Alienation and the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Marx argues that worker with his work produces commodity. Infact his work is transformed into commodity. He involves into the level of commodity and himself becomes indeed the most miserable commodity. The more he produces the commodity the more commodities become cheaper ‘Labor produces not only commodities it produces itself and the worker as cheap commodity.’ The proposition is that the object which labor produces confronts it as something alien. The output or commodity does not belong to him(worker). The labor arises as loss of reality of the workers’ objectification. This loss of the object and object dissociation may be called as estrangement or alienation.

The worker becomes a slave of his object, as he receives and object of labor, in that he receives work (employment) and secondly in that he receives means of subsistence. This estrangement is not only demonstrated in the products of his labor. It also integrates production activity as the product is after all the outcome of the activity of production. Therefore its not only the product (commodity) itself but the production process which brings alienation.

Hence the labor is external to worker and it is not associated with to his essential being. During his work he does not feel free or happy infact he feels himself outside his work. His labor is not voluntary but a coerced or forced labor. The labor is not contentment of his needs but means to fulfill his subsistence needs. Man who is alienated from himself due to external labor, therefore it is a labor of ‘self sacrifice of mortification.’ It appears the fact that labor of the worker is not his own as it does not belong to him but to someone else.

I never thought about the concept of ‘alienation’ before reading Marx. He has explained it in such a wonderful and vivid way that one can grasps this concept so easily and I assume it is applicable to all of us who are born and brought up in the Capitalist society. But it is more apparent in the industrial sector particularly in the developing countries. I was just thinking about the Charlie Chaplin’s movie and similar thing happen when I was on field visit to Columbus Junction (IA). There were some immigrant workers who work at a meat processing plant in the area. They said, we are pressurized all the time to work more and more. Their team/shift was processing 1000 hogs a day and this year the company has set the target of processing 1200 hogs per day with a little incentive if the process more. I was just thinking of Marx at that time that how the work of these people is transformed into a commodity and how the profit of that commodity would be calculated in the head of the company at some coastal area.

The workers had no control over commodity but were more interested in their subsistence income to meet their both ends meet. They were dissociated with the object they were producing and estrangement and alienation with reality.

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