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    Revealing Marx Essay (1699 words)

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    Revealing MarxIn Karl Marx’s early writing on “estranged labour” there is a clear andprevailing focus on the plight of the labourer. Marx’s writing on estrangedlabour is and attempt to draw a stark distinction between property owners andworkers. In the writing Marx argues that the worker becomes estranged from hislabour because he is not the recipient of the product he creates. As a resultlabour is objectified, that is labour becomes the object of mans existence.

    Aslabour is objectified man becomes disillusioned and enslaved. Marx argues thatman becomes to be viewed as a commodity worth only the labour he creates and manis further reduced to a subsisting animal void of any capacity of freedom exceptthe will to labour. For Marx this all leads to the emergence of private property,the enemy of the proletariat. In fact Marx’s writing on estranged labour is arepudiation of private property- a warning of how private property enslaves theworker. This writing on estranged labour is an obvious point of basis for Marx’sCommunist Manifesto. The purpose of this paper is to view Marx’s concept of alienation (estrangedlabour) and how it limits freedom.

    For Marx man’s freedom is relinquished or infact wrested from his true nature once he becomes a labourer. This process isthoroughly explained throughout Estranged Labour. This study will reveal thisprocess and argue it’s validity. Appendant to this study on alienation therewill be a micro-study which will attempt to ascertain Marx’s view of freedom(i. e.

    positive or negative). The study on alienation in conjunction with themicro-study on Marx’s view of freedom will help not only reveal why Marx feelslabour limits mans freedom, but it will also identify exactly what kind offreedom is being limited. Estranged LabourKarl Marx identifies estranged labour as labour alien to man. Marx explains thecondition of estranged labour as the result of man participating in aninstitution alien to his nature. It is my interpretation that man is alienatedfrom his labour because he is not the reaper of what he sows.

    Because he isnever the recipient of his efforts the labourer lacks identity with what hecreates. For Marx then labour is “alien to the worker. . . and. .

    . does not belongto his essential being. ” Marx identifies two explanations of why mans lack ofidentity with labour leads him to be estranged from labour. (1) “The labourerdoes not develop freely his physical and mental energy, but instead mortifieshis mind. ” In other words labour fails to nurture mans physical and mentalcapacities and instead drains them. Because the worker is denied any nurturingin his work no intimacy between the worker and his work develops.

    Lacking anintimate relation with what he creates man is summarily estranged from hislabour. (2) Labour estranges man from himself. Marx argues that the labour theworker produces does not belong to him, but to someone else. Given thiscondition the labourer belongs to someone else and is therefore enslaved.

    As aresult of being enslaved the worker is reduced to a “subsisting animal”, acondition alien to him. As an end result man is estranged from himself and isentirely mortified. Marx points to these to situations as the reason man isessentially estranged from his labour. The incongruency between the world ofthings the worker creates and the world the worker lives in is the estrangement. Marx argues that the worker first realizes he is estranged from his labour whenit is apparent he cannot attain what he appropriates.

    As a result of thisrealization the objectification of labour occurs. For the worker the labourbecomes an object, something shapeless and unidentifiable. Because labour isobjectified, the labourer begins to identify the product of labour as labour. Inother words all the worker can identify as a product of his labour, given thecondition of what he produces as a shapeless, unidentifiable object, is labour. The worker is then left with only labour as the end product of his efforts.

    Theemerging condition is that he works to create more work. For Marx the monotonousredundancy of this condition is highly detrimental because the worker loseshimself in his efforts. He argues that this situation is analogous to a man andhis religion. Marx writes, “The more man puts into God the less he retains inhimself. .

    . . The worker puts his life into the object, but now his life no longerbelongs to him but to the object. ” The result of the worker belonging to theobject is that he is enslaved. The worker belongs to something else and hisactions are dictated by that thing.

    For Marx, labour turns man into a means. Workers become nothing more than the capital necessary to produce a product. Labour for Marx reduces man to a means of production. As a means of productionman is diminished to a subsisting enslaved creature void of his true nature. Inthis condition he is reduced to the most detrimental state of man: one in whichhe is estranged from himself.

    To help expand on this theme it is useful to lookat Marx’s allegory of man’s life-activity. Life-activity and the Nature of Man Of the variety of reasons Marx argues man isestranged from his labour, probably the most significant is his belief thatlabour estranges man from himself. Marx argues that the labour the workerproduces does not belong to the worker so in essence the worker does not belongto the worker. By virtue of this condition Marx argues the worker is enslaved. Enslavement for Marx is a condition alien to man and he becomes estranged fromhimself. For Marx, man estranged from himself is stripped of his very nature.

    Not only because he is enslaved but because his life-activity has been displaced. For Marx mans character is free, conscious activity, and mans pursuit of hischaracter is his life-activity. Mans life-activity is then the object of hislife. So by nature, mans own life is the object of his existence. This is manscondition before labour.

    After labour mans life-activity, that is, his freeconscious, activity, or his very nature, is displaced. In a pre-labour conditionmans life was the object of his condition; in a labour condition man exists tolabour and his life-activity is reduced to a means of his existence so he canlabour. In effect labour necessitates itself in man by supplanting mans truenature with an artificial one that re-prioritizes mans goals. Man’s goal then isnot to pursue his life but to labour. He becomes linked to his labour and isviewed in no other way.

    Man is reduced to chattel, a commodity, the privateproperty of another individual. Conclusion For Marx labour limits the freedom of man. Labour becomes the objectof man’s existence and he therefore becomes enslaved by it. In considering thevalidity of Marx’s argument I feel Marx is correct that man’s freedom is limitedby the fact that he is a labourer.

    But in opposition to Marx I believe thatman’s freedom is no more limited as a labourer than as a farmer. Agrarian workeror labourer man’s freedom is limited. Whether he is identified by the product hecreates in a factory or in a wheat field in either case he is tied to his workand is not viewed beyond it. In either instance the product is objectifiedbecause in either instance the worker works only to create more work. Just asthe labourer must continue to work without end to subsist, so must the agrarianworker.

    The implication then is that alienation is not the culprit that limitsmans freedom, it is work itself. Do not mistake this as an advocation forlaziness. Instead consider the implications of not working. If one did not workat all he or she would live a life of poverty and would be far less free than ifhe did work.

    Working, either as a labourer or a farmer, offers greater financialmeans and with greater financial means comes greater freedom. This point of theargument stands up of course only if you believe money can by freedom. I argueit can. Surely my freedom to buy something is limited if I do not have thefinancial means.

    On the other hand if I have greater financial means I have morefreedom to buy things. So although labour limits freedom to the extent that theworker becomes tied to his work, labour also offers a far greater freedom thanthat of indigence. Labouring is no less acceptable than agrarian work becausethe implications of partaking in either are uniform to both and alienation holdsno relevancy. Appendage 1.

    Marx on Freedom Marx’s view of freedom would seem a rather broadtopic, and I’m sure it is. For our purposes it is convenient to have just anidea of what type of freedom Marx favors. For the sake of ease the scope of thisstudy will be limited to two (2) classifications of freedom: prescribed(positive) freedom and negative liberties. Prescribed freedom would be guidedfreedoms, or freedoms to do certain things.

    Negative liberties would be freedomto do all but what is forbidden. In Marx’s writing On The Jewish Question heidentifies (but does not necessarily advocates) liberty as “. . .

    the right to doeverything which does not harm others. ” In further argument Marx’s states that”liberty as a right of man is not founded upon the relationship between man andman; but rather upon the separation of man from man. ” By this definition libertyis negative liberty, and for Marx it is monistic and solitary. Marx then arguesthat private property is the practical application of this negative liberty.

    Hestates “. . . private property is.

    . . the right to enjoy ones fortune and disposeof it as one will; without regard for other men and independently of society. “Private property for Marx is the mechanism by which man can be separate fromother men and pursue his (negative) liberty. Marx’s writings on estranged labourand in The Communist Manifesto are a clear repudiation of private property. Whatcan be deduced then is that Marx does not favor negative liberties.

    Negativeliberties require private property to exist and private property is for Marx theenslaver of the proletariat. Negative freedom eliminated from the discussion we are left with Positive orprescribed freedoms. Positive freedom, as was identified above, is the freedomto pursue specified options. That is, freedom to do certain things.

    Man is notnecessarily given a choice of what these options are, he is simply free topursue them whatever they may be. Posistive freedoms then are the freedoms Marxlikley 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 History

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