Alienation as a critical concept

International Critical Thought 1 (3):287-304 (2011)
This paper discusses Marx’s concept of alienated (or estranged) labour, focusing mainly on his account in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. This concept is frequently taken to be a moral notion based on a concept of universal human nature. This view is criticized and it is argued that the concept of alienation should rather be interpreted in the light of Hegelian historical ideas. In Hegel, alienation is not a purely negative phenomenon; it is a necessary stage of human development. Marx’s account of alienated labour should be understood in similar terms. It is not a merely subjective discontent with work; it is an objective and historically specific condition, a stage in the process of historical development. Marx usually regards it as specific to capitalism. The criticism of capitalism implied in the concept of alienation, it is argued, does not appeal to universal moral standards; it is historical and relative. Overcoming alienation must also be understood in historical terms, not as the realization of a universal ideal, but as the dialectical supersession of capitalist conditions of labour. Marx’s account of communism as the overcoming of alienation is explained in these terms.
Keywords Marx   Hegel   alienation   labour   morality   social criticism
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index Translate to english
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,479
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Gavin Rae (2012). Hegel, Alienation, and the Phenomenological Development of Consciousness. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (1):23-42.
Arnold S. Kaufman (1965). On Alienation. Inquiry 8 (1-4):141 – 165.
Sean Sayers (2005). Why Work? Marx and Human Nature. Science and Society 69 (4):606 - 616.
Barry L. Padgett (1999). Alienation in the “Cashless Society”. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 6 (3/4):67-77.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

44 ( #110,316 of 1,925,592 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #418,223 of 1,925,592 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.