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Manifesto of the Communist Party, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1034

Essay

Introduction

Erich Fromm (1955) presents an idea of the alienated worker that hinges upon the definition of mental health. Fromm goes on to state that what defines alienation in terms of a social response is “adjustment, co-operativeness, aggressiveness, tolerance, ambition, etc.” (Fromm, 1955, p. 187). Fromm goes on to state that modern man defines his importance through “selfhood” and that an alienation person works their lives with its absence; furthermore, this feeling of selfhood is most notably defined through the expectation of others. Thus, if the expectation of others is missing, then there can be no identifying connection between self and society. This sense of expectation of others can most notably be found through the workforce.

The Theory of Alienation

The theory of alienation is also found in Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, in which he describes the Industrial Revolution in terms of the individual worker. In Marx’s view, the worker went from the feudal system to the industrial system.  The worker’s relationship with their product has changed, and they became alienated from it. The defining terms for Marx can be found in the fact that the worker no longer saw the finished product of their labor, but instead piecemeal parts and trinkets of it, that had no clear definition. Thus, as the worker’s product was unfinished, the worker’s self-view changed. Alienation was found in terms of not only the work, but the social environment, and the metaphor of an unfinished product. Marx referred to this as “estranged labor,” but Fromm’s definition of alienation refers to the same phenomenon. Marx and Engels (1948) state that workers (proletariat) became commodities and modes of production themselves: “These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes5 of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market” (Marx & Engels, 1948, p. 2). Further, the authors write: “The object produced by labor, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the produce” (p. 95). Labor becomes objectified, as well as workers.  In Fromm’s essay, this is described as follows: “For Marx, alienation in the process of work, from the product of work and from circumstances, is inseparably connected with alienation from oneself, from one’s fellow man and from nature” (Fromm, 1955, p. 39)

Segregation of Labor and Worker

Reflecting on the above statement of Marx and Engels (1948), Fromm states that as workers became more segregated in their work (even in factories, work is divvied up into assembly line work spaces thereby further alienating the worker) so too did class conflict. However, the source of the class conflict, based on Fromm’s (1955) explanation is that proletariat lost their humanity, and sense of ownership, production. They no longer act as creators, only tools. As Fromm (1955, p. 39) confirms: “For Marx, alienation in the process of work, from the product of work and from circumstances, is inseparably connected with alienation from oneself, from one’s fellow man and from nature”. Fromm further states that point of work is to waylay worries about economic security. Thus, a very severe distinction can be arrived at: the contradiction of workers and the elite. The elite does not have to work as hard, and yet is free from such economic worries, while the worker must work their entire lives in order to have economic security merely at the tail end of that life. This contradiction serves to foster the distinction between the classes in my opinion. In Marx’s terminology, the worker has become the commodity in class warfare.

Freedom and Workers’ Identity

Class conflict is a perpetuating beast. It exists in a society thought to free the worker from drudgery. The Industrial Revolution resulted in capitalism, and a free market. This free market’s constructs redefined the worker: they must adhere to the assembly line environment, the wage, the union, and are confined within the thought that any other machine-based company will simply offer them the same environment. Thus, freedom in the market becomes an illusion, and this lack of choice fuels their feeling of alienation. Marx states that the worker is related to the alien object; that this product is the fruit of their labor. This is of course in relation to the blue-collar worker. Class conflict begins with this relation. While the blue-collar worker associates with this alien object, the power elite do not suffer such insecurities and definitions of selfhood. Man’s concept of himself as worker suffers from alienation, because of the way the system is set up: capitalism is designed to have a few succeed off of the work of the multitudes. The worker is a commodity, as Marx states, as they exchange their labor for hourly wages. Fromm states that there is a blurred line between economic and emotional security; then the worker must suffer not only loss of security, but loss of self in order to try and attain such security. Still, workers are dependent on the market, demands, wages, and other conditions outside of their control, therefore, they have a false sense of (relative) security.  The two philosophers’ views work in tandem when relating to alienation, class distinction and feelings of being an object, or a cog in the machine.

Conclusion

Overall, Marx and Engels’ ideology about the necessity to empower proletariat focuses on the working class’  right to their identity and humanity. The authors state that workers can unite and recreate their identity by reclaiming their rights. In their view, in the perfect form of communism, “the form of the division of labor which makes one a peasant, another a cobbler, a third a factory worker, a fourth a stock-market operator, has already been undermined by machinery and will completely disappear” (Marx & Engels, 1948, p. 51). Reflecting on the above utopistic view, Fromm (1955, p. 41) concludes: “Marx did not foresee the extent to which alienation was to become the fate of the vast majority of people”, indicating that alienation is a natural process of the society.

References

Fromm, Erich (1955) Marx’s Concept of Man. Frederick Ungar Publishing: New York., 1961. pp. 1 – 85

Marx, K. & Engels, F. (1948) Manifesto of the Communist Party. In: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, pp. 98-137;

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