- 1830s – Marx studies law in Berlin & Bonn, until he turns to Hegel in the late ’30s; uprisings in France, Belgium, Poland, and a workers’ movement is started in England.
- 1841 – Marx receives his Doctorate in Philosophy from the (German) University of Jena.
- 1842 – Marx begins critical work as a journalist, soon contributing to a liberal paper based in the German city of Cologne before becoming editor-in-chief.
- 1843-44 – the Prussian government closes the “dangerous” paper; Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen and the couple move to Paris – where Marx met Engles, studied French socialism, and fell in with a secret society of revolutionary workers (“The League of the Just”). Jenny Marx is born.
- 1845 – exiled by the French government, Marx moves to Brussels; Engels follows and the two collaborate on writing and revolutionary organize. Laura Marx is born.
- 1847 – Marx persuades the now international League of the Just to “go public” under the name “Communist League,” and to move headquarters to Brussels. Edgar Marx born.
- 1848 – revolutionary “percolations” in Italy, Vienna, Berlin, Paris; revolution in France and Hungary. Marx & Engels publish Manifesto of the Communist Party in London. The King of Belgium orders Marx to leave and arrests his family – they return to Paris. Marx leaves for Germany to support revolution, resuming publication of his radical newspaper.
- 1849 – though a jury finds Marx and the paper “not guilty” of insulting the authorities, he is exiled from Prussia; he returns to Paris in June, only to be deported in August. The Marxes moved to London, where Karl continued support of workers’ movements and enjoyed the birth of his fourth child, Heinrich Guido.
The Marxes suffered poverty in the 1850s, as well as the crushing deaths of their Heinrich, the infant Franziska, and Edgar. (For context, note that Charles Dickens’ depiction in A Christmas Carol of the harsh effects of industrialization for working families in London was published in late 1843, just before our text was published.) Marx contributed regularly to the New York Daily Tribune, for which he served as a kind of European correspondent and commentator, but also contributed pieces about the Civil War in the United States. Still, during this lean period he remained financially dependent on Engels.
In the years that followed, London remained Marx’s “home base.” He continued to write, lecture, and even took up chemistry – but also to organize and agitate. He became a major intellectual force in the International Workingmen’s Association in the 1860s; and in 1871, IWA-inspired Parisian citizenry seized and held control of the city for two months, until violently suppressed.
Karl was buried with his then-recently deceased wife, Jenny, on March 17, 1883 in London’s Highgate Cemetery.
We have started out from the premises of political economy. We have accepted its language and its laws. We presupposed private property; the separation of labor, capital, and land, and likewise of wages, profit, and capital; the division of labor; competition; the conception of exchange value, etc. From political economy itself, using its own words, we have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity, and moreover the most wretched commodity of all; that the misery of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and volume of his production; that the necessary consequence of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands and hence the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form; and that, finally, the distinction between capitalist and landlord, between agricultural worker and industrial worker, disappears and the whole of society must split into the two classes of property owners and propertyless workers.
We now have to grasp the essential connection between private property, greed, the separation of labor, capital and landed property, exchange and competition, value and the devaluation [German: Entwertung] of man, monopoly, and competition, etc. — the connection between this entire system of estrangement [German: Entfremdung] and the money system.
We now have to grasp the essential connection between … this entire system of estrangement and the money system.
Here Marx starts to characterize the link between “the whole system of estrangement” and “the money system.”
Marx identifies a first form of alienation under capitalism:
1. alienation from the product of labor.
Marx adds a second form to his sketch:
2. alienation from oneself.
All these consequences are contained in this characteristic, that the worker is related to the product of labor as to an alien object. For it is clear that, according to this premise, the more the worker exerts himself in his work, the more powerful the alien, objective world becomes which he brings into being over against himself, the poorer he and his inner world become, and the less they belong to him. It is the same in religion. The more man puts into God, the less he retains within himself. The worker places his life in the object; but now it no longer belongs to him, but to the object. The greater his activity, therefore, the fewer objects the worker possesses. What the product of his labor is, he is not. Therefore, the greater this product, the less is he himself. The externalization [German: Entausserung] of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently of him and alien to him, and beings to confront him as an autonomous power; that the life which he has bestowed on the object confronts him as hostile and alien.
Let us now take a closer look at objectification, at the production of the worker, and the estrangement, the loss of the object, of his product, that this entails.
The workers can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous external world. It is the material in which his labor realizes itself, in which it is active and from which, and by means of which, it produces.
But just as nature provides labor with the means of life, in the sense [that] labor cannot live without objects on which to exercise itself, so also it provides the means of life in the narrower sense, namely the means of physical subsistence of the worker.
The more the worker appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, through his labor, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in two respects: firstly, the sensuous external world becomes less and less an object belonging to his labor, a means of life of his labor; and, secondly, it becomes less and less a means of life in the immediate sense, a means for the physical subsistence of the worker.
In these two respects, then, the worker becomes a slave of his object; firstly, in that he receives an object of labor, i.e., he receives work, and, secondly, in that he receives means of subsistence. Firstly, then, so that he can exists as a worker, and secondly as a physical subject. The culmination of this slavery is that it is only as a worker that he can maintain himself as a physical subject and only as a physical subject that he is a worker.
(The estrangement of the worker in his object is expressed according to the laws of political economy in the following way:
the more the worker produces, the less he has to consume;
the more value he creates, the more worthless he becomes;
the more his product is shaped, the more misshapen the worker;
the more civilized his object, the more barbarous the worker;
the more powerful the work, the more powerless the worker;
the more intelligent the work, the duller the worker and the
more he becomes a slave of nature.)
Political economy conceals the estrangement in the nature of labor by ignoring the direct relationship between the worker (labor) and production. It is true that labor produces marvels for the rich, but it produces privation for the worker. It produces palaces, but hovels for the worker. It produces beauty, but deformity for the worker. It replaces labor by machines, but it casts some of the workers back into barbarous forms of labor and turns others into machines. It produces intelligence, but it produces idiocy and cretinism for the worker.
The direct relationship of labor to its products is the relationship of the worker to the objects of his production. The relationship of the rich man to the objects of production and to production itself is only a consequence of this first relationship, and confirms it. Later, we shall consider this second aspect. Therefore, when we ask what is the essential relationship of labor, we are asking about the relationship of the worker to production.
Up to now, we have considered the estrangement, the alienation of the worker, only from one aspect — i.e., his relationship to the products of his labor. But estrangement manifests itself not only in the result, but also in the act of production, within the activity of production itself. How could the product of the worker’s activity confront him as something alien if it were not for the fact that in the act of production he was estranging himself from himself? After all, the product is simply the résumé of the activity, of the production. So if the product of labor is alienation, production itself must be active alienation, the alienation of activity, the activity of alienation. The estrangement of the object of labor merely summarizes the estrangement, the alienation in the activity of labor itself.
The estrangement of the object of labor merely summarizes… the alienation in the activity of labor itself.
What constitutes the alienation of labor?
Firstly, the fact that labor is external to the worker — i.e., does not belong to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind. Hence, the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working. His labor is, therefore, not voluntary but forced, it is forced labor. It is, therefore, not the satisfaction of a need but a mere means to satisfy needs outside itself. Its alien character is clearly demonstrated by the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, it is shunned like the plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of self-sacrifice, of mortification. Finally, the external character of labor for the worker is demonstrated by the fact that it belongs not to him but to another, and that in it he belongs not to himself but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, the human brain, and the human heart, detaches itself from the individual and reappears as the alien activity of a god or of a devil, so the activity of the worker is not his own spontaneous activity. It belongs to another, it is a loss of his self.
Marx begins to work a third form into his analysis:
3. alienation from our special human – creative, productive, social – characteristics.
It is true that eating, drinking, and procreating, etc., are also genuine human functions. However, when abstracted from other aspects of human activity, and turned into final and exclusive ends, they are animal.
We have considered the act of estrangement of practical human activity, of labor, from two aspects: (1) the relationship of the worker to the product of labor as an alien object that has power over him. The relationship is, at the same time, the relationship to the sensuous external world, to natural objects, as an alien world confronting him, in hostile opposition. (2) The relationship of labor to the act of production within labor. This relationship is the relationship of the worker to his own activity as something which is alien and does not belong to him, activity as passivity [Leiden], power as impotence, procreation as emasculation, the worker’s own physical and mental energy, his personal life — for what is life but activity? — as an activity directed against himself, which is independent of him and does not belong to him. Self-estrangement, as compared with the estrangement of the object [German: Sache] mentioned above.
We now have to derive a third feature of estranged labor from the two we have already examined.
An intimate connection to nature.
Estranged labor not only (1) estranges nature from man and (2) estranges man from himself, from his own function, from his vital activity; because of this, it also estranges man from his species. It turns his species-life into a means for his individual life. Firstly, it estranges species-life and individual life, and, secondly, it turns the latter, in its abstract form, into the purpose of the former, also in its abstract and estranged form.
For in the first place labor, life activity, productive life itself, appears to man only as a means for the satisfaction of a need, the need to preserve physical existence. But productive life is species-life. It is life-producing life. The whole character of a species, its species-character, resides in the nature of its life activity, and free conscious activity constitutes the species-character of man. Life appears only as a means of life.
The human species is unique in being self-conscious: A human’s “own life is an object for him”…
… and in producing creatively, and with an eye to beauty.
[M]an … also produces in accordance with the laws of beauty.
It is, therefore, in his fashioning of the objective that man really proves himself to be a species-being. Such production is his active species-life. Through it, nature appears as his work and his reality. The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of the species-life of man: for man produces himself not only intellectually, in his consciousness, but actively and actually, and he can therefore contemplate himself in a world he himself has created. In tearing away the object of his production from man, estranged labor therefore tears away from him his species-life, his true species-objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him.
In the same way as estranged labor reduces spontaneous and free activity to a means, it makes man’s species-life a means of his physical existence.
Consciousness, which man has from his species, is transformed through estrangement so that species-life becomes a means for him.
(3) Estranged labor, therefore, turns man’s species-being — both nature and his intellectual species-power — into a being alien to him and a means of his individual existence. It estranges man from his own body, from nature as it exists outside him, from his spiritual essence [Wesen], his human existence.
Marx concludes his account of alienation under capitalism:
4. alienation from each other.
In general, the proposition that man is estranged from his species-being means that each man is estranged from the others and that all are estranged from man’s essence.
Man’s estrangement, like all relationships of man to himself, is realized and expressed only in man’s relationship to other men.
[E]strangement… is realized and expressed… in man’s relationship to other men.
In the relationship of estranged labor, each man therefore regards the other in accordance with the standard and the situation in which he as a worker finds himself.
We started out from an economic fact, the estrangement of the worker and of his production. We gave this fact conceptual form: estranged, alienated labor. We have analyzed this concept, and in so doing merely analyzed an economic fact.
Let us now go on to see how the concept of estranged, alienated labor must express and present itself in reality.
If the product of labor is alien to me, and confronts me as an alien power, to whom does it then belong?
To a being other than me.
Who is this being?
The gods? It is true that in early times most production — e.g., temple building, etc., in Egypt, India, and Mexico — was in the service of the gods, just as the product belonged to the gods. But the gods alone were never the masters of labor. The same is true of nature. And what a paradox it would be if the more man subjugates nature through his labor and the more divine miracles are made superfluous by the miracles of industry, the more he is forced to forgo the joy or production and the enjoyment of the product out of deference to these powers.
The alien being to whom labor and the product of labor belong, in whose service labor is performed, and for whose enjoyment the product of labor is created, can be none other than man himself.
From alienated labor Marx derives private control rather than the other way round!
Consider the above proposition that the relationship of man to himself becomes objective and real for him only through his relationship to other men. If, therefore, he regards the product of his labor, his objectified labor, as an alien, hostile, and powerful object which is independent of him, then his relationship to that object is such that another man — alien, hostile, powerful, and independent of him — is its master. If he relates to his own activity as unfree activity, then he relates to it as activity in the service, under the rule, coercion, and yoke of another man.
Every self-estrangement of man from himself and nature is manifested in the relationship he sets up between other men and himself and nature. Thus, religious self-estrangement is necessarily manifested in the relationship between layman and priest, or, since we are dealing here with the spiritual world, between layman and mediator, etc. In the practical, real world, self-estrangement can manifest itself only in the practical, real relationship to other men. The medium through which estrangement progresses is itself a practical one. So through estranged labor man not only produces his relationship to the object and to the act of production as to alien and hostile powers; he also produces the relationship in which other men stand to his production and product, and the relationship in which he stands to these other men. Just as he creates his own production as a loss of reality, a punishment, and his own product as a loss, a product which does not belong to him, so he creates the domination of the non-producer over production and its product. Just as he estranges from himself his own activity, so he confers upon the stranger and activity which does not belong to him.
[T]hrough estranged labor man… creates the domination of the non-producer over production and its product… [by] the capitalist — or whatever other word one chooses for the master of labor.
Up to now, we have considered the relationship only from the side of the worker. Later on, we shall consider it from the side of the non-worker.
Thus, through estranged, alienated labor, the worker creates the relationship of another man, who is alien to labor and stands outside it, to that labor. The relation of the worker to labor creates the relation of the capitalist — or whatever other word one chooses for the master of labor — to that labor. Private property is therefore the product, result, and necessary consequence of alienated labor, of the external relation of the worker to nature and to himself.
Marx turns the economists’ analysis on its head.
It is true that we took the concept of alienated labor (alienated life) from political economy as a result of the movement of private property. But it is clear from an analysis of this concept that, although private property appears as the basis and cause of alienated labor, it is in fact its consequence, just as the gods were originally not the cause but the effect of the confusion in men’s minds. Later, however, this relationship becomes reciprocal.
[A]lthough private property appears as the basis and cause of alienated labor, it is in fact its consequence.
It is only when the development of private property reaches its ultimate point of culmination that this, its secret, re-emerges; namely, that is (a) the product of alienated labor, and (b) the means through which labor is alienated, the realization of this alienation.
This development throws light upon a number of hitherto unresolved controversies.
(1) Political economy starts out from labor as the real soul of production and yet gives nothing to labor and everything to private property. Proudhon has dealt with this contradiction by deciding for labor and against private property [see his 1840 pamphlet, Qu’est-ce que la propriete?]. But we have seen that this apparent contradiction is the contradiction of estranged labor with itself and that political economy has merely formulated laws of estranged labor.
There is a note here in the first English translation of text (1959, Progress Publishers, Moscow): “This passage shows that Marx here uses the category of wages in a broad sense, as an expression of antagonistic relations between the classes of capitalists and of wage-workers. Under “the wages” he understands “the wage-labour,” the capitalist system as such. This idea was apparently elaborated in detail in that part of the manuscript which is now extant.”
An enforced rise in wages (disregarding all other difficulties, including the fact that such an anomalous situation could only be prolonged by force) would therefore be nothing more than better pay for slaves and would not mean an increase in human significance or dignity for either the worker or the labor.
Even the equality of wages, which Proudhon demands, would merely transform the relation of the present-day worker to his work into the relation of all men to work. Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist.
Wages are an immediate consequence of estranged labor, and estranged labor is the immediate cause of private property. If the one falls, then the other must fall too.
(2) It further follows from the relation of estranged labor to private property that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers. This is not because it is only a question of their emancipation, but because in their emancipation is contained universal human emancipation. The reason for this universality is that the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are nothing but modifications and consequences of this relation.
Just as we have arrived at the concept of private property through an analysis of the concept of estranged, alienated labor, so with the help of these two factors it is possible to evolve all economic categories, and in each of these categories — e.g., trade, competition, capital, money — we shall identify only a particular and developed expression of these basic constituents.
But, before we go on to consider this configuration, let us try to solve two further problems.
(1) We have to determine the general nature of private property, as it has arisen out of estranged labor, in its relation to truly human and social property.
(2) We have taken the estrangement of labor, its alienation, as a fact and we have analyzed that fact. How, we now ask, does man come to alienate his labor, to estrange it? How is this estrangement founded in the nature of human development? We have already gone a long way towards solving this problem by transforming the question of the origin of private property into the question of the relationship of alienated labor to the course of human development. For, in speaking of private property, one imagines that one is dealing with something external to man. In speaking of labor, one is dealing immediately with man himself. This new way of formulating the problem already contains its solution.
As to (1): The general nature of private property and its relationship to truly human property.
The Progress Publishers note here: “This apparently refers to the conversion of individuals into members of civil society which is considered as the sphere of property, of material relations that determine all other relations. In this case Marx refers to the material relations of society based on private property and the antagonism of different classes.”
We have considered the one aspect, alienated labor in relation to the worker himself — i.e., the relation of alienated labor to itself. And as product, as necessary consequence of this relationship, we have found the property relation of the non-worker to the worker and to labor. Private property as the material, summarized expression of alienated labor embraces both relations — the relation of the worker to labor and to the product of his labor and the non-workers, and the relation of the non-worker to the worker and to the product of his labor.
We have already seen that, in relation to the worker who appropriates nature through his labor, appropriation appears as estrangement, self-activity as activity for another and of another, vitality as a sacrifice of life, production of an object as loss of that object to an alien power, to an alien man. Let us now consider the relation between this man, who is alien to labor and to the worker, and the worker, labor, and the object of labor.
The first thing to point out is that everything which appears for the worker as an activity of alienation, of estrangement, appears for the non-worker as a situation of alienation, of estrangement.
Secondly, the real, practical attitude of the worker in production and to the product (as a state of mind) appears for the non-worker who confronts him as a theoretical attitude.
Thirdly, the non-worker does everything against the worker which the worker does against himself, but he does not do against himself what he does against the worker.
Let us take a closer look at these three relationships.