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Alienation and Alienated Labor

According to the Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology, Alienation is a process through which people become estranged from the world they are living in. Karl Marx’s early works are associated with this concept. He criticized W.G. F. Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach as both believed that alienation was either the result of a person’s culture or it was psychological. Marx negated these ideas by stating that alienation was a sociological dilemma as it was a by-product of capitalism (Turner, 2006). This paper will explore Marx’s theory and assess if it is still relevant today.

Marx witnessed the industrial revolution and the beginning of capitalism first-hand. He was openly opposed to capitalism as it put money in the pocket of a few while the rest struggled to make ends meet. He stated that capitalism divided the society into two classes; the Bourgeoisie (owners) and the Proletariat (laborers). The owners sold the product, made by the laborers with huge profit margins and became richer by the day. However; the laborers lived wage to wage, unable to afford the product that they helped made. Marx stated that they were “Alienated Laborers” and he divided their alienation into four categories; alienation from the product, one’s labor, others and self. According to these categories, laborer does not own any part of the product as everything they toiled for belonged to the owner. Their jobs are monotonous; they work for the wages and lack purpose. They are always competing with others for better jobs and in such a scenario everyone looks out for themselves. Lastly, continuous labor robs the people of their sense of selves making them truly alienated from society (Marx, 1844).

Marx’s idea of alienation is still relevant today as the job market is tough, 9 to 5 jobs are senseless hours of work. Employees do not get even a fraction of the profit that they helped in earning. There is a lot of inequality and at the end of the day, one does not have time for oneself. The biggest example of alienation can be found in Japan’s work environment where 37 percent of the companies exploited the over-time work laws (Loh, 2021).


Loh, M. (2021, August 25). Japan’s overworking problem: A probe into 24,000 Japanese workplaces revealed that 37% had violated overtime laws. Insider.

Marx, K. (1844). Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. 10.

Turner, B. S. (2006). The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge University Press.



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