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Is Karl Marx’s Theory of the Alienation of Workers Still Valid?

In his “Economic and Philosophic Manuscript of 1844” Marx identified four types of alienation that occur to workers laboring under a capitalist system of industrial production:

  • Alienation of the worker from their product

  • Alienation of the worker from the act of production

  • Alienation of the worker from their species-essence

  • Alienation of the worker from other workers

We have come a long way since 1844 as we have transformed on how we work, the amount of time we spend at work, where we work and how we are being rewarded. Still, a lot of Marx's observations and considerations are still valid. Still, we do have a high number of people being unhappy at work – no matter of their title or earnings. Why does the number of physical and mental health problems still grow (see OECD studies)?

While Marx has focused many of his writings on the alienation of the workers, he also described the “alienation from the self”. He saw it as a “consequence of a mechanistic part of a social class, the condition of which estranges a person from their humanity.”

What if... though... not only workers are being alienated but entire societies? What if…

  • social classes are a CONSEQUENCE of self-alienation?

  • the way we innovate and bring products to market does NOT reflect our true inner values?

  • we are so consumed to engage with the OUTER world that we neglect and even deny our true feelings and needs?

  • the pursuit for wealth and power, fame and success are FALSE friends?

If we alienate ourselves from our true self, our inner core, our true nature, we do search for compensatory satisfactions. The way we treat our nature, live relationships, engage with others, view our bodies, burn-out at work are – truth to be told – a reflection of our own inner alienation and the incapacity to feel us.

Our inner alienation is the reason also for dysfunctional working environments and dysfunctional behavior at work. Entire societies and economic models are based on self-alienation and chasing for superiority, humiliation and destruction are just some of the "survival strategies".

Dr. Gabor Maté (Canada) “How Culture Makes Us Feel Lost” as well as Professor Dr. Franz Ruppert (Germany) “Who am I in a traumatized society?” have emphasized over many years the importance of broadening our view in terms of social and cultural interactions and, eventually, to focus back on the source: the human condition.

So, how do we expect to connect and grow when we lack ourselves? The good news is that we can stop our inner alienation and shift again towards ourselves. From the moment we are born, we are all wired…

  • to love, be empathetic and compassionate

  • to express our true desires

  • to find meaning in what we do

  • to interact with each other

  • to have a purpose and a place

In honoring our humanity, our true self, our true I, we will regain the sense for our own inner truth. Being ourselves will stop the need for an artificial separation between workers and leaders, will stop the desperate search for salvation in technology, stop the thinking in case systems or labels (like “work-life-balance”) and also stop the chase for exponential growth.

It is time to stop alienating ourselves on all levels – also at work.


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