Blog #1: Alienated Labour

In the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”, Karl Marx examines the condition of alienation from the essay “Alienated Labour”. He mentions that in order to maintain a physical existence in the work field, alienation is a necessary feature in a capitalist society. The wage earner, also known as the proletariat, “has little, if any, control over the production process.” He also mentions how working just for the money is “akin to selling your soul”. I agree with this because I have been in this position along with the rest of American workers who are not CEO’s of companies.

When one goes to work, they do not act the same way they would outside of it; they may be a whole different person. Once this becomes a routine, people start not to feel like themselves at work and become robotic in a sense. As Marx states, “Hence, the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working. His labor is, therefore, not voluntary but forced, it is forced labor.” We see here that labor is forced because it is not voluntary anymore. This proves that the worker has just sold his/her soul to money and the bourgeoisie.

If a labor worker is unhappy with their job, they might choose another alternative, whether for better or for worse. In the song, “Gimme the Loot”, by the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie reenacts a scene of him and his friend choosing to rob people instead of actually working for someone. In his rap he says: “When it’s time to eat a meal I rob and steal, ‘cos Mom Duke ain’t giving me s**t so for the bread and butter I leave n****s in the gutter.” Biggie does not want to become an alienated worker and chooses to get his money in an illegal but faster alternative. He wants to live his life on the edge, still be himself, and still get his money. In actuality, he even sold drugs to raise money for his newborn daughter–even after he was selling records as an artist.

“Money so they say,
Is the root of all evil today,
But if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re
giving none away” -Pink Floyd, Money

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2 responses to “Blog #1: Alienated Labour

  1. I highly agree with your statement that a worker “may [act like] a whole different person . . . when [they] go to work” and “does not act the same way they would outside of it.” I think this concept applies heavily to assembly line workers, who, after performing the same monotonous routine every day, would practically start to “become robotic in a sense.” It almost seems that they are mostly seen as cogs in a machine rather than actual people with feelings and ideas, as they are continuously “forced” to leave their “true” personas at home.

  2. Nicely composed post that raises the interesting question of responses to alienation. Marx would understand how the experience of alienation can be so soul-destroying that it drives people to rob and steal, but he did not see this as a winning strategy to overthrow capitalism. In a sense, this kind of survival mentality is typical of capitalism, often driven by the same values. Fundamentally, it’s an *individual* solution to a *collective* problem. Marx insists that only a collective strategy would be able to truly overcome alienation.

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