a person of great talent, Karl Marx had the right perception and ability to foresee the future and he must have had that perception and logic while developing the concept of “Alienation” in a systematic manner. The concept of “Alienation” as developed by Karl Marx concentrates on four aspects i.e. alienation of man from nature, alienation of man from his species being, alienation of man from himself and alienation from other people.
Alienation from nature implies alienation of labour from his own product i.e. the object of nature. As per Marxian perspective, though a product has no meaning and value in itself without the effort that labour puts to make it, the labourer’s efforts are no longer recognized after transfer of their properties into the product. This leads to exploitation of labour resulting in alienation of man from nature. Alienation of man from his Species Being is the by-product of forced labour and loss of spontaneity in work in a capitalistic society. Labour is alienated from his species being as he is degraded to the extent of lesser animals. Alienation of man from himself is due to extreme forms of division of labour and the resultant loss of natural relations and spontaneity of work. As per Marx, when the society becomes fiercely competitive, each man thinks of other man as mere means and men experience isolation and alienation from other people.
Though the theoretical basis of developing “Alienation” by Marx is the capitalistic mode of production, its universal applicability to the modern society is non deniable as the modern society has lost the simplicity of barter system and economic self sufficiency. When mechanization and complexity in the society and economy are invited facts, alienation in its purest form will definitely pervade. Specialization is an inevitable feature of the modern economy and no one can deny its tremendous impact in boosting the productivity and thereby paving way for prospects of higher growth rate. Along with fruits of specialization that have been experienced by the economy in large scale, loss of creativity and emergence of isolation and aloofness have also been invited simultaneously.
Every human being is endowed with the natural gift of creativity and his greatest virtue and uniqueness lie in that. Initially specialisation may look lucrative and may result in eye-catching attainments, but in the long run, it kills the seeds of creative pleasure thereby results in slowing down of the past glory it had invited. As rightly denoted by the philosophers like Hegel & Marx, alienation implies self alienation that is to be estranged from one’s essential nature. Hegel conceives men as essentially spirits and considers the loss of universality as the cause of alienation wherereas Karl Marx considers man as producers of means for their subsistence and analysed alienation from economic view point rather than being idealistic. However the general perspective holds that alienation is lack of self-worth, the absence of meaning in one’s life consequent to being coerced to lead a life without opportunity for self-fulfilment, without the opportunity to become actualized, to become one’s self.
Alienation may happen in both social life, family life and also in work life of an individual. Causes of alienation from social perspective are feeling of meaninglessness, isolation from others, cultural and economic differences/ gap, imposition of custom & tradition, non–importance on human creativity. In a broader perspective, there is a cyclical association among these causes and their effects. In fact, the causes and effects repeat themselves like a vicious cycle inducing each other.
Causes of alienation in work are repetition of work schedule without clear-cut knowledge and perception about the greater aspect, under utilization of employee’s actual potential, wrong or miss utilization of human potential, no or limited role of employees and workers in decision making, centralized nature of work, distance between management and employment, distance among employees, extreme dose of mechanization with little scope to think etc.
Even if the scope of alienation from a broader point of view is limited, its actual range is far reaching especially in a modern complex society. In society distinguished by globalization, development of science and & information technology, high connectivity, economic liberalization, socio-cultural, geographical and linguistic variations, the instances of alienation are wide spread in different spheres of life.
In today’s world, the occurrence of Economic Alienation is quite widespread and more pronounced. Though basically it is Marxian concept, it is highly relevant even today. Gap between haves and have not, privileged and under privileged is getting broadened with the progress of economy and society at large. A sense of deprivation is getting germinated among the economically underprivileged mass which paves the way for further widening of the disparity.
Political Alienation implies a kind of aloofness of the general mass with regard to political scenario of a country and international politics as whole. When it is commonly conceived notion that, politics is not the cup of tea of common man, they develop non participatory approach and distant themselves from the happening of the political scenario and remain aloof from its developments.
In the universe marked by wide spread globalization and the resultant unification of different parts of the world, the resultant by- product is a sense of Alienation faced by Foreigners. The persons staying in foreign land for their livelihood may be subject to alienation due to the glaring socio-cultural and linguistic gap and discriminatory treatment they receive staying away from their homeland.
Linguistic Alienation is due to the dominance of a particular language undermining the importance numerous sub languages. In the national as well as international scenario, a particular language plays a dominant role and gets used for purpose of communication. At the same time, the dominance of a particular language may be at the cost of numerous sub languages prevalent among the masses. Sometimes these sub languages merge or even die under the pre-eminence of the central language. The persons identifying themselves with that language may belong to a particular area, region or tribe. They feel the burden of linguistic differences and thrive hard for their survival which leads a feeling of linguistic alienation.
Whatever form it may take, in whichever name it may be called, alienation is universally associated with a sense of despondency, aloofness, separation, withdrawal and estrangement. Irrespective of the cause and type, alienation is the creation of society and its prevailing social norms. This sense of estrangement is sometimes glorified at the cost of personal stability, psychological wellbeing and societal harmony. There is not slightest doubt of the adversity it injects into the society leading to a state of disharmony and distress. It is the call of the hour to introspect and fine-tune the extremities imposed by mechanization, to renew the lost hope and vigour, to be enlightened by the gifted creative pleasure and to have empathy towards the fellow being, otherwise the race that has glorified itself by the creative virtue unique to it will invite a day of its own funeral.
- (The views of the writer are her personal)