Karl Marx's Theory of Alienation and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

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Alienation in Marx's early writings

A recurring theme in Marx's early writings, alienation is described as being deeply ingrained in organized religion as well as a sociological, political, and economic premise of the time. The expression actually refers to the division of things that belong together in the natural world. This intricate concept involves a conflict between the fundamental nature of man, such as his inborn need to create and advance himself, and the societal, economic, and religious realities of the nineteenth century. Capitalism, on the other hand, is a framework that continually promises individuals happy and self-fulfilled livelihoods. This, however, in reality, is far from reality. Instead of realizing self-awareness and leading purposeful lives, numerous individuals encounters some form of alienation and those that do not are probably involved in some type of self-deception, maybe upholding a sense of meaning and self-respect only with the aid of illusions about their situations.

The impact of capitalism on alienation

Marx asserts that alienation is a byproduct of the class generally and capitalism in particular and those humans can eliminate a society illustrated by all-encompassing alienation if they did a reorganization of the economic framework. Marx created his theory of alienation to show the human acts that are responsible for the impersonal powers in the domineering society. He revealed how, that even though elements of the society, people exist in seem to be natural and in reliant on them; they are the byproducts of the previous human activities. Marx revealed that I addition to the man acts in the past that established the current world, human exercises might also shape a future world which does not have the incongruities of capitalism (Cox 43). He established a materialist hypothesis of ways in which people are impacted by the society they exist in, and also how they can conduct themselves to transform that society, ways in which individuals are world focused and world generating. According to him, alienation was not engraved in the mind or religion, like his precursors Hegel and Feuerbach believed; rather it was entrenched in the material world (Mészáros 17). Alienation implied the loss of control, particular that of labor. To comprehend the importance of labor is a look at ideals of human nature.

Marx's rejection of fixed human nature

Marx rejected the concept that human beings have a fixated nature which is present autonomously of the world they are in. He showed that numerous features associated with the static human nature differ greatly in diverse societies. Nonetheless, Marx never rejected the concept of human nature; instead, he asserted that the necessity of labor on nature to fulfill basic needs was the only constant facet of all human world (Mészáros 18). Man like other creatures, ought to work to survive. The labor of human beings, nevertheless, was differentiated from the ones of other creatures since humans have perception.

The transformative power of labor

Function on nature changes the natural ecosystem as well as the worker. Marx constantly reiterated this concept like when he said that by working on the outer world and altering it, human at the same period alters his own nature. He established his sleeping powers and forces them to be in compliance to his influence (Mészáros 21). Therefore labor is a vibrant procedure by which a laborer influences and molds the society he is in and motivates himself to establish and make innovations. Marx encouraged human capability for cognizant labor, their species being.

Alienation in the context of labor

Marx’s comprehensive conversation of alienation centers on alienated labor. He calls it this way since he perceives alienation at work as the main type of alienation. This is due to the notion that the necessity to participate in free, imaginative labor is the main faction of human nature. It is clearly since capitalism thoroughly aggravates that necessity, that it is an alienating structure. Among Marx’s key claims is that for a majority of the people at all times, work is a stressful, horrible encounter. That is a thing that many human beings would agree. In fact in real life, there are many songs that talks of the coming weekend and people can wait for the weekend to come. On Monday, workers are very hesitant to go back to work. As Marx wrote in the 1840s, he thought of the predictable cruelty of factory work. However, what he composed on blue-collar work in the middle of the 19th century is still same for the white-collar job in the start of 21st century. To many people, work is an inevitable requirement.

Redefining work in a capitalist society

Marx’s argument was that work does not have to be boring and unpleasant, but rather, could be evocative and artistic. If the humans could learn to enjoy their work, then they would lead satisfying lives. The issue is that in capitalism, work does not have these attributes for numerous individuals. Marx put emphasis on four elements of alienation capitalism takes a lot from the laborers. Firstly, is the economic framework, this system draws attention to the division of labor, splitting manufacturing into smaller sequences, more focused duties, each carried out by different people since it enhances productivity(Cox 50). As such, the individual workers are estimated by a one-sided utility and directed to it for life thus stripping them of the well-rounded assortment of powers and acts that they require to be ideal humans. A laborer produces an object, and the capitalist disposes it. A worker, for example, produces farm for the market whereas they are malnourished themselves. In the older societies, those who worked hard had more to eat but in capitalist system those working hard increase the influence of antagonistic system.

The loss of control over the labor process

The second element is the labor process. This is the absence of control over the production procedure. The laborer cannot prevail over opinions on neither how they work nor the conditions. This impacts them emotionally and physically. The absence of control often bores negative results with workers seeing the activity as passivity, authority as ineffectiveness, reproduction as emasculation (Cox 51). Factory work is very stressful and eats away individual. Working long ways is even worse. The constant repetitive work destroys one's skills. The breakdown of a task has given managers more monopoly and authority over the production process condition of work to the duration is already decided on. Laborers are taken as machines with the objective of altering the prejudiced facet of labor into objective, assessable, restricted processes (Ollman 15). This is some of the reasons why workers do not derive pleasure from work.

Social separation in capitalist society

A third element is species-beings. People are separated from one another. This comes up due to the hostility that emerges from the class categorization present in the society. Laborer is alienated from those capitalists who exploit them. Additionally, although humans are connected through purchases and sales of commodities they generate, however, the people never meet, it is only through the commodities. Marx explained ways in which mass production constantly hope to generate new necessities not to establish human power but rather profit exploitation (Ollman 14). Everyone tries to create more power with the intent of realizing gratification for their selfish needs. He put himself above other's needs and satisfies his appetites through exploiting laborers. These capitalist perceive fellow humans through the eyes of profits only. Their skills and necessities are turned into channels of bringing in profits.

Loss of control over human nature

According to Marx, the fourth aspect is the alienation for species being. Human's strong point is the capability to influence the world around them. Ina capitalist system, nonetheless, human labor is forced and pressurized. Work has no correlation to individual preferences. The division of work hugely enhanced human's capacity to generate, however those who create assets never enjoy it. Humans are social creatures with the capability to conduct themselves cooperatively to advance their interests. Nonetheless, with capitalism, that capability is immersed into private ownership as well as the class clusters it generates (Mészáros 20). Humans have the talent to plan their production to complement what they produce with the requirements of the society. However, with a capitalist system, that capability is altered by the radical quest for profits.

The consequences of capitalism

Human's ability to control nature is then taken away as the consequences of their acts might harm the environment. For instance, some processes might emit poisonous gasses that harm the environment. In the same way, when a capitalist enhances production in his company, he is lowering the profits for his class. A factory can profit a commodity only to know that a different factory has already produced the same and is in the market (Ollman 22). Therefore it causes saturation in the marketplace. This implies there is high unwanted production. The older societies had shortages due to natural calamities; however, in a capitalist system, recession implies that laborer's use less since they produce a lot. They use less not due to inadequate labor but rather because of its overproduction. The crises humans face are manmade as it is due to social organization.

Comparing Marx and Smith's economic perspectives

Looking into Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the same issue of the economy is discussed. Unlike Marx, Smith recommended that free marketplace in which the producers have liberty to produce any quantity they like and charge clients the prices they desire, would bring about proficient and outstanding economic result for both producers and customers because of the invisible hand (Smith 38). The explanation for his suggestion was that every person would attempt to capitalize on his own profit. In this regards, clients can only pay more or less than they would value the profit gotten from a commodity, and producer could only sell for a certain amount or higher than the expenses of production. In his impractical economy, there would be no excess or shortage of supply or demand (Smith 45). The marketplace would be in equilibrium and the profits for clients and manufacturers could be capitalized on. The government only has little say in this kind of fiscal system.

Differences in ideology and solutions

Whereas Smith argued that the perfect economic system is capitalism, Marx does not think so. Smith also rejected the concept of revolution to re-establish justice for the masses since he loved order and steadiness over liberation from subjugation. Marx stuck to the concept that capitalism causes self-indulgence and discrimination. Intrinsic to the facet of competition is greediness as suggested Karl Marx, which could result in volatility and unfairness in a world. Communism provided the ideal model- political and economic- with its collective possession, production and major planning aspects meant to allocate wealth equally and eradicate the dissimilarities between capitalist and workers altogether (Ollman 25) Smith never placed so much emphasis on land ownership or wealth of the upper class like Marx. He explained ways in which an individual can obtain economic benefits corresponding to his effort and therefore contribute to an economy's cumulative wealth. He thought that in a free market economy, a person can earn and use their money openly, additionally; they can act as a client. When a laborer purchases commodities, it would result in profits for a different economic agent- producer or consumer of economic commodities and thus enhances economic activity. Smith believed that the benefits to a personal economic agent could be of use to other people in the community via a "trickle effect" as the original laborer could use money which then is earned by a manufacturer of commodities (Smith 40). This would permit the next economic agent to earn and use money, and the cycle goes on, which could aid the economy several times more than what was in the first place.


Whereas Marx and Smith agreed on some key concepts, they had different opinions on the production of commodities together with the allocation of resources. Marx proposes rebellion of workers against capitalists for an equitable world; Smith, on the other hand, liked stability and harmony over revolt. Whereas Smith foresees an ideal society that could not allocate resources equally or remove the subjugate class structure, Marx's perfect economy could produce and allocate resources according to the needs of the people. Marx wanted the removal of class distinctions and proper valuation of laborer's effort, which is absent in the capitalist world. All in all, both economists' intent was to improve the economy and better the lives of the people.

Works Cited

Cox, Judy. "An introduction to Marx's theory of alienation." International Socialism (1998): 41-62.

Mészáros, István. Marx's theory of alienation. Aakar Books, 2006.

Ollman, Bertell. Alienation: Marx's conception of man in a capitalist society. Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Vol. 2. Рипол Классик, 1817.

June 12, 2023
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