Description: This paper discusses Marx’s argument on “estranged labour. “This is a rather microcosmic topic but it is important because estranged labouris the basis for all of Marx’s writing, most importantly, ‘The CommunistManifesto. ‘ Revealing Marx In Karl Marx’s early writing on “estrangedlabour” there is a clear and prevailing focus on the plight of the labourer. Marx’s writing on estranged labour is and attempt to draw a stark distinctionbetween property owners and workers. In the writing Marx argues that the workerbecomes estranged from his labour because he is not the recipient of the producthe creates. As a result labour is objectified, that is labour becomes the objectof mans existence.
As labour is objectified man becomes disillusioned andenslaved. Marx argues that man becomes to be viewed as a commodity worth onlythe labour he creates and man is further reduced to a subsisting animal void ofany capacity of freedom except the will to labour. For Marx this all leads tothe emergence of private property, the enemy of the proletariat. In fact Marx’swriting on estranged labour is a repudiation of private property- a warning ofhow private property enslaves the worker. This writing on estranged labour is anobvious point of basis for Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
The purpose of this paperis to view Marx’s concept of alienation (estranged labour) and how it limitsfreedom. For Marx man’s freedom is relinquished or in fact wrested from his truenature once he becomes a labourer. This process is thoroughly explainedthroughout Estranged Labour. This study will reveal this process and argue it’svalidity.
Appendant to this study on alienation there will be a micro-studywhich will attempt to ascertain Marx’s view of freedom (i. e. positive ornegative). The study on alienation in conjunction with the micro-study on Marx’sview of freedom will help not only reveal why Marx feels labour limits mansfreedom, but it will also identify exactly what kind of freedom is beinglimited. Estranged Labour Karl Marx identifies estranged labour as labour aliento man.
Marx explains the condition of estranged labour as the result of manparticipating in an institution alien to his nature. It is my interpretationthat man is alienated from his labour because he is not the reaper of what hesows. Because he is never the recipient of his efforts the labourer lacksidentity with what he creates. For Marx then labour is “alien to theworker.
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does not belong to his essential being. ” Marx identifiestwo explanations of why mans lack of identity with labour leads him to beestranged from labour. (1) “ does not develop freely hisphysical and mental energy, but instead mortifies his mind. ” In other wordslabour fails to nurture mans physical and mental capacities and instead drainsthem. Because the worker is denied any nurturing in his work no intimacy betweenthe worker and his work develops. Lacking an intimate relation with what hecreates man is summarily estranged from his labour.
(2) Labour estranges manfrom himself. Marx argues that the labour the worker produces does not belong tohim, but to someone else. Given this condition the labourer belongs to someoneelse and is therefore enslaved. As a result of being enslaved the worker isreduced to a “subsisting animal”, a condition alien to him.
As an endresult man is estranged from himself and is entirely mortified. Marx points tothese to situations as the reason man is essentially estranged from his labour. The incongruency between the world of things the worker creates and the worldthe worker lives in is the estrangement. Marx argues that the worker firstrealizes he is estranged from his labour when it is apparent he cannot attainwhat he appropriates.
As a result of this realization the objectification oflabour occurs. For the worker the labour becomes an object, something shapelessand unidentifiable. Because labour is objectified, the labourer begins toidentify the product of labour as labour. In other words all the worker canidentify as a product of his labour, given the condition of what he produces asa shapeless, unidentifiable object, is labour. The worker is then left with onlylabour as the end product of his efforts. The emerging condition is that heworks to create more work.
For Marx the monotonous redundancy of this conditionis highly detrimental because the worker loses himself in his efforts. He arguesthat this situation is analogous to a man and his religion. Marx writes,”The more man puts into God the less he retains in himself. . .
. The workerputs his life into the object, but now his life no longer belongs to him but tothe object. ” The result of the worker belonging to the object is that he isenslaved. The worker belongs to something else and his actions are dictated bythat thing. For Marx, labour turns man into a means.
Workers become nothing morethan the capital necessary to produce a product. Labour for Marx reduces man toa means of production. As a means of production man is diminished to asubsisting enslaved creature void of his true nature. In this condition he isreduced to the most detrimental state of man: one in which he is estranged fromhimself. To help expand on this theme it is useful to look at Marx’s allegory ofman’s life-activity. Life-activity and the Nature of Man Of the variety ofreasons Marx argues man is estranged from his labour, probably the mostsignificant is his belief that labour estranges man from himself.
Marx arguesthat the labour the worker produces does not belong to the worker so in essencethe worker does not belong to the worker. By virtue of this condition Marxargues the worker is enslaved. Enslavement for Marx is a condition alien to manand he becomes estranged from himself. For Marx, man estranged from himself isstripped of his very nature. Not only because he is enslaved but because hislife-activity has been displaced. For Marx mans character is free, consciousactivity, and mans pursuit of his character is his life-activity.
Manslife-activity is then the object of his life. So by nature, mans own life is theobject of his existence. This is mans condition before labour. After labour manslife-activity, that is, his free conscious, activity, or his very nature, isdisplaced. In a pre-labour condition mans life was the object of his condition;in a labour condition man exists to labour and his life-activity is reduced to ameans of his existence so he can labour.
In effect labour necessitates itself inman by supplanting mans true nature with an artificial one that re-prioritizesmans goals. Man’s goal then is not to pursue his life but to labour. He becomeslinked to his labour and is viewed in no other way. Man is reduced to chattel, acommodity, the private property of another individual. Conclusion For Marxlabour limits the freedom of man. Labour becomes the object of man’s existenceand he therefore becomes enslaved by it.
In considering the validity of Marx’sargument I feel Marx is correct that man’s freedom is limited by the fact thathe is a labourer. But in opposition to Marx I believe that man’s freedom is nomore limited as a labourer than as a farmer. Agrarian worker or labourer man’sfreedom is limited. Whether he is identified by the product he creates in afactory or in a wheat field in either case he is tied to his work and is notviewed beyond it.
In either instance the product is objectified because ineither instance the worker works only to create more work. Just as the labourermust continue to work without end to subsist, so must the agrarian worker. Theimplication then is that alienation is not the culprit that limits mans freedom,it is work itself. Do not mistake this as an advocation for laziness. Insteadconsider the implications of not working.
If one did not work at all he or shewould live a life of poverty and would be far less free than if he did work. Working, either as a labourer or a farmer, offers greater financial means andwith greater financial means comes greater freedom. This point of the argumentstands up of course only if you believe money can by freedom. I argue it can.
Surely my freedom to buy something is limited if I do not have the financialmeans. On the other hand if I have greater financial means I have more freedomto buy things. So although labour limits freedom to the extent that the workerbecomes tied to his work, labour also offers a far greater freedom than that ofindigence. Labouring is no less acceptable than agrarian work because theimplications of partaking in either are uniform to both and alienation holds norelevancy. Appendage 1. Marx on Freedom Marx’s view of freedom would seem arather broad topic, and I’m sure it is.
For our purposes it is convenient tohave just an idea of what type of freedom Marx favors. For the sake of ease thescope of this study will be limited to two (2) classifications of freedom:prescribed (positive) freedom and negative liberties. Prescribed freedom wouldbe guided freedoms, or freedoms to do certain things. Negative liberties wouldbe freedom to do all but what is forbidden.
In Marx’s writing On The JewishQuestion he identifies (but does not necessarily advocates) liberty as”. . . the right to do everything which does not harm others. ” In furtherargument Marx’s states that “liberty as a right of man is not founded uponthe relationship between man and man; but rather upon the separation of man fromman. ” By this definition liberty is negative liberty, and for Marx it ismonistic and solitary.
Marx then argues that private property is the practicalapplication of this negative liberty. He states “. . .
propertyis. . . the right to enjoy ones fortune and dispose of it as one will; withoutregard for other men and independently of society. ” Private property forMarx is the mechanism by which man can be separate from other men and pursue his(negative) liberty. Marx’s writings on estranged labour and in The CommunistManifesto are a clear repudiation of private property.
What can be deduced thenis that Marx does not favor negative liberties. Negative liberties requireprivate property to exist and private property is for Marx the enslaver of theproletariat. Negative freedom eliminated from the discussion we are left withPositive or prescribed freedoms. Positive freedom, as was identified above, isthe freedom to pursue specified options. That is, freedom to do certain things.
Man is not necessarily given a choice of what these options are, he is simplyfree to pursue them whatever they may be. Posistive freedoms then are thefreedoms Marx likley wishes to uphold by denouncing estarnged labour.Bibliography1Marx, Karl, The Early Marx, (reserve packet) 2Marx, Karl and Engles,Freidrich, The Communist Manifesto, London, England, 1888