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Alienation

Karl Marx and Max Weber were economists. Although Emile Durkheim and Max Weber are the
founders of the modern theory of sociology, Karl Marx's views on society had a profound impact
on the evolution of modern sociology. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1846) in their book
The German Ideology defined alienation as the estrangement of individuals from themselves
and others. It is a condition of separation or disintegration from the surrounding society. Marx
conceptualized alienation as the separation of the worker from ownership. Durkheim (1947,
trans.) saw alienation as a consequence of the condition of anomie, which refers to the
breakdown of norms in society leading to experienced normlessness. Also philosophers like
Rousseau and Freud all posited an humanity wherein individuals are essentially alienated from
their true selves. For Freud it is our subconscious, a dominant superego telling us that we are not
truly worthy, and a powerful id containing passions and appetites, driving us to undertake actions
which build barriers to understanding our true selves. For Freud the drives are hidden even to
ourselves, in our subconscious. We know were not truly satisfied, we get angry when we repeat
patterns of behavior that create problems or despair, yet somehow we cant seem to avoid
continuing these patterns. It seems to be who we are, while in reality it is our unconscious
preventing us from discovering who we are. Webers treatment of the concept of alienation
(Gerth & Mills, 1946) has been similar to that of Marx who viewed alienation as emerging from
perceived lack of freedom and control at work. On the other hand, Max Weber (1930) in his
book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism claimed that rationalization is a vital
concept looking into modern capitalism. It refers to different kinds of relevant processes by
which each aspect of human action become dependent on calculation, measurement, and control.
Like Marxs notion of alienation, rationalization implies the estrangement of the individual from
community, family and church, and his subordination to legal, political, and economic regulation
in the factory, school, and state. Thus, Marxs concept of alienation is similar to Webers notion
of the dehumanizing consequences of rationalization.
For Marx it was an economic system -exploitation leads to the construction of different cultural
worlds, all created to service the existing mode of production, with humans of all classes
separated from their true humanity by the nature of economic production, Alienation described
the way in which economic relations under which people work can change their labor from a
creative act into distorted and dehumanized activity. As a result, people do not enjoy their work
of find satisfaction on it. They treat it as a mere means to ensuring their survival (by providing
themselves a wage) and therefore their ability to turn up the next week to work once more. In
this way, work and its product becomes separate or alien things that dominate or oppress

people. The concept of alienation plays a significant role in Marx's early political writing,
especially in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1848.In this work Marx
distinguishes three forms of alienation alienation from the product of work, alienation in the
process of production, and alienation from society. This implies that while Marx found alienation
useful in investigating certain basic aspects of the development of capitalist society, it is less
useful in putting forward the predictions of the collapse of capitalism.
For Weber, modern life is characterised by increasing bureaucratic control and regulation of
peoples lives. The bureaucratic efficiency of the organisation can take away the creativity of the
people working in those organisations. They simply have to follow the rules and lose the ability
to think for themselves. This is the effect of rationalisation, which is also a form of alienation.
Rationalization comprises increasing knowledge, growing impersonality, and developed control
of social and material life, which lead to the iron cage in modernity. Weber (1930) criticized
that rationalization has a negative impact on dehumanizing individuals and on reducing their
freedom; thus, they may be easily trapped by the bureaucratic iron cage.
To sum up, Marxs concept of alienation is similar to Webers notion of the dehumanizing
consequences of rationalization, but their visions of a future society are different. Notably,
Webers description of the nature of capitalism as an iron cage is often very close to Marxs
analysis and, in particular, there is a close relationship between the concepts of alienation and
rationalization. As mentioned at the beginning of my essay, like Marxs notion of alienation,
rationalization implies the estrangement of the individual from community, family and his
subordination to legal, political, and economic regulation in the factory, school, and state. Since
Marxs views on the future society may mislead people, because his views are extremely
bureaucratic. That is, Marxs views can not be applied to modernity.