The ideas of Karl Marx have a notable influence on everyday reality, both through past events and modern communist and socialist movements. However, the historical materialism of Marx is a product of nineteenth-century society; hence, the question of practical relevance is worth asking. This paper aims at answering a more specific version of this question – “is Marxian alienation present in modern capitalist societies?”
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To answer the question, one must define alienation first. Vaughn describes alienation this way: “[the workers] are no longer valued as persons, for they have become mere cogs in the capitalist machinery, and they can no longer take pride in their work, for it has been downgraded into mindless assembly-line motions” (380). “Alienation” is, therefore, a psychological effect separating a worker from the results of labor and diminishing the worker’s sense of self-worth. When applying this definition to modern-day workers’ psychological states, it is evident that, at least to some extent, Marxian alienation is present in modern capitalist societies. Workers all around the world share this sense of being mere “cogs in a machine.” They are treated not as human beings, but as expendable resources with no value beyond productive capacity.
Marx’s works and ideas explored in them are valuable to this day, and even when society progresses, the principles laid out by him still apply. The world has changed since the nineteenth century, yet it has not undergone a radical transformation. The few communist revolutions that have happened around the world have failed to overthrow the wide rule of capitalism. Thus, economically, the world has remained largely the same since Marx’s death, and alienation remains an important aspect of a worker’s life.
Vaughn, Lewis. Philosophy Here and Now: Powerful Ideas in Everyday Life. Oxford University Press, 2019.