Karl Marx’s (he is considered to be Gegel’s disciple) (1818-1883) and Fridrih Engels’s doctrines (1820-1895) are the final stage of the development of the German classical philosophy (McLellan, 1973). Marx supports the humanity based on idea of a free, universal creative essence of a person. The realization of this essence is interfered by different types of alienation: the alienation of a man from a man, from nature, from your own “patrimonial” essence and from a society (McLellan, 1973). The alienation of labor, based on private-ownership relations, stands at the heart of all forms of the alienation. The alienation process is considered by Marx as a return process of the man’s assignment of the original patrimonial essence during which the relation of the man to the nature and to other people changes radically. The man is treated as “a set of public relations” therefore Marxism philosophy is, first of all, the philosophy of society which is examined in his history (McLellan, 1973).

The man is not simply a part of the nature, according to Marx, and the highest product of the development of the nature, but a natural special type of being. The man is universal, he is a general force of nature. This possibility is put in the physiological constitution of the man as the organism having such advantages as hands, a brain, a language, etc. Owing to these qualities the man is capable to any kind of activity, to mastering forces of nature, to transformation of these forces into own forces and abilities. It is realized in a production activity, in labor. Engels writes, “Work created a person” (McLellan, 1973). The man is the man working, adapting the world around, the man is distinguished from the animal by productive work.

Karl Marx’s Thoughts about the Theory of Alienation

The main goal of interhuman communication is an exchange of richness of an inner world between persons. Then the internal nature of the personality will change, there will be comprehensively developed people. Marx’s ideal is a universally developed man, living in unity and harmony with an external and internal nature. He connects achievement of this ideal with elimination of the private-ownership relations, overcoming of social fixing of roles of the man in the system of labor division, formation of a new type of the relations – communistic.

Marx’s theory of alienation is the “form of dehumanisiation that’s created by the ‘pure’ class system of capitalism, in the mid 19th century” (Lukes, 1987).
Both those who make profit from labor and those who only sell their labour are removed from their real humanity by the terms of this relationship:
Such a dehumanisation has five specific aspects as people who sell their labor are alienated from:

  • 1. The conditions of their work,  for example, in the speed of the machines,  in the ways their bodies have to be contorted to do that work (McLellan, 1973).
  • 2. The products produced: the product is no longer a creation of the worker, but stands in opposition to the worker, a separate object out of the workers control. In effect the worker becomes the servant of what is being produced (McLellan, 1973).
  • 3. The factory workers then, unlike the craftsmen, are alienated from themselves. As they cannot realize their true humanity in creating the object they produce, their work does not add to their humanity but detracts from it (McLellan, 1973).
  • 4. The conditions of work also alienate the worker from other men as co-workers are no longer a team of creative workers but are reduced to the commodity ‘labor’ producing objects in the reutilized controlled practices of factories and offices … moreover the conditions of their work put them in competition with each other, to work harder, faster, more “productively”. So rather than being partners in the field of production they are set against each other (McLellan, 1973).
  • 5. They are estranged from nature. They and their product are alienated from the origins from which they both derive.  A contemporary example could be the extraordinarily degrading factory conditions under which chickens and pigs are reared for mass consumption (McLellan, 1973).

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The economic alienation

A basis of the alienation of the valid life, and the valid human life, according to Marx, is, first of all, his practical life. For this reason Marx sees the beginning of all forms of alienation in labor alienation. And the first form of manifestation of labor alienation is the private property which, according to Marx, is also a result of labor alienation, and its basis. “The alienation, – he writes, – is shown as that my subsistence belongs to another one that the subject of my desire is in possession of another thing inaccessible to me, and that each thing appears another one that really exists that my activity appears something other and that, at last, – and it also refers to the capitalist, – inhuman force dominates above all in general” (Lukes, 1987).

The alienated labor

Marx writes “thereby alienates from the man his origin: it turns patrimonial life for the man into means for maintenance of individual life” (Lukes, 1987). And then he specifies that the man mostly turns his essence “only into means for maintenance of his existence” (Lukes, 1987). In other words, labor in an alienated condition appears means of subsistence, and food, drink and reproduction are a life purpose.

Marx did not know about the so-called philosophy of existence (existentialism) which in the twentieth century will be theoretically urged to justify this alienation and a perversion when only existence is put to the place of essence as the unique sense. And nonsense and absurdity become a sense of this existence. “A direct consequence of that the man is alienated from a product of the labor, – Marx writes, – from the activity, from the patrimonial essence is the alienation of the man from the man. When the man resists to himself, he is resisted by another man. That it is possible to tell about the relation of the person to the work, to the product of the work and the same it is possible to tell about the relation of the man to another man and also to work and an object of the labor of another man” (Leopold, 2007).

The alienation – a general character

Another important thought stated by Marx in his early works is about the fact that in “civil society” the alienation accepts a general character (Leopold, 2007). It is general in the sense that all human intrinsic forces, as they are called by Marx, are exposed to the alienation and perversion and in the sense that it extends on all members of this society: both on a worker and a capitalist. As inhuman force – power of material wealth and uncontrollable social and economic circumstances – dominate both. The root of all mystifications, which are generated by this society of the general alienation, also consists in it: “Not the gods and not the nature but only the person can be this strange force dominating over the man” (Leopold, 2007).

The fact is that the specified mystification, – when the person perceives his own alienation as a pressure of anonymous forces, – occurs in “civil society” where all forms of direct oppression of the man by the man are removed and where the man is absolutely formally and legally free. And the more this democratic “civil society” develops, the more domination of anonymous forces over the person is aggravated. Therefore in a century of space and computer equipment we meet among people the wildest superstitions which reject the mankind to pre-Christian pagan times.

Illusiory form of collectivity

The final release of the man of all forms of alienation, including political alienation, namely the political state which, according to Marx, is an illusory form of collectivity, and he connects it with release of the person from work.

Marx tells about the release from work as compelled activity and about transition to so-called amateur performance. That is why Marx was skeptical about such socialist projects which left invariable existing character and the content of work. “Even equality of a salary, – he writes, – as it is demanded by Prudon, would have only that result that it would turn the relation of the present worker to his work into the relation of all people to work. In this case society would be thought as an abstract capitalist” (Cohen, 2001).

The condition of the worker release as Marx showed working on “Capital” is a change of work nature. And this change towards work nationalization in its contents, that is work transformation into “general work” as it is called by Marx, meaning work in its directly general form. In modern society an example is the work of the scientist, the person of art, that is all those who are occupied not with routine but creativity. (Cohen, 2001) The results of such work are difficult for privatizing because of their directly public character. For example, work of the writer is senseless if he works “in a table”. And here are copyright collisions during the Internet era when everything and everybody “are published” in the World Network despite the rights and opinion of the author (Cohen, 2001).

Alienation of Community Rights in Zimbabwe

In the early colonial period the local community had lots of restrictions and prohibitions. Their rights were removed and reserved. Occupation historical rights and access were descended to permit-based rights.

Changing Relations between the Owners and the Local Community in Zimbabwe (Cohen, 2001)

Period Owners and their interests

Precolonial period

Different local groups and land resourses are under control of heads or chiefs

Early colonial period

Local owners continue to capture the territory and have access for different users.


Thanks to some protections local people are allowed to cultivate land in the forests and valleys. They are permitted to produce forest products but not permitted to harvest timber goods commercially.
1970’s to Preindependence There were plenty of proposals to rationalize and control better farmlands. During the independence war  forest management and authority broke down.
Early 1980’s


The Civil war resulted in the independence. The land was reclaimed. Forest management struggled to regain control but had to give up. Cultivationand residence grew up,  residents’ interests  compromised .
Late 1980’s – early 1990’s The state regains its control. Policy replaced all forest occupants. Protection activities and forest authorities were resumed.
Early 1990’s The rights of the forest residents were respected, the control of the  state was established on all parts of the forest reserves. The land pressure increased.

Such land systems were open to corruption and patronage. This resulted in the local people’s rights separation. They were removed from responsibilities for the timber management and forest.

The history made only one and the only amendment to Marx’s alienation concept: Marx thought that the working class is the most alienated class and consequently the release from the alienation should certainly begin with the release of the working class. Marx could not expect scales of mass alienation which captured a majority of mankind; especially he could not expect the day when a huge (and escalating) part of the population will get to dependence not from machines, but will become an object of a manipulation of other people and their symbols. For example, an employee, an intermediary, a representative of a firm, a manager today are the same people even more alienated than a professional worker. The worker’s activity is still an expression of his personal abilities (dexterity, reliability, etc.) to some extent and he has no need to sell his personality: a smile, an opinion, etc. People, who manipulate with the help of the symbols, are only taken to work for the reason they “are attractive outwardly”, pliable, sociable and convenient for the manipulation. They can be literally called as “a person-system, an organized person”, their ideal is their enterprise (Cohen, 2001). As to the consumption, there is no difference between an unskilled worker and a representative of bureaucracy. All of them are afflicted with one passion: new things, a passion to urge on, to acquire and to consume. All of them are passive consumers weakened and tied by those things which serve to satisfy their unnatural requirements. They do not consist in the creative relations with the world; they worship to things and machines which manufacture these things, – and they feel thrown like strangers in this alienated world. And though Marx underestimated a little a bureaucracy role, as a whole, his general characteristic of this layer is absolutely true. “The production makes the person not only as the goods, not only the person-goods, the person with goods definition, it manufactures him, in compliance with this definition, as a spiritually and physically inhuman creature” (Cohen, 2001).

Marx hardly could expect to what degree we become slaves of things and the circumstances created by our own; however, his prophecy came true completely today, the conclusive proof of that is the fact that all mankind today is a prisoner of the nuclear weapon which also was once a product of human hands and thoughts. The person is also the captive of political institutes which he created. And today the intimidated mankind with fear expects whether it is possible to escape or it appears a victim of blind and thoughtless bureaucrats which people put over themselves.


Today the concept “alienation” is shown in the most various spheres and, it generally means separation of a certain whole on components. For example, in law it is connected with the concept “property” and designates transferring of property rights on something from one person to another (Leopold, 2007). In religion we speak about the alienation as about death of the individual, about the termination of his physical activity (the soul of the person is alienated from his body and a body from his heart). In social philosophy the alienation concerns degree of manifestation completeness of intrinsic qualities and abilities of the person. In a broader sense, the alienation is also understood as a transformation of any phenomena and the relations into something other than they are really, distortion and perversion in people’s consciousness of their real vital relationship (Leopold, 2007).

The alienation problem is one of the most actual in a modern social and philosophical thought. The alienation as a process covers all activity of the person; it is shown in discrepancy of a human essence and a character of social relations, in loss of control over products of a person’s activity and his disagreement with the nature. An enduring interest to a problem of the alienation amplifies in connection with the entry of the society into post-industrialism era in which there are more and more new forms of the alienation giving a global character to the problem.

In modern society the growing tendency of manifestation of negative alienating impacts is observed. The various deviations which are extended mainly in the youth environment concern them, inability of the person to realize his creative abilities, a complex of various public influences suppressing the personality, etc. It becomes especially necessary to emphasize consequences of the mankind entering the modern information civilization connected with appearing of new activity environments, in which complete existence of the person becomes more and more problematic. In particular, the volume content of virtual reality in mass consciousness associates with computer technologies and the technical objects generating very topical negatives for society, interfering harmonious social development. The actions of the people realizing the imagined intentions, dreams and imaginations can cause unpredictable negative results, which also have a virtual character, existing only in subconsciousness of the person. In this regard, structuring of virtual reality on parts and the elements, generated by external and internal, natural and artificial influences, and understanding of virtual reality not as a certain sort of danger, and as possibilities of the solution of modern global problems, including the alienation problems, is actual.

The processes of globalization proceeding in the modern world in social and economic, political and, especially, information and cultural spheres promote disorganization of the developed national systems of science and education. Today the following things are referred to specific manifestations of the alienation in the conditions of globalization: the growing alienation between the most developed western countries and Third World countries which do not want to be reconciled with a role of outsiders (or, more deeply, the alienation between the Islamic and Christian world, between information and traditional societies), the alienation and self-alienation of the person in a political life of the society.

In the modern world new problems caused by changes appear; social, cultural and economic contradictions become aggravated. Dynamics of social transformations, the dehumanization of various spheres of the person activity, growing tendencies to a depersonalization and standardization lead to emergence of new forms of the alienation demanding philosophical judgment. This is the reason why the interest has increased now to examining this theoretical problem of this phenomenon at various stages of the development of the philosophical thought.

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