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Title page            -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        i 

Declaration -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        ii                           

Certification                            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iii

Dedication      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iv

Acknowledgement                    -        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           v

Table of Contents                      -        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vi        

Abstract          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           viii


1.1 Background of Study       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           1

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem          -           -           -           -           -           -           3

1.3 Objectives of the Study    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           3

1.4 Justification of the Study  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.5 Methods of the Study       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.6 Scope of the Study           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.7 Clarification of Key Terms           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           5

1.8 Organisation of the Study -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           8


2.1Related works       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           9


3.1 Karl Marx’s Economic Philosophy          -           -           -           -           -           -           19

3.2 Labour and Wages            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           22

3.3 Marx on Alienated Labour           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           24

3.4 Marx’s Aspects of Alienation       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           26


4.1 Evaluation             -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           33

4.2 Conclusion            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           41

4.3 Recommendation              -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           42

4.4 Works Cited         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           45                                          



 Capitalism is generally conceived as an economic cum political system of government by which the means of production and distribution of goods and services is in the hands of private individual, there are scholars who, despite the merits of capitalism still argue that capitalism is not a worthy system of an economy that should be practiced. In other words, they refute and stand against the practice of capitalism as an economic system. This is predicated on their claims that capitalism leads to exploitation of the consumer, monopoly and alienation. One of such scholars who refuted capitalism as an economic system is Karl Marx. He saw capitalism as a progressive historical stage that would eventually stagnate due to internal contradiction. This work employ the method of criticism and intent analyses as it’s criticizes and evaluates Karl Marx’s notion of alienation and posits that Marx ill definition of “owner” colours his concept of alienation. This paper concluded that the originator of ideas is the owner and the labourer voluntary enters the production process at a very late stage in the life of the idea. It is not the idea from the mind of the labourer that is most often produced rather it is the product of the person(s) who invented the object.

Key Words: Capitalism, Alienation, Production, Surplus value.



1.1 Background of Study

Marx began his intellectual life as an ardent Hegelian. Between 1843 and 1848, under the influence of Feuerbach, he cleared his mind of what he later called “the old junk” and emerged together with Engels as a full-fledged materialist. Marx recognised that the concept of alienation under Smith’s capitalism reflected extremely significant aspects of social life. He also became aware that Hegel’s idealism and Feuerbach’s abstract humanism obscured the real historical conditions and social contradictions that had generated the forms of alienation. Marx did not reach his ripest conclusions on this subject all at once but only by successive approximations over decades of scientific study. Between his Hegelian starting point and his final positions there was an interim period of discovery, during which he developed his preliminary conclusions about modern Capitalism as being the root causes of alienation.

       Marx first undertook the study of political economy, which occupied the rest of his life, in 1843. He pursued this task along with a criticism of his Hegelian heritage. The first results were set down in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts he wrote primarily for his own clarification during 1844. These essays were Marx’s earliest attempt at analysing capitalism. In them for the first time he applied the dialectical method learned from Hegel to the categories of political economy.

         Whereas in his later works (the critique of political economy, capital) Marx takes the commodity as the cell of capitalism, he here puts forward alienated labour as the central concept. He even views private property as derived from the alienation of labour. It is both the product of estranged labour, he writes, and the means by which labour is estranged from it. Having established alienated labour as the basis and beginning of capitalist production, Marx then deduces the consequences. Labour becomes alienated when the producer works, not directly for himself or a collective united by common interests, but for another with interests and aims opposed to his own.

          This antagonistic relation of production injures the worker in many ways. 1. He is estranged from his own body which must be maintained as a physical subject, not because it is part of him, but so that it can function as an element of the productive process. 2. He is estranged from nature since natural objects with all their variety function, not as means for his self-satisfaction or cultural fulfilment, but merely as material means for profitable production. 3. He is estranged from his own peculiar essence as a human being because his special traits and abilities are not needed, used or developed by his economic activities which degrade him to the level of a mere physical force. 4. Finally, he is separated from his fellow human beings. “where man is opposed to himself, he also stands opposed to other men.” Consequently, the dispossessed worker benefits neither from the activity of his labour nor from its product. These do not serve as means for his enjoyment or fulfilment as an individual because both are appropriated by someone other than himself, the capitalist. “if the worker’s activity is torment to himself, it must be the enjoyment and satisfaction of another.” The object which labour creates, the labour product, becomes opposed to man as an alien essence, as a power independent of the producer. “Wage-labour, like private property, is only a necessary consequence of the alienation of labour.” Society can be emancipated from both private property and servitude only by abolishing wage-labour. Capitalism is to be condemned because it blunts sensitivity instead of sharpening it. The dealer in gems who sees only their market value, and not the beauty and unique character of minerals, “has no mineralogical sensitivity”, he writes; he is little different from an animal grubbing for food. The task of civilisation is to develop a specifically human sensitivity “for the whole wealth of human and natural essence”.

            The question, which seems to be cropping up, is whether some humans are really alienated in the real sense of the word?” this essay will elucidate the doctrine of alienation until the era of Karl Marx, much attention will be focused in the way Marx conceived alienation, its causes, types and their effects. The approach will be critical exposition of Karl Marx theory of alienation, an attempt will be made to juxtapose the arguments for and against the Marxist doctrine of alienation in a state.

1.2 Statements of the Research Problem

One of the greatest ontological evil that can happen to being in its essence, existence and expression is alienation. There have been various attempts to interpret the conditions of the human person following the basic tenets of the capitalism, over the years. The worst part, is the attempt to proffer solutions to the alienating conditions of the human persons following the pattern of Karl Marx revolution against capitalism

   The problem created by alienation are multi-furious, there is problem of man’s inhumanity to man and dehumanization as exemplified in the way the rich treat the poor in our society today. There is also the exploitation of employee by employers, the clergy men exploiting their members, they rulers exploiting the ruled etc. How do we reconcile alienation with global call for freedom and human dignity? How can man exercise himself fully in a society that is characterised with all form of alienation?

1.3   Objectives of the Study

            The main focus of this research work is to critically examine Karl Marx’s notion of alienation. This examination entails the following; A proper exposition of Karl Marx socio-economic background and climate to fully have an insight to his notion of alienation.

2. It will serve as an assessment of the much esteemed doctrine of alienation enunciated by Karl Marx.

3. To assess the theory of alienation and the application of the solution proffered with reference Karl Marx and other academic scholars, with the quest to why this solution might or might not be attainable in our society today.

4. It will serve as awareness to many human persons that there is a workable solution to             this alienating condition which characterised the capitalised society.

5. It will also create awareness that the solutions to alienation in our society can be    located in the solutions proffered by Karl Marx.

1.4 Justification of the Study

Philosophy is generally regarded as a discipline that is concerned with questions about human existence and issues pertaining to human society, Alienation as a concept has become one of the major complexities facing the human society and as such as become notably a philosophical problem. Hence, brought about the necessity of researching on Karl Marx’s notion of alienation because it provides the insight towards understanding the causes of alienation and ways it can be cop philosophically

1.5 Methods of the Study

In examining Marx’s notion of alienation, this work employs methods that are philosophical in nature. This includes the method of logical analysis and criticism.  My approach to this research work will be critical and analytical (a method where the issue at stake will be dissected and evaluated to show its good and bad qualities if there is any).

1.6 Scope of the Study

   This project shall be limited to the doctrine of alienation, its roots causes and its solutions as enunciated by Karl Marx. This is not to neglect what other theorist have said about the concept of alienation. This work will also attend to alienation in our society today and the workable solutions to these alienation or estrangement. Also, the applicability or non-applicability of the solutions proffered by Karl Marx will be appraised critically to show how workable it is in our modern society. This research will be founded on solid socio- economic backgrounds.

1.7 Clarification of Key Terms

For the purpose of this research work, salient concept will be defined to aid a better understanding of the treatment of this topic, this concept will reoccur throughout this work and this ranges from capitalism, alienation.... etc.


            The Macmillan Dictionary of Modern Economics defines capitalism as a: 

“Political, social, and economic system in which property, including capital assets, is owned and controlled for the most part by private persons.  Capitalism contrasts with an earlier economic system, feudalism, in that it is 3 characterized by the purchase of labor for money wages as opposed to the direct labor obtained through custom, duty or command in feudalism....” Under capitalism, the price mechanism is used as a signalling system which allocates resources between users.  The extent to which the price mechanism is used, the degree of competitiveness in markets, and the level of government intervention distinguish exact forms of capitalism.

To Marx, He saw capitalism “as a progressive historical stage that would eventually stagnate due to internal contradiction”. With this Marx drive home his point that capitalism is the cause of alienation, oppression and monopoly. In this way, capitalism to Karl Marx has an intrinsic feature of total alienation. Hence, the capitalist system, which many have come to realize is unsustainable and oppressive, has thus come to fulfil some of the predictions made by earlier critics from Kierkegaard, Rousseau, to Marx. Each believed that a society which is forced to accommodate an oppressive system will inherently display alienation. That is, a person will begin to feel isolated from himself, unhappy (as amply documented in the growing happiness literature), and work without enthusiasm (resulting in lower productivity).


Alienation is the process whereby people become foreign to the world they are living in. The concept of alienation is deeply embedded in all the great religions, social and political theories of the civilised epoch, namely, the idea that sometime 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 sometime in the future this alienation would be overcome and humanity would again live in harmony with itself and Nature. A dictionary definition is “withdrawing or separation of a person or his affections from an object or position of former attachment” or, in the case of property, “a conveyance of property to another.” Marx had a specific understanding of the very sharp experience of alienation which is found in modern bourgeois society. Marx developed this understanding through his critique of Hegel.

According to Hegel, through their activity, people created a culture which then confronted them as an alien force. But for Hegel human activity was itself but the expression of the Spirit (or Zeitgeist) which acted through people. In the first place, Marx insisted that it was human labour which created culture and history, not the other way around.

But secondly, practice changes the material world, practice was therefore objective; the labour process was therefore an objectification of human powers. But if the workers related to their product as an expression of their own essence and recognised themselves in their product and were recognised by others in their work, then this was not the basis for alienation; on the contrary, this was the only genuinely human relation. “Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature. ... Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.” [Comment on James Mill]

In his Manuscript, Marx shows how alienation arises from private labour, from commodity production: “Let us review the various factors as seen in our supposition: My work would be a free manifestation of life, hence an enjoyment of life. Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life. My work is not my life.” [Comment on James Mill].

 Marx went on to show that the specific form of labour characteristic of bourgeois society, wage labour, corresponds to the most profound form of alienation. Since wage workers sell their labour power to earn a living, and the capitalist owns the labour process, the product of the workers’ labour is in a very real sense alien to the worker. It is not her product but the product of the capitalist. The worker makes a rod for her own back. Once a product enters the market, no-one has any control of it, and it sets off on a course which appears to be governed by supra-human laws. “... With commodities....

 It is a definite social relation between men that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race.

 Alienation can be overcome by restoring the truly human relationship to the labour process, by people working in order to meet people's needs, working as an expression of their own human nature, not just to earn a living.

1.8 Organisation of the Study

This research work is divided into four chapters, chapter one shall lay emphasis on the background of the study, and also the explication of terms. It shall also state in clear terms the objectives of the research and the relevance of the research. Chapter two shall deal with review of related literatures on alienation, and chapter three shall focus on an examination of Karl Marx’s notion of alienation. The last chapter, chapter four shall deal with the evaluation and conclusion of this work

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