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” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844))  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” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844)) and “the greater this product, the less is he himself.” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844))In 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.’

Comte De Saint-Simon, The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry


Author:(1760-1825), Also known as Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon was a French economist who challenged his nation’s traditional economic composition.  He believed that the economy should be strategically industrialized eather than run it a Laissez-faire manner.  This was one of the earlier writings advocating socialism.  His thinking that the common man was a hard worker demonstrates his positive reflxtion on human nature.

Context:  France had always had a capitalist economic structure.  Comte de Saint-Simon was a rising political figure in France.  He believed that it was more beneficial to society to fit the needs of the working class rather than the wealthy or “idle” class.  He felt that through an enlightened industrial class, products could be raised to fit the needs of the poor.  

Language: Comte de Saint-Simon uses a persuasive tone that is design to appeal to the reader’s sense of emotion.  He uses words that attempt to convice the audience that people should be hard workers dedicated to the betterment of society rather than their own interests.

Audience:  Saint-Simon is addressing the common people of France.  Wants to convince the majority of society that his new economic system is better than the old Laissez-fair system.  He realizes that the wealthiest class will not support his system so he does not attempt to reach them.  In fact, he even blames their own greed for the flaws in French society.

Intent:  The essay is intended to create support for his alternative to France’s existing economic structure.  He intends to spread his belief in the common man’s hardworking nature to the middle class in French society.  He believes this composition as opposed to the existing capitalist structure would raise the standard of living for society.  Likewise, he realizes that if his political system is implemented, he will likely be viewed as the face of French economics.

Message:  The message of the essay is that society be tailored around the working man.  He asserts that the working class is the cornerstone of the economy, however, the elite, or idle class, benefits the most from it.  He advocates an economy that is based around virtues rather than the cut-throat nature of capitalism and he believes that it would make society better as a whole.



Critiques of Capitalism

“The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry”:

Author: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) a French political and economic theorist that became a strong advocator of changing the free trade “laissez-faire” system of political economy, to a more individualized approach; focusing on the poor. His writings impacted generations of French theorist.

Context: Claude is writing during the French Revolution, as apart of the rebellious Third Estate. Tired of seeing what he calls an imperfect industry thrive, seeing several fortunate individuals triumph over the many, he advocated for a change in the political system that addressed more the needs of his fellow commoner; the third estate.

Language: His persuasive attitude towards changing the already “stable” system is very present in this reading. He calls laissez-faire, the inevitable solution that economist of that day schemed their personal interests with, instead of the needs of the individual.

Audience:  This piece is directed towards the fellow poor commoner that Claude eventually became after spending his self earned money on his various publications.

Intent: To alter the economic system in place that tends to benefit the rich, rather than the poor. To focus the needs on this system to the individual, and refocus the system on ideals of science.

Message: The free trade system needs to be abolished so that new ideals can be the catalysts for change towards a new system that benefits/addresses the needs of the poor.

“The Legacy of Robert Owen”:

Author: Robert Owen (1771-1858) was an organizer of cooperatives in England. As an advocator for universal education and workers rights he argues that nations are built upon a deceptive system.

Context: Owen is writing during a time of rebellion, in which these unions and cooperatives greatly impacted various minds during the revolution.

Language: Owen uses a tone of disgust with the population of Great Britain, which he believes is full of injustices that opposes real well being and true interests of every individual.

Audience: His message is mainly for people against the morals of an unjust system. He advocates for Consolidated Unions, and that his stance will not go unheard.

Intent: To not allow the ignorant to deprive you, the individual, of your well-being, happiness, and life. Promoting the value of men of industry, and producers of wealth and knowledge.

Message: The system that nations are built upon are in essence deceptive and/or ignorant. These systems can do no good to man, but only continuously produce evil.

“Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 – Estranged Labor”:

Author: Karl Marx, a revolutionary specialist, the founder of Marxism. His work laid the foundation for understanding capital and labour relations.

Context: Marx elaborates on the vicious cycle that affects workers, and how they become commodities after a grueling production process.

Language: Marx presents facts, rather than opinion, and uses economic rational to establish grounds for a society that leans toward bettering conditions for the proletariat.

Audience: The average commoner and proletariat worker in the workforce.

Intent: To elaborate on the power that capitalist nature has on the average proletariat worker.

Message: The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and size.

Early Socialist Thinkers: Owen, Saint-Simon, and Marx

1.) “The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World”

Author: Robert Owen. Welsh cotton manufacturer. Utopian socialist and a founder of the cooperative movement. Founder of (failed) New Harmony colony in the U.S. Had a vision of an ideal society.

Context: Great Britain, 1844. Industrial Revolution. Many of the Factory Acts were in place, including many that regulated child labor.

Language: Persuasive, confident, hopeful

Audience: The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland

Intent: To persuade listeners to begin a bloodless revolution driven by morality and wisdom.

Message: A complete reworking of society was necessary. “Men of industry” should unite to begin the bloodless revolution that will lead to a new and improved state of human existence.

Why?: Many factory owners during the Industrial Revolution abused their workers with long hours, unsafe conditions, and low wages. Owen ran his factories more benevolently and saw a utopic vision in which all of society was based on moral correctness and wisdom.

2.) “The Incoherence and Disorder of Society”

Author: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon. French political and economic theorist. Businessman. Believed in a meritocracy. Fought in the American Revolution. Supporter of French Revolution and imprisoned during the Reign of Terror.

Context: Saint-Simon lived in France under Napoleon and during the Bourbon Restoration (constitutional monarchy). Frequent occurrences of civil unrest.

Language: Passionate, sarcastic at times, easy to read

Audience: The industrial class–everyone engaged in productive work.

Intent: Disprove the principle behind laissez-faire economics. Advocate for a meritocracy.

Message: Industry needed to address the needs of the industrial class. Economics cannot be focused merely on statistics; society needs to take care of people and their needs.

Why?: Saint-Simon fought in the American Revolution, and his time in America likely exposed him to a society with fewer class distinctions than the one in which he lived. He also supported the French Revolution’s principles of equality, liberty, and fraternity, and his own work argues in favor of these principles as well. The Bourbon Restoration provided a more conservative government to France, and Saint-Simon may have reacted against his government’s conservative attitudes.

3.) “Estranged Labor” from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Author: Karl Marx. German philosopher, economist, and socialist. Moved to Paris in 1843. Prolific Writer. Father of Marxism.

Context: Marx lived in France during the July Monarchy, which was a time of liberal constitutional monarchy. Paris was the de facto headquarters for revolutionaries from all over Europe.

Language: Challenging to follow, very convoluted arguments, passionate tone

Audience: The intended audience (workers; the common man) likely differs from the audience who would be capable of actually comprehending Marx’s argument (academics and philosophers).

Intent: Turn society against capitalism.

Message: Capitalism hurts the laboring class because the more wealth a worker produces, the poorer he becomes. He is alienated from his product and estranged from himself. Society is divided into these propertyless workers and the owners of that property.

Why?: Other economic thinkers of the time, such as Ludwig Feuerbach influenced Marx, and he lived in Paris at a time when revolutionary minds filled the city. The July Monarchy followed the more conservative Bourbon Restoration, bringing a more liberal view into focus. Marx met many people who shared his views, and his views fermented and strengthened in this atmosphere.



A Russia of Iron & Gastev

Gastev’s poem “We Grow out of Iron” is a short, but powerful poem about the rise of a new Russia, one made of iron.  Utilizing iron as a motif, Gastev evokes that the new Russia is unlike anything in its history.

Iron has long been a symbol of strength, power, and industry in a variety of art forms and Gastev utilizes all three of these themes to create an image of the new Soviet Union.  Beginning with the aspect of strength, Gastev incorporates height, writing about beams that rise “to a height of seventy feet” (Gastev).  No other building material in use at the time could achieve the same heights that iron can.  Gastev uses this fact to show how the Soviet Union is rising anything that was in place before it, which could only be built from brick, wood, or stone.

Gastev also uses iron to show the sheer power that only metal can provide.  Gastev’s narrator declares that he is “growing shoulders of steel and arms immeasurably strong” (Gastev).  Gastev uses this to evoke the newly found strength of the Soviet Union and its unbreakable will to continue to progress.

Gastev, most importantly, uses iron as a symbol for industry in the Soviet Union.  No longer is Russia an agricultural state, but is now a nation of factories, furnaces, and forges. With constant references to metal architecture, the Soviet Union is not a country of small wooden huts, but of massive iron mills.

18th Century Serfdom

Something that stood out to me in this chapter was the quote by Sumner at the beginning of the reading.  He states that serfdom lasted longer in Russia than in the West because “humanitarian and other ideas of the value of the individual spirit were little developed.”  It is strange to attempt to reconcile that fact that Catherine the Great set up a Noble Wardship and a Bureau of Public Welfare for the peasants but that she was also the monarch responsible for entrenching serfdom the most.  I understand that there was a division between peasants and serfs, but I do not agree with Sumner’s statement.  I think that in Russia, at least on a theoretical level, there was a conception of individual rights and social duty.  In the “Charter to the Towns” for example, the merchants were granted private property based on their individual right and under law.  Obviously the concept of individual rights applied more to the upper classes than to the peasants, but I would go as far to say that serfdom became so important because of the new Enlightenment value placed on the individual.  The serfs became the patrimony of the nobles and the merchants because the upper classes were entitled to them by virtue of being a human with an inalienable right to property.  It is hard to apply humanitarian and spiritual concerns to a group of people barely considered human by law.

On a related note, I was surprised to learn that merchant run factories had the ability to own their own peasants as “industrial serfs.”  I do not think of Russian factories at this time period to be mechanized enough to support unskilled labor and had assumed that there would be more unindustrialized craft involved.

Development of Nuclear Waste and Sustainability in Russia

radiation experinments

From the radiation of its food to the radiation of its rivers, Russia has built itself into a competitive nuclear power through a tumultuous history of trial and error.[1] Much of the initial funding for Soviet nuclear energy came in an effort to match the United States’ atomic project. But, after developing “the bomb”, nuclear resources in the USSR were applied to a number of areas. These often gave poor results. From such failures, modern Russia has striven to provide a nuclear industry that is safe, clean, and sustainable. In fact, the head of Rosatom’s used fuel management has set a goal of 100% efficiency in the company’s fuel cycle; where all spent fuel is reprocessed into the system — no waste.[4] To understand these, at first, outlandish expectations, we should consider the damages and adaptations that the industry has incurred since its inception in the 1940s.

In the earliest days of the Soviet nuclear industry, one of the most practiced efforts was the irradiation of food. This gave food stuffs a much longer shelf life and they exhibited fewer incidents of contamination due to bacteria or spoiling. But, this also exposed many citizens to harmful levels of radiation after sustained consumption.

In an effort to appease the growing “green movements” in the Soviet Union, Stalin once pursued an aggressive hydro-electric policy. To map the currents in possible rivers, the Soviets had opted to use radioactive isotopes instead of foreign nutrients. These isotopes gave far more accurate readings than the nutrients which would dissolve more quickly in the water. Unfortunately, these tests also irradiated the sites on which they were conducted.

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Nuclear Waste and Sustainability in the Russian Nuclear Industry


Of the scholarly websites and books that I am using for this project I have found a number of similarities. Many of these sources are a form of anthology, where books have chapters the web sites have pages. But, a very distinct feature of the web site is its growth and development. Where a book would have to be republished, or have additional volumes, a web site allows for scholars to access and revise a number of times with relative ease. Additionally, on some internet outlets, the sites allow for commenting on articles or provide links to response pieces. This illustrates an evolving dialogue in the field that a book is, by nature, unable to provide.


In looking for the number of multimedia sources that this project has prescribed I have developed a number of skills that have already begun to help me in other areas of my research. I have found that much of a topic’s philosophy and history is easiest found in reliable scholarly texts, but having websites or scholarly blogs provide more contemporary and evolving views.

As for my review of Evernote, I must say that it has been difficult to preserve the bibliographies’ citation format while using the program. I have found it useful for storing snippets of information for personal use, as I can access it across platforms. I did not find myself using Evernote to discover other information gathered by users that might pertain to my research, but I can see such a service being useful. Ultimately, the service falls short of our primary need for it — class sourcing — when our primarily shared document, the bibliography,  is so negatively affected.

I have begun plotting a timeline. By going through each source and plotting relevant data on a time scale, I can identify patterns of change. Already I have found correlations between the evolution of reactor designs and the “Green Movement” starting in the 1980, which was unexpected. Many of my preconceptions of Soviet nuclear policy have been changed by the research I’ve done and I feel far more open to interpreting the information than using it to support what I believed to be true.


Here’s a link to my bibliography:

The Future of Russia’s Higher Education

Check out this article in The Moscow Times on the future of Russian universities.

Mark Nuckols, a journalist for Moscow Times, points out how Russian universities have not cracked the top 200 universities in the world for another year in a row. Nuckols points to several facts that explain this.

For one, funding universities requires an efficient bureaucracy to coordinate the various in-flows of money. Russia is not well known for this bureaucratic organization.

Russian universities have a higher level of corruption and distrust, creating a poor environment for research and collaboration.

US universities have also collaborated closely with industries and businesses, providing both funding and incentive for innovations.

Top-notch professors in Russia seek employment at the worlds best universities–which as the aforementioned ranking tells us, does not include any Russian universities. Conversely, very few western academics seek employment in Russia due to the less liberal society and restricting laws.

Nuckols goes on to explore potential ways Russia could reverse this trend, but the picture he paints isn’t too optimistic. What does this mean for Russia’s future?