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MARX on Human Alienation

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Pj Minoza

on 7 June 2015

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Transcript of MARX on Human Alienation

An Introduction to Marxism:
Alienated Selves & the Frames of Oppression

Alienation (estrangement) means, for Marx, that man does not experience himself as the acting agent in his grasp of the world, but that the world (nature, others, and himself) remain 'alien' to him. They stand above and against him as objects, even though they may be objects of his creation.
Man is inevitably consumed by the eerie feeling of emptiness brought about by the dichotomy between himself & the objectivity of nature. It is only through the active engagement with the world via labor (production) that allows him to achieve 'self-realization'. Human history is the process of reconciling man's "existence" and his "essence".
. . . refers to the process of labor in which the necessities for 'life' are turned into 'objects' (product); in capitalism, this object is to be bought & sold.
Conflict Theory & Historical Materialism
Eastern Marxism interprets history as 'Class Struggle' - a power struggle between the 'upper' & 'lower' classes the society as to who owns the [means of production]. In capitalism, the 'Bourgeois' and the 'Proletariat'.
Why do socialist revolutions fail to materialize?
Why are the working class seem content to go along the ruling class?
Central Questions:
What is human nature?
How does alienation happen?
How does 'ideology' work?

What Marxism 'is'? ... Western Marxism & Eastern Marxism
Marx gave us an insight to see the patterns of conflict ('dialectic') revolving around systems of inequality.
Marx told us to examine the economy and the state particularly how the social elite use power and ideology.
Some beliefs bear fundamental ideas that oppresses people and prevent them from reaching their full potential.
Ideas are rooted on his experience of the natural environment. Man makes his own history - he is his own creator. (Humanism & Naturalism)
Marx & Marxism
PRODUCTION - produce the necessities for 'life'.
REFLECTION - the 'object' one produces serves as a reflection of oneself.
SOCIAL BEING - altruistic beings having a sense of 'community'(intersubjectivity)
What makes us 'Human' is . . .
Man's 'self-activity' constitutes his consciousness and whole 'being'.
"In this natural species relationship man's relation to nature is directly his relation to man, and his relation to man is directly his relation to nature, to his own 'natural' function."
"Man knows himself only inasmuch as he knows the world; he knows the world only within himself and he is only aware of himself within the world." - Goethe
Only in being productively active can man make sense of his life. Every person's relation to man and to nature is a specific expression corresponding to the object of his/her will - his/her real individual life.
"The objects formed by man in his productive act confirm and realize his individuality... the manner in which these objects become his own depends upon the nature of the object and the nature of its corresponding faculty."
Alienation is negation of productivity.
[ALIENATION] is essentially experiencing the world and oneself passively, receptively, as the subject separated from the object - his existence does not reflect his essence.
"... Estrangement from his own life forces, from the wealth of his own potentialities, and is in touch with himself only indirectly."
Labor is alienated because the work has ceased to be a part of the worker's nature and he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself, has a feeling of misery rather than well-being, does not develop freely his mentl and physical energies but is physically exhausted and mentally debased.
Just as alienated labor transforms free and self-directed activity into a means, so it transforms the species-life of man into a means of physical existence - "the object produced now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer."
[material production]
... it 'misrepresents' reality by...
[Ideology] works in ways which serve the interest of the ruling strata - the 'bourgeois'.
conceal unacceptable aspects of it.
glorify things which are of themselves less glorious.
make things that are neither natural nor necessary.
'Ideology' is a system of ideas which systematically misrepresents reality.
false consciousness
(site of both)
"in your head"
"really existing"
(as conscious process)
(as unconscious, hidden or estranged process)
To what degree is 'culture' economically determined?
Marxist Social Analysis
Commodity Fetish
What is 'historical materialism'?

[Commodity Fetish]
" (1) ... in the process of work (in capitalism) man is estranged from his own powers," (2) ... the 'objects' of his own work become alien beings, and eventually rule over him - become powers independent of the producer."
Capitalism turn unnecessary 'wants' into 'needs'. It turns human 'experience' into a 'thing' that stands in opposition to the 'human agent'.
... our 'Human' attributes are also [COMMODIFIED]
BOURGEOIS Money + Commodity = Money

PROLETARIAT Commodity + Money = Commodity
How did Marx see History?
Primitive Communal
History is the progression towards the 'rule of the proletariat' - "Workers of the world, Unite! you have nothing to lose except your chains." - Communist Manifesto
Antonio Gramsci
Gramsci argues that 'cultural' and 'intellectual' activites do not merely operate as functions of economic changes, but comprise an arena of social struggle, of domination & resistance. Thus, the struggle of 'ideas' is a crucial part of the general pattern of struggle.
Louis Althusser
Structuralism argues that 'man' has no underlying 'essential' nature (Essentialism); it argues that, rather than the structures of the social formation being created by individuals, it sees individuals as mere products of the society.
(ISA) Ideological State Apparatuses
Capitalist ideology serves to ensure the reproduction of the conditions of capitalist economic production.
(RSA) Repressive State Apparatuses
Prof. Philip James S. Miñoza, M.A.

Department of Philosophy
College of Arts & Sciences/
College of International Relations

Philosophy/Sociology/Cultural Studies/Political Science/IR Theory
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