Karl Marx on Alienation and Social Change



Karl Marx on alienation and social change mark said the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle according to this view ever since human society emerged from its primitive and relatively undifferentiated state it has remained fundamentally divided between classes who clash in the pursuit of their class interests under capitalism there is an antagonistic division between the buyers and sellers of labour power between the exploiters and the exploitive rather than a functional collaboration between them Marx's analysis continually centres upon how the relationships between men are shaped by their positions in regard to the forces of production that is by their access to scarce resources and power conflicting class interests are the central determinant of social processes they are the engine of history the potential for class conflict is inherent in every society that has a division of labor it is when class consciousness is attained that revolution becomes possible self conscious classes as distinct from aggregates of people sharing a common fate need for their emergence a number of conditions the emergence of class consciousness depends on first a network of communication second critical mass through the identification of a common enemy for organization and fit and ideology in revolutionary periods it even happens that some of the representatives of the dominant class shift allegiance mark says some of the birds wah ideologist who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole will go over to the proletariat alienation is a condition in which people are dominated by forces of their own creation which then confront them as an alien power it occurs when people lose a recognition that society and social institutions are constructed by human beings and could therefore be changed by human beings for Marx the history of mankind had a double aspect it was the history of increasing control of man over nature and at the same time it was the history of the increasing alienation of man when people are alienated they feel powerless isolated and feel the social world is meaningless they look at social institutions as beyond their control and consider them oppressive for Marx all major spheres of capitalist society religion state economy educational institutions were marked by a condition of alienation alienation thus confronts man in the whole world of institutions in which she is a meshed alienation in the workplace is of overriding importance because it is work that defines us as human beings we are above all homo Faber Marx insisted that labor was man's essence this assertion caused him to describe the division of labor is something wrong with that essence Marx believed that the capacity for labor is one of the most distinctive human characteristics all other species are objects in the world people alone are subjects because they consciously act on and create the world the shaping their lives cultures and the self in the process economic alienation under capitalism means that man is alienated in daily activities in the very work which he felt by which he fashions a living there are four aspects to economic alienation man has alienated from the objects of labour from the process of production from himself herself and from her fellow human beings Marx says work becomes external to the worker it is not part of his nature consequently he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself in work the worker does not belong to himself but to another person he goes on to say this is the relationship of the worker to his own activity as something alien not belonging to him activity as suffering as an activity which is directed against himself independent of him and not belonging to him the social world thus confronts people as an uncontrollable hostile thing leaving them alien in the very environment that they have created alienated man is also a lien ated from the human community mark says each man is alienated from others each of the others is likewise alienated from human life Mark's analysis of capitalism was thus the analysis of the alienation of individuals and classes both workers and capitalists losing control over their own existence in a system subject to economic laws over which they had no control under capitalism the worker has diminished responsibilities over the work process the worker does not own the tools with which the work is done does not control the process or the pace does not own the final product the worker does not set the organizational goals does not have the right to make decisions the worker is therefore reduced to my new part of a process a mere cog in a machine work becomes an enforced activity not a creative or satisfying one it becomes the means for maintaining existence it is no longer an expression of the individual it is a means to an end for Marx the source of alienation is in the relations of production that is capitalism the fact that workers are laboring for someone else others have since argued that it is not capitalism but to detail division of labor that is responsible for this condition alienation others say is the psychic price we pay as we play our specialized roles in modern industrial society but even these critics can see that capitalism is a powerful force in promoting this detailed division of labor but for Marx alienation was a philosophical and moral critique of the situation imposed by capitalism relations of production not industrialism the forces of production capitalist societies are dehumanizing because the social relations of production prohibit men from achieving the freedom of self-determination that the advance of technology has made possible if not for capitalism the new technology could be used to free men of rote repetitive labor rather than enslaving men according to Marx when men realize how capitalism robs them of this self-determination and freedom the revolution will come men begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they began to produce their means of subsistence Marx's focus on the process of social change is central to his thinking he believed that the development of productive forces was the root of social change in the process of transforming nature however men transform themselves human history is the process by which men change themselves even as they devise more powerful ways to exploit their environment in contrast to all other animals who can only passively adjust to nature's requirements by finding a niche in the ecological order man is active in relation to his surroundings people alone fashion tools with which to transform the natural environment man who every day remake their own life in the process of production can do so only in association with others mark says these associations these relations of production are critical in understanding social life in their struggle against nature to gain their livelihood men create specific social organizations that are very much in tune with the forces of production all of these social organizations with the exception of those prevailing in the original state of primitive communism or hunting and gathering societies are characterized by social inequality all as societies emerged from primitive communism the division of labour leads to the emergence of stratified classes of men these strata are distinguished by their differential access to the forces of production and thus our differential access to power given relative scarcity whatever economic surplus has been accumulated will be taken by those who have attained dominance through their ownership or control over the forces of production the exploited and the exploiters have confronted one another from the beginning of recorded time the dominance of the exploiters is often challenged mark says the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle there have been several successive relations of production identified by Marx he called the first primitive communism Asiatic production which is the state controlling all ancient feudal and capital classes true history would be freemen and slaves patricians and plebeians baron and serf nobility and bourgeoisie bourgeoisie and proletariat or simply exploiters and the exploited mark says no social order ever disappeared before all of the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed and new hire relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society Marx is clearly an evolutionist many ask where Marx went wrong in his predictions they confused the theorists with the act of revolutionary as an historian he was aware that capitalists or burgeois society was in its infancy centuries would have to pass before his full productive potential could be developed in the case of capitalism his prediction is that the existing relations of production private over ownership will prevent the further development of industrial production there will be no profit in their further expansion though social need will remain in other words the proletariat will rise to take control of the forces of production away from the private owners and employ them to meet the needs of all we will look at the upcoming socialist revolution in more detail in the last lecture on Marx or a more extensive discussion of Marxist theories refer to macro sociology the study of socio-cultural systems for a PDF of the chapter on Marx right to FL well at RSU edu with marks dot PDF in the subject line also see socio-cultural systems principles of structure and change to learn how his insights contribute to a fuller understanding of modern societies for you could find this book at most online bookstores as well as Athabasca University Press Tabasco also offers a free pdf version of the book for download for all you proletarians some that went into creating this presentation I thank you for your kind and considerate attention

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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