Marx sets forth a series of arguments describing how and why labor conditions increasingly lead to more alienating circumstances for workers in capitalistic systems. Some important concepts he presents are alienation/estrangement, private property, wage labor, and species being.
1. What does Marx mean when he says “workers sink to the level of a commodity”? (pg 42)
Marx refers to the capitalist production approach whereby workers do not own the means of production and work for wages. He argues the workers spend a third of their time on meaningless activity only to receive means of survival. The workers put more focus on their duties and forget to utilize unique skills to start their own ventures. When workers are isolated from the rest of the community, they end up becoming a product that to be bought and sold.
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2. What are the four things that Marx says workers eventually become alienated from? (You will find them listed and numbered on page 44-46). Provide a contemporary examples.
The first aspect of alienation is the product of labor: the workers’ labor is not voluntary but coerced. Therefore, it is forced labor. For example, the more workers produce the more productive power there is for someone else to own and control.
The second aspect of alienation is the relation of labor to act of production within the labor process. It means that in laboring the workers lose control over their life activity.
The third aspect of alienation refers to alienation from the product and from the activity of labor.
The fourth aspect of alienation is alienation from others or the society.
3. Marx states that the essence of humanity is his/her species being. What does this mean? (45, specifically bottom right).
For Marx, the essence of species being is the pinnacle of human nature. Species being is understood as self-actualization brought about by the meaningful work done. Through his efforts man is capable of directing means of life.
4. How do humans produce their world differently than the way animals produce their world? (46)
Animals only produces what it immediately needs for itself or it’s young. For example birds builds nests, or bees build hive, this shows that animals produce one- sidedly unlike humans who produce universally. Humans produce if when they are free from physical need, and truly produces in freedom therefrom. The main point is that animals only produces themselves while humans reproduce the whole of nature.
5. Who does Marx say our labor and productivity belong to? What does he say is the product or result of alienated labor? (47
Marx says labor and productivity belongs to alien being in whose service labor is done. The alien being can only be “man himself” who is hostile, and powerful object independent of him. The product of alienated labor is private property. Marx argues it is through the movement of private property that we get the concept of alienated labor from political economy.
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