First of all, the definition of alienation is an experience of isolation and misery resulting from powerlessness. According to Marx, he mentioned capitalist society is the reason why alienation exists. Capitalists are people who own and operate factories and other businesses, whereas people who sell their labor for wages are called proletarians. To Marx, a system of capitalist production would always lead to conflict between these two societies. Therefore, there is a class conflict where capitalists would be known as the “rich” while the proletarians would be recognized as the “poor”.
Karl Marx pointed out four ways in which capitalism alienates workers. The first way is alienation from the act of working. People work to develop their own potential and meet their needs. But they are deprived from any creativity or influence in the very act of working, instead the work is just tedious, repetitive and strictly controlled in the current capitalistic society, hence human beings are turned into machines. Secondly, capitalism alienates workers from the products of work. The individual workers themselves are not given any credit for the product that they helped create or work and effort that they have invested which the big companies are exchanging for their very own profit.
The next alienation is from other workers. Marx claimed, through work people are able to build bonds of community. However, industrial capitalism makes work competitive rather than cooperative. The last way in how capitalism alienates workers is from human potential. Industrial capitalism turns an activity that should express the best qualities of human beings into a dull and dehumanizing working experience, depriving them from using creativity, and forcing workers to deny their own personal goals, thus making them no longer find any joy in their work.
From Max Weber’s perspective, however, one of the reasons for alienation is the rationalization of society. He believes that it’s not the way people are producing that affects society, but their change in values and the way they look at the world. People are now more likely to think rational instead of following their tradition, so they will choose to be as productive and efficient as they can to keep the world’s demands constantly satisfied instead of following their traditions. The current work values are focused on making the most out of every worker, by keeping them as productive as possible and having them heavily disciplined and pushed to the limit of their abilities. But also stripping them of their identity, emotions and turning them into statistics on a paper, while forgetting their traditions and values they once stood for. The loss of identity and traditional values, the heavy regulations and expected discipline is what will bring a person down and closer to feeling alienated.
According to Karl Marx freedom of work and creation is essential for a person’s identity, for their well-being and for their development as a human being, but throughout the recent human history the capitalism which has slowly formed in our society has pushed big companies, firms and people of power to the top while taking away the common worker’s identity and thus compromising the very essence of man. Now all those people’s work is no longer their own, it’s no longer what they enjoy doing, but is something forced and stripped off of any creativity through which the people express themselves and which makes a person unique. And most importantly, it now belongs to their employer, brand or label they are working for, which means that without having any connection to the final product or consumer, the worker will lack any acknowledgement and in their eyes it starts making their hard work seem meaningless.
So to combat this, the solution could be to restore the common worker’s identity for the work they have done, for the product they have created or the service they helped to provide, instead of working behind the curtains while all the reputation being reaped solely by the employers. This could be done by revamping the rights a person has as an employee, giving them more freedom for self-expression, and ownership rights to the work they provide. Making workers a part of a bigger team rather than automated slaves.
To eliminate alienation between the common worker and the product itself it may be of importance for the worker to receive acknowledgment or critic by the end consumer, by society. This could for an example be done by enforcing laws that make sure that every employee is publicly credited for every contribution they have made for the company and the product provided, be it good or bad. That would give every individual worker an opportunity to show their value and to shine in the eyes of the consumer or take responsibility for their work and creativity, giving them acknowledgment in society where they can set out their own personal goals and achievements. In this day and age it would definitely be possible to create such a public database where every product could be looked up by the consumer or competing employers tracking every workers contribution to its creation down the line. For a very crude example, if a worker on a assembly line for handbags does a very good job at sewing and stitching and makes the product receive good critics because of the quality, their work could be noticed by the consumer or a third party who decides to look up the public database of the product’s contributors. Thus their efforts could lead to positive acknowledgment, reputation gain and lead them to a better job, out of poverty and giving them a reason to put in effort and develop as a person.
To eliminate alienation between colleagues, a company could be urged to encourage teamwork or be rewarded for doing so, whilst crediting the employees as a team in the final product and therefore making them bond as a team instead of seeing each other as a competitor.
Emile Durkheim on the other hand used the term anomie to express the state of people who don’t experience enough social and moral guidance in modern society and are more likely to ignore the norm and turn to crime or suicide. He believed that society shapes every person from the day they are born and that strict rules are required to guide us in our lives. In the pre-industrial societies where people lived close together, they were bonded to each other and knew what was expected and valued of them, they had a moral code they followed. But now in the modern society, they are no longer part of those close groups which had their own set of rules and strong social life bonds, but instead they live in multicultural societies which have many groups associated with them. Durkheim believed that humans need those clear set of strict rules which they can follow, but that the complexity and freedom of today’s society offers very little guidance and that the people end up feeling lost, disconnected and no longer obliged to follow some moral standards. And coupled with the anonymity that the world now provides, they are more likely to commit immoral things.
Durkheim suggests that since the capitalism drew the people into bigger, more crowded and developed cities and industry where people are now living in a mixture of many groups, they have lost their connection to values and moral standards that were the norm in small rural areas where everyone knew what was socially acceptable and expected. In modern society these people are much more found to ignore social norms because they are lacking strict rules which lead them and give them a sense of purpose, instead they now have the feeling of anonymity protecting them. Although elimination of anomie might seem like it needs a solution to be the contrary of what was suggested in the alienation, that in not the case. The suggestion to prevent anomie could be done with the very same procedure. By introducing those people closer into the society. In elimination of alienation we rely on crediting the person or worker for his efforts, expecting that good feedback and acknowledgment will make them feel closer to their work and to society, give them purpose, to make them strive for climbing higher up.
On the other hand we can use credit to solve the problem of anomie as well, by introducing bad behavior to public knowledge, essentially allowing the society to indirectly judge the individual for his immoral behavior. Unlike setting strict rules at the workplace to actively contain a workers behavior for an example, simply letting them know that their efforts as well as their downsides are being monitored to public view and possibly judged, might make them steer away from immorality and work towards being acknowledged for their good efforts and therefore allowing them to continue developing themselves in a way that will lead them to a better spot in life and give them a sense of achievement and purpose instead.
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