Alienation and Estrangement: In Defense of Humanism

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In 1844, a young German philosopher wrote a book entitled “The Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts”. The said writer is no other than Karl Marx. In that work, Marx begun to examine, analyze and scrutinize the concept of alienation (entausserung). The other term that he used is estrangement (entfremdung).

Marx’s central thesis is that:

power_to_the_peopleThe externalization of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently of him and alien to him, and begins to confront him as an autonomous power; that the life which he has bestowed on the object confronts him as hostile and alien.

What does he mean? Though, there is no doubt that it is the workers who produced the products, ironically the products do not belong to the worker who produced the said products but to his employers. Further, the product or commodity which was produced due to the labor of the worker has assumed a life of its own which works against the worker. There are other forms of alienation and/or estrangement that Marx discussed and analyzed (especially during his old, mature age), however, for our present exposition: the two kinds of alienation would suffice! Taken as a whole, these two forms of economic exploitation constituted the alienation of the worker.

In 1999, the whole world witnesses the Battle of Seattle, the site of the APEC meeting. It is the battle between the forces of globalization and international finance capital as against the people’s movement, NGO’s, activists and peace groups, rights groups, environmental activists, socialist, communists, minority groups, women’s group, etc.

The former maintained the necessity of capitalism, while the latter claimed that capitalism as a system simply means the exploitation of man by man, the superiority of corporations as against governments, the destruction of the environment, the continuous inequality of the classes and the sexes, the degradation of the minority groups, etc.

The former admits the excessiveness of the capitalist system, yet hold on to the beliefs that there is no alternative but to harmonize its ironies and soften its periodic brows. The former, on the other hand, sternly believe that capitalism as an economic system is beyond salvation and could not be repair nor could it be control. The system is insatiably base on greed and human exploitation — in the name of capital at the expense of human beings! They are proposing that the world must find an economic system wherein the aim of production is the benefit of man and not the interest of the market.

In 2008, the world was plunged into a financial crisis that was worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The grim effect of that event is still with us and continues to reverberate as of the moment.

The effects are: Iceland melts, Greece lost its grandeur, the US invented a new buzzword known today as the “bail-out”, and the UK after twenty years of “relative peace” suffered again its periodical and historical riots.

As of the moment, the latest event in America is that:

“Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances were maintaining a presence in Manhattan’s Financial District even after more than 700 of them were arrested during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in a tense confrontation with police”.

They are televising the revolution, inspired by the Arab Spring movement and remembering their glorious revolutionary past, the American people, especially those who belong to the lowest class have taken the bold initiative to tell to their government, to their society as a whole and to the world in general that ‘normal economic things’ cannot go on anymore.

Enough is enough!

Power which was originally possessed by the people must return to the people! The government must respect that and its first duty as of the prevailing circumstances is to curb the unlimited power of the corporations and other financial institutions which are exploiting and degrading the rights and humanity of man.

What these people are fighting for?

Let us listen to their chant:

WE the People — not the corporation

Benefit to the People — not the corporation

Power to the People — not the corporation

Government Of the People — not the corporation

Authority to the People — not the corporation

Government By the People — not the corporation

Instituted by the People — not the corporation

Government For the People — not the corporation

Allegiance to the People — not the corporation

Consent of the People — not the corporation

Servants of the People — not the corporation

People die defending — not the corporation

People Pledge Allegiance — not the corporation

People are Human — not the corporation

People have Soul — not the corporation

Allegiance to the People — not the corporation

People have a Conscience — not the corporation!!!

As Andrew Collier noted in his brilliant discourse:

…the experience of alienation as defined by Marx — of one’s time being stolen from one, of one’s product turning against one, of work being only an undesirable means to an external end — seems widespread. Perhaps, while material conditions have improved, alienation has taken over even areas of life that escaped it in Marx’s day. The defining cases of unalienated work (artistic production, cooking a meal for one’s family or friends) — work in which one has no boss, possesses the means of labor, and works for the sake of the finished product and the pleasure it will give others, not the money it will bring in — have increasingly been edged out of that position. Art becomes the design market, cooking is replaced by working extra alienated time to pay for ready meals. Education is increasingly dominated by assessment, and reduced to uncreative cramming. Even in a university, to suggest that learning may have a value in itself is to invite derision… Even marriage has come to be seen as a contract. In this ideological climate where the spirit of commerce pervades every sphere of life, the indignation of the young Marx against the prostitution of humanity is appropriate as ever.

As Marx have famously said: Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways that is not the point; the point however is to change it!

His objective: in order for man to return to his true essence, his genuine human nature; i.e. to appreciate his human dignity, develop his full potentials and complete his humanity!

3 Replies to “Alienation and Estrangement: In Defense of Humanism”

  1. Karl Marx Philosophies were translated into: Soviet Gulags, Mao Tse Tung’s concentration camps, and Kim Il Sung family dynasty. Communism produced new Oligarchy. The Leaders became the new nobility. Too much capitalism produced exploitation and monopoly.

    Our country is Feudal Monopolistic Oligarchy. Family political dynasties prevail. Rampant thievery in the government occurs.

    The name “people” is used by politicians of any color or ideology to further their causes. It is a misnomer…

  2. First off the 2008 financial crisis was not as bad as the Great Depression. Unemployment during the Depression rose up to 21% while it only rose to 9.5%.

    I don’t quite understand the hatred towards corporations. I don’t know why you communists believe that corporations are evil beings capable of thinking and acting on their own. Corporations are made up of groups of people with the same goals in mind. I know this first hand by preparing taxes for people who owns a piece in a partnership or S-corp, where the corporations income directly flows to their individual tax return. Owners of C-corp own stock where their stake in the company are paid out in dividends or capital gains.

    Corporations should also be heard by congress, because these people want their businesses to thrive. When businesses thrive the economy grows. If the economy grows we have jobs.

    However, I don’t believe that the government should grant a single business power which would disproportionately handicap its competitors.

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