When you think of the word alienation, you come to think of Karl Marx and capitalism. Karl Marx was a German philosopher that was dismayed with the social and political movements that were occurring at his time. Marx retained the idea that we, as individuals, were trapped with the historical stages of becoming unfree from ourselves based on our occupation and our social, economic background. Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who was a philosopher as well, influenced Marx on the idea of how the world works when there are inequality and conflicts between social classes. When thinking of a topic, I immediately decided to write about Karl Marx because I was mesmerized of the idea that he wanted to make changes through his studies of law and philosophy. Throughout my paper, I will write about Hegel and his notion of alienation. I will equally relate to a fundamental idea that he mentions in the Lord-Servant Dialect. Farther on, I will explain Marx and his concept of alienation, along with the five aspects of alienation and real-life events that are occurring presently. I will relate to the current events of capitalism between corporations that are still the pressing issues in our society today.
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was known to be a German existentialist philosopher. He was all about the three main concepts of spirit (Geist), history, and freedom. The idea that we are aware of ourselves was something that he continued to mention in his writings. Subjects require a self-depended mode of life so that their actions are seen by them as the results of their own reflective choice, no the results of habit or our external compulsion. Hegel wanted all individuals to have their self-consciousness and be aware of everything that is surrounding them, which included their work. Hegel believed it would take time for it to occur due to the idea that our society does not reflect that we are free and rational. The individual, according to Hegel, represents the object, which he states the objects are constructed based on their experiences and consciousness. This means that in pursuing and satisfying a desire the object of desire is removed (negated) and one is left with nothing. Meaning that if an individual has their desire satisfied and then is left with nothing, no matter how hard an individual works towards achieving anything, if they do not receive the recognition that they deserve, they will feel unworthy. This is where the relationship between the lord and servant comes in, also known as the Lord-Servant Dialect.
The Lord-Servant Dialect was a fascinating and pivotal piece that Hegel wrote in Phenomenology of Spirit. This dialect was the scenario that Hegel wanted to showcase of the two self-consciousness, between the lord and the servant. The only object that fits the bill is another self-consciousness. The desire that a self-consciousness needs to be satisfied in order to be sure of its existence as a subject, is the desire for the desire of another; that is, the desire for recognition. Such recognition comes about through struggle that ensues from the encounter of two self-consciousnesses. The struggle is what Hegel’s master-slave relationship describes. The servant is the subject which has a more significant and more in-depth self-conscious than the lord. The lord depends on the servant for the work and the chores that need to be done in the house. Here is the twist, because the power the lord has over the servant, everyone would think that the lord has the control over everything. The servant, being acknowledged by the lord, is showing he is human after all and has power and knowledge. It is the social, economic barriers and the privilege, which makes the lord have a servant in the first place. There are more twists in the scenario, which includes the claim that the servant has the higher realization of self-consciousness. The servant has experienced the vast stages of confronting death and being independent. Whereas, the lord has to encounter the problems on always being reliable on the servant for the chores and maintaining everything in the house in good condition. The question and the one thing that he cannot stand are he is unable to rely on himself for his own, and that makes him less potent as to how much he is. The servant recognizes the power of activities and does not demand the attention as much as the lord requires.
One of Hegel’s achievements has been to identify the ways of forms of political organizations that can by systematically oppressive. This is the part when Hegel starts to explain his idea of the two-consciousness and how the alienation distinguishes itself between the lord and the servant. Alienation is described by Marx to represent a capitalist economy where the workers are lacking the identification of their labor and being controlled over. The Lord-Servant Dialect set an excellent example of how that is the case for the servant. The servant is willing to produce anything to live and survive. It is hard for the people that are facing social, economic issues to find a job that they are passionate about and that would be financially stable. The position that they do end up finding is irrelevant and something they do not seem to find any passion towards. The servant has to keep in mind that he is being controlled over by the lord. He is doing the job for the lord because he has no other choice. The difference between what Marx showcases versus what Hegel showcases in this dialect is that the lord has his power and pride brought down because he realizes he is nothing without the help of the servant. This makes the servant start to identify the strength that he can hold against his lord.
Karl Heinrich Marx was very reluctant of the government and the jobs that were based on the social, economic ladder. Karl wrote about the economic structures and stated, Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. For an individual to distinguish the social and political relations, there needs to be a connection at first to find out what it takes to become an individualist. We can do that by looking at the experiences that we have encountered throughout our lifetime. Karl went on to state that with the problems of capitalism, alienation is occurring as well. Marx concludes, The word alienation refers to a separation–a taking away of human beings from themselves and from their potentialities. Not being able to work in the potential and ability that you have is what is so alienating about capitalism ??” the constant need to having to pay bills and barely saving any money. If an individual is unattached to the job that they are doing, then they are unhappy with the environment that they are living and working in.
According to Karl Marx, the definition of capitalism is as the social and economic relations between the people. Marx construed in his writings that capitalism was in the hands of a few people, the top one percent. There are two classes, the owners and the workers, and Marx goes on to state that the society we live in is what builds the community and to what it has become. Marx also believes we have created capitalism with all the competitiveness that is going on with people and how we are willing to produce anything to go on top of each other in the social, economic ladder. The unjust system of property, competition, monopoly, and the degradation of men and women is what has led to capitalism and the alienation on humans.
Labor does not only produce commodities; it produces itself and the laborer as a commodity and that to the extent to which it produces commodities in general. What this fact expresses is merely this; the object that labor produces, its product, confronts it as an alien being. This goes to explain the repetition of the job you are working and the constant idea that you have to remember, you are not producing this for yourself and in no way will this benefit you, besides the money. The work becomes so repetitive that you do not enjoy performing the job because you are not getting anything out of it. We are treated and only cared for as someone that will get the job done because of the need for survival. This not only confuses our minds and the confidence in our ability, but it makes us doubt if we can offer anything to the world. Doing something meaningful will bring faith in a person, but if they are not doing the job that they want to do because of their status then not only is that a negative aspect, but it goes to show that capitalism is taking over our lives and we could not seem to do anything about it. Marx goes on to list the five different aspects of alienation where they showcase the alienation of the product that the workers are producing.
The first aspect of alienation is the alienation of the worker from the product. An example of this would be the idea of an individual doing the job and continuously working nonstop but having no relation to the product that he is doing. The product has no connection to what he believes in life, but he could not do anything about it because he needs for the money and that is the only source of income that he has. Along with working job that they have no interest in, the worker has to also live with the idea that they cannot give their opinion on anything regarding the design or template of the product. The capitalist society thinks that they do not have the power or knowledge to have the opportunity to give their view on the product. An example that Marx came up with was for the need of bread. If an individual were in demand for bread, the only way he can have and enjoy the bread would be if the society does produce bread. The power of whether the bread can be produced would be the dependence on the level of development of agriculture. This is alienating because the worker has no connection to the product and isn’t kept updated in the production of the labor. When the workers lose control over their work they start to lose control over their lives as well. It makes them not care for their job and performing well, because they then have to start worrying their personal life and trying to survive with. Their loved ones.
The second aspect of alienation is the alienation of the worker from the act of production. With this alienation, it meant that the individual working in a job is doing the same task over and over again, to the point where it becomes repetitive. The example that we spoke about in class was working in a sneaker factory. Working in a factory where sneakers are created, there are different stages to getting the sneaker to be completed. When the worker is working on the design of the sneakers every single day, the problem would be that he does not get to see the final product. Even though he is there for the production, he is only there to do one part of the process. This is what Marx calls unwanted labor for the individual, but they have to work and survive even though they do not get to sense any success with the production. The worker is not happy and does not want to work, but they have no choice in the decision. If the individual working in the factory had the chance to see the whole process of the sneakers being made, maybe then they will get to see their hard work and all the dedication that went into the process. Marx goes on to state the difference of salary between the workers and the employers of the factories. The gap has a big difference, and it plays a part in the results of the labor being produced by the worker. If the worker knows they are being underpaid for the job, they will not perform as well as they would have to if they were getting paid the salary that they think their hard work deserves. This is alienating because the worker does not get to potentially receive the salary that they deserve for the work that they conduct. The worker is being controlled by the capitalist and the mind is not free and conscious. The effect of the work would go down as well because of the feelings that the worker portrays throughout his task.
The third aspect of alienation is the alienation of the worker from their Gattungswesen, which means the species-being or species-essence. This alienation was about the individual being the subject, and the work they are producing is the object. Marx concludes First, in that the sensuous external world more and more ceases to be an object belonging to his labor—to be his labor’s means of life; and secondly, in that it more and more ceases to be means of life in the immediate sense, means for the physical subsistence of the worker. What Marx meant with this aspect was the nature of the worker not being available in the form of raw materials. The raw materials are in the hands of the capitalist and are owned by someone else. For the individual to do the actual job of their production, they would need the raw materials. For survival, the worker seeks to find any job and earn some form of income. The task would be performed better if perhaps the worker was given the raw materials that would strengthen the means of production, which then the individual would be considered as an alien force. For example, for the individual that is working in the sneaker factory, the raw material would be to have a clean and healthy environment. The results of the worker doing a better job at work will be if he or she has clean air pollution in the location. There would be a better work rate, and more things would get completed, because of the satisfaction that the worker would have. This would strengthen the production of the sneakers being made, and both the employer and the worker will be happy and satisfied with the final product.
The fourth aspect of alienation is the alienation of the worker from the other worker. The relationship between the worker and the capitalist is the confrontation that they would have with one another All these consequences follow from the fact that the worker relates to the product of his labor as to an alien object. What Marx meant with this aspect was that the idea that humans compete with one another for the jobs, they could not talk to one another as a human being but to continuously deform the relationships that they could make with one another. They are competing with one another, and this is where the alienation for them comes into play. There cannot be a relationship of any sort build with one another, and that is a very adverse environment to live in. The experience is very disappointing because in a world that needs to comfort one another but instead we are taught to go against one another. This does not solve any of the issues, but it makes the problem more prominent than it already was. There is a difference between healthy competitiveness and forced competitiveness against your fellow human beings. This is an advantage for the capitalist, the one who is the owner of these factories because for them they will always have workers coming to work for them. They have the luxury getting through with their production and going on to become more wealthy and powerful. This is what makes capitalism and alienation come together which, furthermore shows the hard justification that needs to occur for these workers.
The fifth and final alienation would be the alienation between the workers from themselves. This is the most important one because in the end it is the worker that does all the work and they should be able to feel the pride and hard work that they do. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and Marx concludes that even though the workers become professional at the craft that they have been doing and are longing for freedom, but they are enslaving themselves. They are oppressing themselves by not benefiting from the production and being in fear of someone taking their job and replacing them with someone else immediately. They are they fighting with themselves and wanting to move on and find a better job, but they could not seem to get it done. The unfortunate end is the worker spends the time to himself, working the crazy number of hours and in the end, the fear of losing the job or being replaced would be at the top of the list. Out of the five aspects, this is the most heartbreaking one of them all the guilt that the worker must feel for putting themselves in that position and not being able to get anything done. There always comes a moment in life for every human being to conclude that they could’ve done more and should have spoken out for themselves. The guilt that they would feel would take a lifetime to get over, and that is the unfortunate conclusion.
When I think of connection of capitalism occurring today, I think back as to what Marx would be thinking about all this. The aspect of alienation is that we become unfree with the job that we are working and that is what leads to capitalism. The middle class is struggling to meet the ends needs when it comes to taking care of the family and raising a household with children and paying the bills. We do not seem to have the freedom but the constant enslaved mindset that we have to work and earn the profit. We work for the profit, but we do not seem to have the materials and lifestyle to know who and what we are in this world. We become so focused on surviving that we are willing to work these long, undesirable hours and barely making minimum wage. It is very unfair, but it goes to show that things haven’t changed since Marx’s day. Marx did state multiple times that we are the ones that made capitalism and his point would be proven with everything going on in the world right now. The idea that we are not true to ourselves and the essence of nature is what Marx thinks of society. There needs to be a change in plans for there to be balanced in the world. The corporations have too much power in their hands, and they are taking advantage of the middle-class workers. Marx concluded, Thus the worker only feels a stranger. He is at home when he is not working and when he works he is not at home. Marx means that this is forced labor and the worker is doing the work because of necessary action not because they want to. Extreme competitiveness can lead to monopoly which can put one company in charge of everything. This includes a product or a service which is neither healthy for the consumer or the worker. However, without competition, there is no innovation, and there would be a declining rate of new and better products coming out. Good competition is healthy and extreme competition can be unhealthy for the reason stated above. There would also be a decrease in supply and demand without competition in the working world.
In conclusion, Hegel and Marx had great similarities and differences when it came to their philosophical research and opinions. Hegel influenced Marx in his early work about the alienation that came along in the Lord-Servant Dialect, but later on, did disagree with modern critical movements that Hegel wrote in Phenomenology and Logic. The dialect that Hegel concluded with was very interesting to me, and I like the points that he brought across on his writing.
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