My company just severed my daytime link to the outside world: tumblr. I can
read posts, but I can only post via email, and that might be more
cumbersome than it’s worth. So, here’s a lot to chew on about why the frack
this is happening and why it means we need to overcome this stupid old
capitalism already. From Marx’s Manuscripts of 1844:
What, then, constitutes the alienation of labor?
First, the fact that labor is *external* to the worker, i.e., it does not
belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not
affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does
not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body
and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his
work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is
not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is
therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is *forced labor*. It is therefore
not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a *means* to satisfy needs
external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as
soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the
plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of
self-sacrifice, of mortification. Lastly, the external character of labor
for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone
else’s, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to
himself, but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of
the human imagination, of the human brain and the human heart, operates on
the individual independently of him – that is, operates as an alien, divine
or diabolical activity – so is the worker’s activity not his spontaneous
activity. It belongs to another; it is the loss of his self.
As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active
in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his
dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer
feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human
and what is human becomes animal.
Certainly eating, drinking, procreating, etc., are also genuinely human
functions. But taken abstractly, separated from the sphere of all other
human activity and turned into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal
We have considered the act of estranging practical human activity, labor,
in two of its aspects. (1) The relation of the worker to the *product of
labor *as an alien object* *exercising* *power over him*. *This relation is
at the same time the relation to the sensuous external world, to the
objects of nature, as an alien world inimically opposed to him. (2) The
relation of labor to the *act of production *within the *labor *process.
This relation is the relation of the worker to his own activity as an alien
activity not belonging to him; it is activity as suffering, strength as
weakness, begetting as emasculating, the worker’s *own *physical and mental
energy, his personal life – for what is life but activity? – as an activity
which is turned against him, independent of him and not belonging to him.
Here we have *self-estrangement, *as previously we had the estrangement of
||XXIV| We have still a third aspect of *estranged labor* to deduce from
the two already considered.
Man is a species-being
not only because in practice and in theory he adopts the species (his own
as well as those of other things) as his object, but – and this is only
another way of expressing it – also because he treats himself as the
actual, living species; because he treats himself as a *universal* and
therefore a free being.
The life of the species, both in man and in animals, consists physically in
the fact that man (like the animal) lives on organic nature; and the more
universal man (or the animal) is, the more universal is the sphere of
inorganic nature on which he lives. Just as plants, animals, stones, air,
light, etc., constitute theoretically a part of human consciousness, partly
as objects of natural science, partly as objects of art – his spiritual
inorganic nature, spiritual nourishment which he must first prepare to make
palatable and digestible – so also in the realm of practice they constitute
a part of human life and human activity. Physically man lives only on these
products of nature, whether they appear in the form of food, heating,
clothes, a dwelling, etc. The universality of man appears in practice
precisely in the universality which makes all nature his *inorganic* body –
both inasmuch as nature is (1) his direct means of life, and (2) the
material, the object, and the instrument of his life activity. Nature is
man’s *inorganic *body – nature, that is, insofar as it is not itself human
body. Man *lives* on nature – means that nature is his body, with which he
must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s
physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is
linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.
In estranging from man (1) nature, and (2) himself, his own active
functions, his life activity, estranged labor estranges the *species* from
man. It changes for him the *life of the species* into a means of
individual life. First it estranges the life of the species and individual
life, and secondly it makes individual life in its abstract form the
purpose of the life of the species, likewise in its abstract and estranged
For labor, *life activity*, *productive life* itself, appears to man in the
first place merely as a means of satisfying a need – the need to maintain
physical existence. Yet the productive life is the life of the species. It
is life-engendering life. The whole character of a species, its
species-character, is contained in the character of its life activity; and
free, conscious activity is man’s species-character. Life itself appears
only as a *means to life*.
The animal is immediately one with its life activity. It does not
distinguish itself from it. It is *its life activity*. Man makes his life
activity itself the object of his will and of his consciousness. He has
conscious life activity. It is not a determination with which he directly
merges. Conscious life activity distinguishes man immediately from animal
life activity. It is just because of this that he is a species-being. Or it
is only because he is a species-being that he is a conscious being, i.e.,
that his own life is an object for him. Only because of that is his
activity free activity. Estranged labor reverses the relationship, so that
it is just because man is a conscious being that he makes his life
activity, his *essential being, *a mere means to his *existence*.
In creating a *world of objects* by his personal activity, in his *work
upon *inorganic nature, man proves himself a conscious species-being, i.e.,
as a being that treats the species as his own essential being, or that
treats itself as a species-being. Admittedly animals also produce. They
build themselves nests, dwellings, like the bees, beavers, ants, etc. But
an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young.
It produces one-sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only
under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even
when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom
therefrom. An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole
of nature. An animal’s product belongs immediately to its physical body,
whilst man freely confronts his product. An animal forms only in accordance
with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst
man knows how to produce in accordance with the standard of every species,
and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object. Man
therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty.
It is just in his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man really
proves himself to be a *species-being*. This production is his active
species-life. Through this production, nature appears as *his* work and his
reality. The object of labor is, therefore, the *objectification of man’s
species-life*: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness,
intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he sees
himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object
of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his *
species-life*, his real objectivity as a member of the species and
transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his
inorganic body, nature, is taken from him.
Similarly, in degrading spontaneous, free activity to a means, estranged
labor makes man’s species-life a means to his physical existence.
The consciousness which man has of his species is thus transformed by
estrangement in such a way that species[-life] becomes for him a means.
Estranged labor turns thus:
*(3)* *Man’s species-being,* both nature and his spiritual
species-property, into a being *alien* to him, into a *means* of his
existence*. It estranges from man his own body, as well as external nature
and his spiritual aspect, his *human* aspect.
*(4)* An immediate consequence of the fact that man is estranged from the
product of his labor, from his life activity, from his species-being, is
the *estrangement of man *from* man*. When man confronts himself, he
confronts the *other* man. What applies to a man’s relation to his work, to
the product of his labor and to himself, also holds of a man’s relation to
the other man, and to the other man’s labor and object of labor.
In fact, the proposition that man’s species-nature is estranged from him
means that one man is estranged from the other, as each of them is from
man’s essential nature.
The estrangement of man, and in fact every relationship in which man
[stands] to himself, is realized and expressed only in the relationship in
which a man stands to other men.
Hence within the relationship of estranged labor each man views the other
in accordance with the standard and the relationship in which he finds
himself as a worker.
||XXV| We took our departure from a fact of political economy – the
estrangement of the worker and his production. We have formulated this fact
in conceptual terms as *estranged, alienated* labor. We have analyzed this
concept – hence analyzing merely a fact of political economy.
Let us now see, further, how the concept of estranged, alienated labor must
express and present itself in real life.
If the product of labor is alien to me, if it confronts me as an alien
power, to whom, then, does it belong?
To a being *other* than myself.
Who is this being?
The *gods*? To be sure, in the earliest times the principal production (for
example, the building of temples, etc., in Egypt, India and Mexico) appears
to be in the service of the gods, and the product belongs to the gods.
However, the gods on their own were never the lords of labor. No more was *
nature.* And what a contradiction it would be if, the more man subjugated
nature by his labor and the more the miracles of the gods were rendered
superfluous by the miracles of industry, the more man were to renounce the
joy of production and the enjoyment of the product to please these powers.
The *alien* being, to whom labor and the product of labor belongs, in whose
service labor is done and for whose benefit the product of labor is
provided, can only be *man* himself.
If the product of labor does not belong to the worker, if it confronts him
as an alien power, then this can only be because it belongs to some *other
man than the worker*. If the worker’s activity is a torment to him, to
another it must give *satisfaction *and pleasure. Not the gods, not nature,
but only man himself can be this alien power over man.
We must bear in mind the previous proposition that man’s relation to
himself becomes for him *objective* and *actual* through his relation to
the other man. Thus, if the product of his labor, his labor objectified, is
for him an *alien*, *hostile*, powerful object independent of him, then his
position towards it is such that someone else is master of this object,
someone who is alien, hostile, powerful, and independent of him. If he
treats his own activity as an unfree activity, then he treats it as an
activity performed in the service, under the dominion, the coercion, and
the yoke of another man.
Every self-estrangement of man, from himself and from nature, appears in
the relation in which he places himself and nature to men other than and
differentiated from himself. For this reason religious self-estrangement
necessarily appears in the relationship of the layman to the priest, or
again to a mediator, etc., since we are here dealing with the intellectual
world. In the real practical world self-estrangement can only become
manifest through the real practical relationship to other men. The medium
through which estrangement takes place is itself *practical. *Thus through
estranged labor man not only creates his relationship to the object and to
the act of production as to powers [in the manuscript *Menschen* (men)
instead of *Mächte* (powers). – Ed.] that are alien and hostile to him; he
also creates the relationship in which other men stand to his production
and to his product, and the relationship in which he stands to these other
men. Just as he creates his own production as the loss of his reality, as
his punishment; his own product as a loss, as a product not belonging to
him; so he creates the domination of the person who does not produce over
production and over the product. Just as he estranges his own activity from
himself, so he confers upon the stranger an activity which is not his own.
We have until now considered this relationship only from the standpoint of
the worker and later on we shall be considering it also from the standpoint
of the non-worker.
Through *estranged, alienated labor*, then, the worker produces the
relationship to this labor of a man alien to labor and standing outside it.
The relationship of the worker to labor creates the relation to it of the
capitalist (or whatever one chooses to call the master of labor). *Private
property* is thus the product, the result, the necessary consequence,
labor*, of the external relation of the worker to nature and to himself.
*Private property* thus results by analysis from the concept of *alienated
labor, *i.e., of *alienated man*, of estranged labor, of estranged life, of
True, it is as a result of the *movement of private property *that we have
obtained the concept of *alienated labor* (*of alienated life*) in
political economy. But on analysis of this concept it becomes clear that
though private property appears to be the reason, the cause of alienated
labor, it is rather its consequence, just as the gods are *originally* not
the cause but the effect of man’s intellectual confusion. Later this
relationship becomes reciprocal.
Only at the culmination of the development of private property does this,
its secret, appear again, namely, that on the one hand it is the *product *of
alienated labor, and that on the other it is the *means *by which* *labor
alienates* *itself*, the realization of this alienation*.