In Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, the philosopher denotes the main problems with private ownership, political economics and capitalist society. In short, those with property are the bourgeoisie, and those without property are the workers - the proletariat. Workers are frequently impoverished and alienated from their own world, most due to their inability to relate to the products that he creates. By making these products for other people, he is giving of himself to others without getting anything in return; he does not own any of the world that he gives his life to. Work is performed in order to survive, not to gain any personal fulfillment; the proletariat is at the mercy of the bourgeoisie in this way. This work also dehumanizes him and estranges him from his fellow human beings, as it is not done for him and to fulfill an essential sense of identity (Marx 652).
Marx often relates directly to Hegel, a philosopher who believes that alienation is part and parcel of the way our society works. Things like the role of church and state in our society are meant to make us feel at home in the world in which we live; through the essential nature of civil society, we are more self-conscious of our relationships to each other and to nature. However, Marx believes that these institutions are mishandled through the introduction of capitalism, as materialism takes us further away from nature and our own basic impulses (which make us human) (Marx 655).
The solution that Marx proposes is Communism; capitalism creates a hierarchy of social classes, some receiving more privileges and advantages than the other, which is not the way a just society should be run. By eliminating private ownership as a pervasive system, Marx seeks to eliminate this alienation between human beings by allowing labor to happen for its own sake, and for the fulfillment of all regardless of class stature. Self-denial is no longer necessary, and human relationships become far less antagonistic. By redirecting the labor of man away from these notions of private ownership, man works toward a collective goal that all shares equally; this goal is thought to return man to its natural, sensuous state.
Marx's philosophies are endlessly admirable; the central tenet of Communism, that of eliminating alienation and redirecting labor to a more productive and fulfilling state for all men, is something that resonates deeply with those who have been disenfranchised from the fruits of their labor. The system of private ownership is justifiably critiqued, and Marx's thoughts on materialism are appropriate in their stance on alienation. The overall goal of Marx seems to be to create a happy society - not by 'stealing from the rich' or not giving them their fair due, but by allowing all citizens to work towards communal goals and become more closely connected. Furthermore, it does not encourage sloth or laziness, as labor is thought to be central to human existence, and subsequently one of the most important things men can do. The point for Marx, it seems, is to concentrate those efforts more effectively and in a more fulfilling way. In this way, Marx provides a very cathartic and idealized philosophy that, if it were to be successful, would create a net positive outcome for a society.
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: WW Norton, 2010. Print.