Karl Marx was born in the town of Trier, Germany in the year 1818. Initially he joined the University of Bonn as a law student. Later he joined the University of Berlin. He is considered to be amongst the individual who had great influence on social thinking during the 19th century. He was considered to play diverse role by contributing to various aspects. This is due to that apart from being a philosopher; he was also characterized by being a historian and a social scientist. His works resulted in a great revolution within the society. Despite all his efforts, his contributions had been ignored during his lifetime by most the scholars. Only in the recent past did his ideas regarding social and political aspects considered important (‘The History Guide’).
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One of his contributions with regard to issues in the society was with regard to the theory of alienation. For a long time, there has been a perception that human life is being affected by forces that are impersonal in nature. This made most the people have a perception that the occurrence of these forces is natural in nature and human beings are independent of their occurrence.
In the modern world there are numerous changes that have occurred which are affecting human life. These changes are putting human existence under a pressure making him be helpless despite them being a created by the human being. This means that the effort of man in terms of labor has turned to be a threat. The world today is characterized by increased rate of global warming, insecurity and food shortage despite the fact that man has the power to control the world (Cox para.1).
Through his theory of alienation, Karl Marx sought to illustrate that all the external forces that are experienced within the society are a result of past human activities. Through his alienation theory, Karl Marx was able to illustrate that there is a strong relationship between the past and the modern in that history determines the future (‘The History Guide’).
Karl Marx’s understanding of alienation was multidimensional. This is due to the fact that despite society having an effect on human life, human beings too have the capacity to change the society in which they live consciously. Despite this ability, the capitalistic nature of the society limits this capacity. For instance the type of labor that exists in the society is forced or rather coerced.
He also understood that alienation is deeply related to the material world. To him alienation meant that human beings had lost control precisely with regard to labor. For instance; Marx illustrates how an individual is alienated from the work of his own labor particularly in a capitalist society. This is due to the fact that the creative work of an individual is enjoyed by another. For instance in the case of the farmers, their produce is consumed by other individuals while they are left to be malnourished. According to Karl Marx, alienation with regard to the product of labor is evident from the fact that the workers are separated from the products of their own labor. On the other hand, alienation is evident in that the worker is paid peanuts for the high value that he or she creates. Karl Marks explains that the worker’s labor becomes an alien to his own existence and hence has the capacity to torment his life. This is mainly so in a capitalistic society where those who put the largest effect live in deplorable conditions.
According to Marx, alienation is also evident with regard to the production process. This is due to the fact that individuals have got no power determine what is to be produced or even with regard to the conditions in the working environment. This means that the job environment will have an effect on the workers both mentally and also physically. The ultimate result is that the individual’s level of creativity is greatly reduced since he or she does not have any control (Cox para.7).
This has an effect on human life since individuals develop a perception that life is an activity that is being imposed on him or them. This is due to the fact that since the society is capitalist in nature, the employees are pressurized to have higher results by working for long hours and at a higher rate. This shows that the working process is not under the control of the workers.
According to Marx, alienation is also evident in that the entire production process is conducted by use of modern technology. This means that the workers’ skills are killed since work is divided into small parts along an assembly line. The result is that technology threatens the unity that existed in the execution of tasks through teamwork. the work process is also controlled by just a few individuals at the management level yet it affects all the other workers (Cox para.8).
Marx understood human beings as social beings (Cox Para. 5). This means that collectively individuals can enhance the level of their outcome with regard to a particular activity. This is due to the fact that individuals can effectively plan what is of necessity to them and the society in general. This is however limited by the capitalistic nature of the society which is mostly motivated by the need for higher profits. For instance, technological advancement has resulted in increase in the level of profits but on the other hand environmental pollution has greatly increased. This has resulted in the current climatic change. This clearly illustrates how the society the future depends on the human actions.
One of the greatest criticisms of capitalism by Karl Marx was with regard to it being irrational. According to Karl Marx, the irrationality of the capitalists arises from the fact that they had a perception that in order for there to be an increase in the level of profits from their firms, they had to heavily invest in capital.
According to them the definition of capital included the machinery. The uncontrollable desire for high profits made these firm owners heavily invest in machinery (Udayan p. 16). However the result was high level of losses in the process of the firm operation. This is due to the fact that machines do not directly relate to the level of profits but rather is the quality of labor.
Karl Marx illustrated the criticism for irrationality of capitalism in various ways. A capitalistic economy is characterized by intense competition amongst the producing firms. The competition in the production process is instigated by the need to satisfy the market demand. The end result is that competing firms end up producing and supplying more than the market demand can accommodate. In most cases the goods that these firms produce are not what the customers need (‘Marx’s Criticism of capitalism’ p.1).
Consequently the overproduction of these firms results in workers being laid off which increases the rate of unemployment. The unemployment affects different sectors of the economy resulting in economic depression. If this cycle continues, it culminates into economic recession.
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According to the article ‘Marx criticism for capitalism’ capitalists are aimed at increasing the level of their firm’s profit. In order for this to happen, the strategy that most of the firms apply is ensuring that the wages of their employees are very low. This has a negative impact on these employees in that they will not have the financial capacity to buy the goods that the capitalistic firms that they work in. This illustrates a high degree of exploitation that is done to the workers by their employees (p.2).
On the other hand, capitalism has not had a negative effect on the distribution chain of the goods that are produced. In a capitalist economy, most of the firms are owned and entirely controlled by individuals. This means that these individuals do not allow the market forces to operate efficiently. The owners of these firms are the ones who determine what is to be produced and supplied into the market. Due to the powers of the capitalists, they have an influence on the government’s effort to control the market. This makes the government have minimum say with regard to their production and supply decisions. The end result is that the distribution of goods and services becomes very inefficient.
Karl Marx believed that is only a revolution that would contribute to ending the negative impacts of capitalism. This is due to the fact that a revolution would result in a change. Since capitalism results in social inequality, the only option was to replace the inequality created by another inequality. Through this process it would be possible for the process of revolution to be instigated (Udayan p.10).
In order for the workers to change their situation, they had to engage themselves in a revolution directed towards the capitalists due to their exploitative nature. Karl Marx believed that through, this it would be possible for the employees to achieve numerous repercussions that are beneficial to them. For instance the capitalist nature of the economy allows private ownership and control of property. The revolution would result in joint ownership of the key resources. The implication is that the raw materials and other factors of production such as land would be jointly controlled (‘Marx criticism for capitalism’ p.2).
The revolution would also have an impact on the production process by firms with regard to what is to be produced. This would ensure that what is produced is of necessity to the entire society and not derived from the profit motive of the firm owners. This would have a positive effect on the society in general since it would reduce the negative effects of competitive products on the economy.
Karl Marx also perceived that revolution would result in a more effective distribution of the products and services produced in the economy. This means that the economy would be changed from a capitalistic nature to a communist. This would give the government command the control of production and supply of the goods and services. One of the areas where this revolution would help according to Karl Marx is with regard to pricing of the commodities.
In conclusion Karl Marks had great contribution to the society especially with social, political and economic issues. One of his contributions is with regard to alienation theory. He explains how the future is determined by the past human actions. The multidimensional perspective alienation theory helps to illustrate the society has an impact on human life and how the human beings can change the society.
His understanding of alienation is that human beings lack control of most of the things that happen in their life. This is mainly due to the capitalistic nature of the society. He precisely illustrates the lack of control particularly with respect to labor. What the workers produce is not consumed by them but is rather enjoyed by others. The production process also alienates the workers in that they are made to work in a harsh environment. Coercion also characterizes the work environment. This reduces the creativity of the employees.
Alienation is also evident in that the characteristic of human beings as social beings is affected. This intensifies competition resulting in production of goods and services that are not of necessity to the society.
This made Karl Marx greatly criticize capitalism as being irrational. This is due to its negative effects on the society. It made the distribution process to be inefficient since it was controlled by individuals whereas the government had minimal influence. The increase in competition could result in economic recession. Capitalism also results in poor living standards of the workers since they are lowly paid as the firms seek higher profits. It also results in alienation of labor.
It is only through a revolution that the workers could be able to bring change. The revolution would result in effective distribution while the products to be produced are those that are of necessity.
- Cox, Judy.’ An introduction to Karl Marx theory of alienation’ Britain: International Socialist, 1998. Web.
- Kreis, Steven. ‘The history guide: lectures on modern European intellectual
- history, Karl Marx (1818-1883)’, 2008.
- ‘Marx’s criticism of capitalism’.
- Roy, Udayan. ‘Karl Marx’, 2007.