Monday, April 19, 2010

Marx, and the Theory of Alienation

"In a nutshell Marx's Theory of Alienation is the contention that in modern industrial production under capitalist conditions workers will inevitably lose control of their lives by losing control over their work. Workers thus cease to be autonomous beings in any significant sense. Under pre-capitalist conditions a blacksmith, e.g., or a shoemaker would own his own shop, set his own hours, determine his own working conditions, shape his own product, and have some say in how his product is bartered or sold. His relationships with the people with whom he worked and dealt had a more or less personal character."…

I agree this is possible, but I stood at machines for years doing the same thing over and over. And I thought about what I was going to do with the money I would have performing such work. I appreciated that if I had to create by myself, like the old blacksmith, the entire piece of work that was being constructed in that factory, that I would not have as much money. Instead I would be like the shoemaker in the fable, who only had enough money to buy the leather to make one pair of shoes, and with the profits he had just enough money to buy leather for one more pair of shoes, and enough food to see him buy until he sold that pair of shoes.

If workers feel alienated as Marx said they would, it is because the merits of capitalistic division of labor have not been made clear to them. Instead, what has been made clear, is that while they stand at a machine all day long investing nothing but their time, "the man" who put up the money to pay them for their time is reaping profits.
  • The very system that allows the worker under capitalism to take home a bigger check than he could have dreamed of as a shoe maker, is make to appear to be the bad system. If you want your luxury car, your Iphone or your Ipad, your vacation to Orlando, your swimming pool, your McDonald's burgers and your children's bicycles and the braces for their teeth, you must have the division of labor.
Feel alienated, if you want to, but capitalism is the currier who brings the bigger paycheck. 

Unfortunately, the messenger who would teach them that has already been shot.

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