Class and Alienation According to Marx

Table of Contents


Class and alienation in the common world seem to be inevitable and all human beings will never be equal in terms of economy, social, political, religion or philosophy. The social class throughout the world is evident, and the best example is the big gap between the rich and the poor. The social scene has been dented with the alienation and separation of people along economic lines to bring about groups, commonly referred to as classes. The most evident scenario is in the caste system in India where one is seen differently from others depending on where he/she is born and raised. Most of the systems of classes are mainly based on the amount of wealth one has, leading to discrimination against those who have low standards of living (Buchanan, 1982, p. 17).

This paper explains the theory of Karl Marx and gives the links between the class and alienation, which was developed during capitalism and juxtaposes the facts against the life today. It further explains the way in which the poor seen as cheap labor as well as being subjected to the inhuman and unjust treatment. It also mentions the division of labor that gives more powers to the rich to rule. It finally gives the solution that Karl Marx gave based on communism, private property ownership and better pay for wages to enable give everyone a chance to live in the society (the social man).

The theory

The theory of alienation by Karl Marx is based on how people are estranged from themselves and each other under situations of capitalism. It explains how workers use their energy and time throughout their entire lives, just to work for the capitalist (Gracia, Reichberg & Schumacher, 2003, p. 383). The theory expresses how those things that naturally occur together are separated. It is more specific about social alienation, where people are alienated in human nature. Marx points out the evils in the waged labor which is meant to alienate the workers so that they cannot be creative, self conscious, self respecting and self sustaining. As described by Marx in his theory; he asks about what is made up of alienation of labor. The first answer to this is viewing of labor as external to the worker which means that it is not natural; therefore the worker does not realize himself in his work, denies the fact he is working, and never feels motivated in performing his duties. In addition, he is dissatisfied, uneasy and unhappy and does not have any free physical, mental or psyche in the work. This makes the worker feel himself only when he is free from work, and being relieved from the hassles of work. The employee’s conclusion is that he is in forced labor and not voluntary. He does not perform as per the wish of the employer but does the work because of his own problems and inherent needs. This is the alien nature that Karl Marx explained as seen in the workplace where people tend to assume duties when harsh or strict conditions are not enforced (Schecter, 2000 p. 45). Social classes were differentiated by the economic status and the two groups involved the rich merchandisers, capitalist and blacksmiths and poor wage-workers or laborers who were being used by the capitalists in the industries.

The difference between the poor and the rich is what Marx was really trying to bring out in the theory. He puts the capitalist as those who owned the factories, industries and other means of production. The Marx theory states that labor brings marvelous and good things, beauty, it builds palaces for the, but grief, agony, hovels, crippling and privation to the laborer or the worker. It treats the workers as machines and makes their minds feeble and idiotic.

The aspect of class is more evident where workers could not control anything like the working time, the branding of the product or the bartering or selling of the product, but was just means to justify the end. Alienation according to Karl Marx was brought about by the difference in wealth and status (Buchanan, 1982, p. 34). The wealth and status described the class, where one belonged and was treated differently according to the wealth accumulated. Marx grouped the social classes in to three; they were the landowners, capitalists and the workers (wage-laborers).

The classes in the manifesto gave two great social classes where the social analysis is connected to the economic system that deprives the wage-laborers off his means to produce anything, reducing him to just a wage-earner (Churchich, 1990 p. 232). In addition, as Churchich, (1990 p.233) puts it, the capitalist system, gives a separation between the worker and property ownership, thus their labor becomes effective (Gracia, et al, 2003). This process changes the social means of subsistence and production to capital while transforming the ones producing into wage earners. The identification and conflict of classes is brought about by property relations and with difference in the labor divisions (Churchich, 1990 p. 233).

The forms of alienation described by the manuscripts are four, the first being separating the worker from the products of his labor, this is where the worker creates the product and it is taken away from him and sold, thus treating labor as a commodity. The wage-earner even never knows what has been produced and it all lies in the owners of the factory (capitalists) who sell it for profits giving peanuts as wages. The second is the alienation of labor from the process of production; this is brought by the fact that the product is already alienated from the wage-worker, so the act of producing the product will be alienation. The products and the wage earner never meet and he will be tricked in producing more if the cost of production surpasses the cost of labor.

People being alienated are the workers who work for long hours and less pay. Divorcing the wage worker and the products gives the right to the factory owner (capitalist) to sell the product. Alienation and class is seen in this case since the worker does not get to see what he/she produces but it is used by the wealthy to add more to their folds. Capitalists are always self driven and live in mansions, drive Porsche cars, have quality education, the best health care and have the best lifestyle as compared to the poor wage earner who, lives in slums, wears tatters or less expensively clothes, walks along, gets trouble with health care and gets compromised education just because of his class. The wealthy just use and need the poor to sell cheap labor, giving them more social differences. The third involves the separation of labor between being (humanity) and human potential; this is due to the fact that labor separates nature from man, separates man from himself, and from the routine function of his life (Churchich, 1990 p. 235). Man views labor as a life activity, whose only intention is to offer the satisfaction of his needs to further his existence. Marx quotes “it alienates from man his own body, external nature, his mental life and his human life”. The final break of rules is where labor separates the humans from other humans; the relationships that appear or occur due to marketing, but they are generally money oriented. This is brought about when the being is separated from the human nature. Marx clearly states that man is separated from other men; man is divorced from his species-life which meant that everyone is separated from others and that everyone is in the same way separated from human life. Labor subjects humans to dehumanizing situations under capitalism which include; detailed work, separated mental and manual labor, monotony of daily routines and less creativity and occupying their minds with procession. The common meaning of these facts put forward by Karl Marx can be seen even in recent times where there are those who own the means to production and those who are just employed to provide labor. The wealthy in society never mix with the poor in society where they even have big residences with tight security and a secretary at work to keep away the disturbing poor individuals. The gap between the rich and poor occurs to grow wider every day with the poor being denied the means to production and his labor being used as a product, which can easily and cheaply be bought and misused at any given time. The division of labor also came to strengthen the alienation and class idea. The classes are now broadly separated from each other and from the work they do and hence, whatever production they make will never be known (Gracia, et al, 2003, p.386). Given the ideas of division of labor, it links directly to the classes which will be evident as one goes up the ladder. Alienation and class in this theory are closely linked since people used in the labor market are the poor who have no means to start any production process. The wealthy establish industries and factories where the poor struggle to be employed in order to eke a living for their existence. Marx theory has given clear picture of what the future holds for each one according to class. When one is born in a low caste, then one is almost certain of what the future holds and same case applies to the rich.


The theory of Karl Marx gives every individual the light to evaluate where he/she is in within the society and gives the facts to enable eliminate the classes. He suggests the means to end the classes will be to privatize the property and move to communism where every property is controlled by the society for the benefit and development of the whole society. These classes are really discriminatory and therefore eliminating them should be the agenda of every person. The war against the end of these classes is far from over since the political class and the rich and wealthy insist on the status quo. The uniting of the workers and the awakening of their minds will certainly make the big wigs to realize the end of capitalism and the rise of a new era free from oppression, every person’s rights will be catered for and the cocoons the rich and wealthy hide in defined here as classes will be dismantled by the so called poor and low in society (Buchanan, 1982 p. 57). Once a class is created in leaves out those who can’t fit in it this definitely to alienation, which Karl Marx has clearly described in this paper, he states the various challenges in the labor sector and how capitalists take advantage to get cheap labor, separate the goods and the wage earner and make the process separate from the laborer. All forms of classes should be abolished as this will make people remove the superiority complex in them and treat other humans as equal. Everyone should have a chance to evaluate himself/herself on the basis on of this theory. The worst of this is that the ploy to separate humans has already succeeded since every person places himself in his own class (Gracia, et al, 2003 p.384). The division of labor furthers the motives by even dividing the poor into more classes; this can be seen in divide and rule situation as the supervisors see themselves as more equal than other wage-earners. With the division of labor, there have emerged more classes. What we really need is what Karl Marx calls a socialist man (Gracia, et al, 2003 p.384). Capitalism has been clearly described by Karl Marx’s statement that it “denies man a right to create a true humane society” (Churchich, 1990 p.232). Alienating the workers makes them not to be creative, self conscious and self sustaining by eliminating the control over their deeds.


Buchanan, A.E, 1982, Marx and justice: the radical critique of liberalism. NY: Rowman and Littlefield. Web.

Churchich, N., 1990. Marxism and alienation. London: Associated University Presses.

Gracia, J.J.E., Reichberg, G.M. & Schumacher, B.N., 2003. The classics of Western philosophy: a reader’s guide. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Co.

Schecter, D., 2000. Sovereign states or political communities? Civil society and contemporary politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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