Karl Marx's Concept of Alienation

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Karl Marx believed that work at its best is what makes us human. “It fulfils our species essence” as it allows us to be creative and helps us flourish. But the reality in 19th century Europe was that work destroyed workers especially those who had only labour to sell. The arrangement of capitalism was that a minority would rule the world, who were the property owners. The working class on the other hand was mechanised in specialization of one task which would become monotonous and thus the poor worker would feel isolated from the world. Although this theory was put decades before, it still plays it role in today’s context wherein the rich would find comfort in vices due to pressure to remain rich.

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The academic study of popular music is been notioned with the assumption that music reflects and represents people. Under the bridge revolves around the theme of estrangement, alienation and self-deception. The song is from the album (Blood Sugar Sex). This is Antony’s personal story about the time when he lost his time doing drugs and the alienation he felt while maintaining his sobriety in the industry as well as his own band. The song starts with the line,” Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner” which indicates about his isolation and his abandoned relationships with his friends and family due to his indulgence in drugs. The music video also significantly contributes by showing all four musicians in different frames and by inducing cloudy, artificial reality graphics. The band is known for its fast groovy funk songs and by introducing this song it negates all the cruelty that is penetrated deep in the society’s system.

Marx speaks of four different kinds of alienation which are all witnessed in the music video under the bridge. Alienation from the product of ones owns labour can be witnessed by the line “ I don’t wanna feel like I did that did that” which is to say that Antony had even abandoned music for the sake of drugs and was not happy as drugs were his first priority. That was his lowest point during his recovery. His addiction had even got him kicked out of the band for a short period and he had destroyed his life by making everything, even music less important than getting a fix. The song then holds emphasis on the third theory of alienation which is alienation from oneself. We come to know of this from the entire portrayal of the video in which Anthony and other band mates are depicted in a desert while singing the unhappy lyrics. The lyrics “I gave my life away” indicates his isolation of self from the entire world by using drugs as means of escapism. It was as if there was a sense of non-human entity and his entire conflict with himself during his recovery. The entire third verse in the song unfolds about Antony’s life embedded with self- doubt and no hope for himself. This shows a link of isolation from himself as his only priority was to maximize his pleasure by escaping the reality of the world and self-deception. This is also supported by fast moving graphics which tell us that he lost all his precious time and alienation happens when Antony runs shirtless in pursuit of other materialistic pleasures which is Self-deception perhaps sustaining a meaning of self-worthy only with the help of illusions. However Under the bridge emphasises on the last theory the most which is alienation from the entire society, which is exactly the same as how people feel disconnected in today’s capitalist times. This can be observed in the start of the video itself with the lyrics “sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in the city of angels lonely as I’m together we cry”. Following lines show a direct isolation and a sense of susceptibility. The video shows Anthony in the center amidst stars and space indicating his loneliness and he craves the presence of other humans in his life when he says “take me to the place I love”. The sublimed meaning of the text is that he had lost his loved ones and was the most damaging form of alienation. The alienation of the person from Labour is depicted by Anthony’s sad expressions while recording the song and showing the monotonous routine of other peoples day to day life.

Karl Marx argues that Alienation is a product of class society in general and of capitalism in particular, and that we could end a society characterized by pervasive alienation if we radically reorganised our economic system. All in all this song is a reflection of the society and people’s miserable life in today’s world of greed and wants of materialistic goods. Music has become an identity and in responding to a song we are haphazardly drawn into emotional alliances with the performers. It is the support system that allows people to relate their internalized emotions and feelings of alienation with that of the protagonist mentioned in the song. In fact when one feels alienated the thought of other people sailing in the same boat and liking the same song provides a healing touch that is otherwise not found in an unfeeling and old environment. Once we reach the end of the song, it has a positive aspect to it. He feels that he never wants to enter the world of illusions and under the command of drugs but wants to reconcile with himself and everybody else. And it appeals to people who have become weak and are struggling and want to end their lives but the song argues that the burdened people should stop and come to realize their isolation from the world.  

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