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Alienation

Marx claimed that the worker was a foreigner in his own land, estranged from himself and other human beings. Can his theory of alienation shed any light on today's world of work?

Laurie Taylor discusses Karl Marx's theory of Alienation with Philosophy Professor, Sean Sayers, political economist, Ian Fraser, and Professor of Medical Ethics, Donna Dickenson.

Marx saw Alienation as an objective condition inherent in waged labour under capitalism. He believed that the mass proletariat were alienated because the fruits of production belonged to the employers. Factory workers were estranged from themselves, from the products of their labour, and from each other. Human relations came to be seen as relations between commodities rather than people. Marx believed this alienation would be overcome in a communist future in which we could "hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner...without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic". Individuals would become multifaceted and be at one with their creative selves. Work, in such a future, would be an end in itself rather than a means to an end in the form of a wage.

Thinking Allowed explores the evolution and development of Marx's theory of Alienation. Can it, in any way, capture the experience of today's worker? Or is it hopelessly outdated in an economy dominated by a service sector rather than factory production?

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