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Karl Marx’s Estranged Labor

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In the Estranged Labor Karl Marx talks about four different aspects of alienation of the worker.

The first type is the estrangement of the worker from the product of his labor. The point is that the commodity created by the worker does not belong to him in reality. Hence, the more things the person produces the less he gets, as a result, for himself. While the number of alien products increases, the worker becomes poorer. Karl Marx compares this process with religion. The more a person gives to God, the less is remained for oneself.  The alienation of the worker from the product means that the labor exists independently, regardless of the man. That is why the worker treats it as the estranged object. Meanwhile, the man becomes a slave of his labor, due to which he can subsist.

The second kind of estrangement is the estrangement of the worker from the process of production. The work exists out of the human-being. Consequently, the man feels outside himself during the work. As the worker is not satisfied with his labor, it is not willing but forced. Another point is that the labor does not belong to the worker. In reality, the other person possesses it. Here, the author gives the comparison with religion again. The worker’s labor exists independently, the same as the imagination, brain and heart of the human-being acts regardless to his desire. Thus, the worker loses himself in the external labor.

The third aspect of estranged labor is the alienation of the worker as a species. A person does not feel free in the work, so he/she inclines to the natural activity, which also is inherent for animals, such as, eating, drinking, and reproduction. Nonetheless, the conscious and productive life-activity distinguishes a man from any other living creature. A person creates the objective world due to the practical work, and in this way the worker proves to be an intelligent species-being. In this process, the nature is his work and reality. Thus, the main aim of human labor is the objectification of person’s life. Eventually, the human species being turns out to be only a means for human physical existence and satisfying different needs.

The last, fourth type of estrangement is the alienation of man from man. This process results from the previous aspects of alienation. Within the concept of estranged labor, each person, according to the own image of a worker, perceives the other man. As it was already mentioned, the product of labor does not belong to the worker because someone else, the non-worker possesses it. The object of labor turns to be alien and hostile to the worker. The other person becomes the independent and powerful owner of the product. Therefore, the worker considers his labor to be coerced, and which is done under someone’s dominion. The owner of the product of works is called the capitalist. The result of alienated labor is private property, which the capitalist obtains. To be more exact, the wage is the direct consequence of estranged labor, and the latter proves to be the cause of private property.

Thus, Karl Marx distinguishes four types of alienation of the worker. They are: a) the alienation from the product of his labor; b) the estrangement from the act of production; c) the alienation of the person as species-being; d) the alienation of man from man. 

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