Reflection on Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts By Karl Marx
Marx in his essay Scientific Socialism speaks of labor as alien to the laborer. He says that he labors, but does not “affirm himself in his labor.” The labor becomes separate from both him and his life. This is the central theme of the essay and also the point of his writing. While communism, the governmental system that stemmed from Marx, may not have worked out as he envisioned, his disquietude with the capitalist controllers of production were valid. The solution others proposed from his work did not work out, as in China and Russia. But given the time and place of his writing, he accurately describes an isolation that occurred amongst workers who were trading their existence for their subsistence.
The time and place that Karl Marx enters history was at a time of great change for humanity. The industrial revolution had happened and now there were factories producing cheap goods. This helped create a wealthy upper class. Those who did not see this financial upswing were the workers. They worked long hours, in poor conditions, for little compensation in order to continue to enrich the upper classes. The result was that people ended up in jobs that were more like jails. They felt trapped because they needed their wages, but they were forced to do monotonous factory work, without ever the chance of breaking out of poverty. And they did all this just so that other people could be rich.
Marx saw that this led to estrangement, since their fruits of their labor, wealth, went to someone other than themselves, the workers who had produced those fruits. It was much different than a man living on his own farm and working the same amount of hours just as hard. In this scenario, that man would at least be able to connect a tangible benefit with his work and the benefits that he and his family reaps. Marx saw labor in factories as leading to estrangement. He saw it, as “A direct of consequence of the estrangement of the humans from the product of their labor, from their life-activity, from their species-being, is the estrangement of humans from humans” (Marx, 2).
Marx believed that this sort of labor, done in this fashion, was taking the humanness out of humanity. He did not think that it could be sustained in the long-term. He saw communism, as a natural progression of the way things would be. He envisioned in the future that laborers would rise up to fight back against this dehumanization that progress had delivered them. Communism in his eyes was a natural response to capitalism. It was an inevitable step on the road to progress. While many people see Marx as “anti-capitalist” this is not true. From his writing, it is clear that he merely did not see capitalism as a sustainable system. Eventually, he thought that it must lead to communism, where the means of production is taken away from the rich and shared equally. Communism for Marx, is a reaction to capitalism. It is the restoration of the natural order that capitalism deprived people of.
Private property creates greed and has made people stupid according to Marx. He writes that “Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when we directly possess, eat, drink, wear, inhabit it” (Marx, 3). These complaints have by no means been eradicated, and exist very strongly today within our consumer culture.