Dehumanized: the Individual in Regards to Industry

Karl Marx’s “Estranged Labour” details the ruthless system that is ‘The Money System.’  This system strikes chords similar to those of Thomas Hobbes’ theory on the state of nature where every human is in competition with one another; Marx states that “the political economy promotes greed and competition amongst the greedy”1  which adds a layer of economy to Hobbes’ theory.  However, Marx takes it yet another step forward by asserting the dehumanization of those who work in industry.  He asserts “The worker puts his life into the object; but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object”2 and “the greater this product, the less is he himself.”3In both these statements, Marx is alluding to the loss of individual identity within the confines of industry, as the owners of these industries are only concerned with the money they will be making through these people, and not their individual interests.

Marx could not be more correct with making these assumptions of the human identity.  As individuals become more engrossed in their mundane work, they lose what makes them different from others.  With this loss of identity comes the loss of a person’s interests in the workplace; their industrial occupations have become mind-numbing tasks that have become solely a means for currency; there is no other purpose for them to be at the job aside from providing a way of survival.

Although Marx’s summations of industry are grim, they are true.  One can even see Marx’s assertions about the individual working in industry in today’s world with entry level jobs found in food service or retail sale; many people work those jobs for no other benefit than accruing cash.  How many people actually worked at McDonalds over the summer because they loved being around those deep fryers all day?  A single person’s interests are not a priority in the eyes of big businesses; their goal is to make as much money at as little cost as possible.

How, if at all possible, could industry conditions be improved?  What implications would this have on the entire industrial system?

Also as a side note it was unclear to me what Marx explained in section XXV of this reading where he wrote about who owns the product of labor.  I understand it was somewhat abstract, but could somebody please clarify the first few paragraphs for me?  Specifically the concept of the ‘alien being.’

  1. Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844 []
  2. Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844 []
  3. Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844 []

One thought on “Dehumanized: the Individual in Regards to Industry

  1. Connecting Marx’s ideas on fruitless labor to the modern-day “money economy” is fascinating; especially because many can relate to taking a minimum wage summer job purely for money, with no hope of career building. In regard to the “alien being,” Marx seems to establish production inspired by the Gods to be the natural, ancient system of production. In the modern system, a worker’s product is not owned by him, but by the capitalist–or “alien being”–who owns the factory in which the worker toils. Marx believes this system of power and oppression breeds resentment in the worker; he is now estranged from his work and from his fellow man as he must produce the former only for the joy and greed of the latter.

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