been replaced by the notion of competition. Each person therefore perceives his or her own interests rather than analyzing the common interests. As a consequence, I have to compete for scarce resources in order to improve sales. My only duty is to ensure that the organizational targets are being met in an efficient and effective manner.

Marx argues that humans are born with the intrinsic ability to contemplate and perceive about the entire environment. This helps to encourage creativity which can be used to resolve complex situations. In addition, humans desire freedom and autonomy as a means of escaping the harsh social structures. Marx believes that social structures have always exerted a strong influence on individuals by creating a set of rules and regulations. In addition, humans must be left free to develop according to their interests and passions. This is surprisingly absent in the capitalist system that seeks to control the workers by treating them as commodities (Singer, 67). As a sales coordinator, I have to work according to the whims and desires of the management. This means that I will seek to achieve the targets of the firm. I will be left with no time in order to pursue my passions or interests. The job is necessary because it is vital for survival in a harsh environment. The market conditions determine the nature of human work. In my example, the needs of my furniture company are to target consumers and develop robust marketing strategies. As a sales coordinator, I have to ensure that consumers can be reached in an efficient and effective manner. much of Marx’s theory of alienation remains appropriate even in the twenty first century. The abject poverty of workers remains in the world with sweatshop like conditions. The power and clout of the capitalist organizations remains superior. The workers are forced to undergo harsh activities in exchange for meager wages.


Karl Marx’s theory of alienation was postulated in the nineteenth century which was characterized by the rise of capitalism. Industrialization had swept the developed world along with other phenomenon like urbanization, immigration, and capitalism. Marx argued that the capitalist system was based upon reinforcing the divisions of class. His theory of alienation appears to be appropriate even today. His first premise was that workers were alienated with their job duties. Capitalism had controlled the aspects of workers by forcing them to perform monotonous and repetitive tasks. Another premise is that workers live in abject poverty because of the meager wages that are given to them. Workers do not have control over their work activities which stifles their creativity and innovation. It also creates the conditions for oppression and exploitation at the hands of capitalist enterprises. Another premise of this theory is that workers do not have social relationships. The urge to compete has thus led to the destruction of the notion of cooperation and collaboration. Finally Marx argued that the workers were unable to attain self actualization in the capitalist environment. This is because capitalism seeks to create rules and regulations that will ultimately create bad conditions for workers. Personally, I have been alienated with my job as a sales coordinator. This is because of the poor working conditions. In addition, the checks and controls have led to monotonous work activities.


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