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An alien existence
13 June 2019 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
‘The concept of alienation is deeply embedded in all the great religions and social and political theories of the civilised epoch, namely, the idea that some time in the past people lived in harmony, and then there was some kind of rupture which left people feeling like foreigners in the world, but some time in the future this alienation would be overcome and humanity would again live in harmony with itself and Nature.’
To what extent is alienation a useful concept for Marxists? How far does alienation allow us to explain capitalist social relations, and what does this concept obscure?
Below are a few texts to stimulate discussion. As ever not having read the texts will not be a barrier to full participation in discussion.
This extract on ‘Estranged labour’ from the 1844 ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ is the first attempt of the Young Marx to comprehensively give an account of alienation in capitalist society:
In this section from ‘The Philosophy of Marx’ Etienne Balibar compares the concepts of the ‘idol’ and the ‘fetish’, two different approaches for the form of capitalist social relations, between a theory of ‘ideology’ and ‘alienation’ respectively.
In this interview, Dan Swain, an rs21 member and author of ‘Alienation, an Introduction to Marx’s Theory’ attempts to demonstrate the relevance of alienation as a theoretical tool for analysing neoliberal society:
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