• Shatter
    11


    I've read very little anarchist literature, largely, as mentioned, because I consider it fanciful. This is not to say that I don't sympathise with the aims and principles elucidated.

    In previous posts I think I have misunderstood what we mean by alienation. Or perhaps that there is considerable ambiguity in the concept itself. If we are discussing the ignorance and distance we all have from the production of what we consume, then this seems inevitable, though with troubling consequences. As you point out, how do we know that our air and water are clean?

    Another interpretation of alienation is, again, as you say, the Marxist version. Workers are alienated from what they themselves produce. This is far more troubling. Even among the obscenely rich there are those (Soros, for example) who decry the vast, and in recent decades, widening, gulf between workers and owners wealth. However, I find the recognised alternatives, such as socialism or communism, to be worse than the problems they solve.

    This, not least, because the various factions tend to collapse into mutual antagonism. The Communist Manifesto (which isn't a manifesto at all - it's a prophecy) provides a quintessential example. The final, and by far the longest, chapter consists of an aggressive refutation of various forms of socialism.

    The French and Russian revolutions provide fair evidence of the flaws of their ideologies. In each case, temporary euphoria has rapidly given way to pragmatic concerns which proved insurmountable until the imposition of a brutal totalitarian regime.

    Thank you for the recommendations, by the way, especially LeGuin. Haven't read a good political sci-fi in some time.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.5k
    However, I find the recognised alternatives, such as socialism or communism, to be worse than the problems they solve.

    This, not least, because the various factions tend to collapse into mutual antagonism. The Communist Manifesto (which isn't a manifesto at all - it's a prophecy) provides a quintessential example.
    Shatter

    There are intermediate stops in-between where we are and a communist revolution. Like, progressive taxation. At the present time, we (the U.S.) has lapsed into a long phase of regressive taxation which is partially responsible for the chasm between the rich and everybody else. There is also progressive spending, where budgets support enduring future-oriented projects rather than short-term vanishing projects, like building highways which contribute to existing problems and will start fall apart at once (at least in cold-climate areas).

    We can not regain the post WWII boom which really did lift a lot of boats, and enabled scores of millions of people to make gains in their quality-of-life. But there are certainly things that can be done, if progressive governments can be elected.

    An historian I was reading a couple of months ago labeled Marx as a prophet, and his prophecy less revolution and more an eschatology. He was preaching salvation, a "kingdom of god" without god, of course...
  • Hanover
    3.2k
    Workers in capitalist economies are definitely alienated from production. They may be, and probably are alienated in other ways too, where alienation is a psychological phenomenon.Bitter Crank

    The problem of assembly line production is that it turns man into mindless machine and it deprives man of his most basic human elements: the ability to think, decide, judge, and care. It's dehumanizing, and as society advances, more jobs are reduced to the employee performing mindless algorithmic steps in order to assure consistency, even should it be mediocre consistency. The individual no longer confers unique quality on his product.

    This result arises from a need for more products and efficient production. Failure to adhere to these principles means perhaps more fulfilling work conditions but fewer goods and services.

    The problem here is not Marx versus capitalism. In either we should expect the same goods and services, just brought about by different means. Whether the employee works the assembly line as co-owner of The People's Communal Motorcars or as a peon Ford Motor Company grunt, in either event, the employee goes equally unfulfilled.

    My point being that I don't see communism resolving anything, unless you suggest that under communism we should just get ready to accept much less and lesser overall quality goods as each person is handed a hammer and sickle and asked to forge goods one at a time like an old world craftsman. The alienation, it seems to me arises from being relegated to being a cog, not from lacking joint ownership in the enterprise.
  • aporiap
    47

    This result arises from a need for more products and efficient production. Failure to adhere to these principles means perhaps more fulfilling work conditions but fewer goods and services.
    This conflict of efficiency vs well-being has been somewhat addressed in private industry with certain progressive companies - google, venmo, tesla- designing their employment positions to include more worker freedom and project autonomy. This could quell the well being issue without unduly hampering efficient production, it just needs to be more widespread. Or, automating the algorithmic steps and creating new jobs that require critical input. I'm not sure the latter can do the same as the former but it's a start.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.5k
    Whether the employee works the assembly line as co-owner of The People's Communal Motorcars or as a peon Ford Motor Company grunt, in either event, the employee goes equally unfulfilled.Hanover

    If the worker-owned and operated People's Communal Motorcars set up a dehumanizing assembly line on which they themselves or some other unfortunates, labored from dawn to dusk, it would be their own fault, their own most grievous fault.

    Marx was preaching salvation, aside from political economy, and what was implemented in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China was Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Company's authoritarian state capitalism, where the state is the owner operator, and as likely to behave badly as any straightforward capitalist, only more so.

    The alienation, it seems to me arises from being relegated to being a cog, not from lacking joint ownership in the enterprise.Hanover

    There are two flavors of alienation. Being a cog on the assembly line or a cog in an office or a cog any where else, is one kind of alienation. A lot of people who are cogs on a wheel actually like their jobs. They are, none the less, "alienated" from the product of their work, even though they might like their jobs. This kind of alienation may not even be perceived, and is more of a philosophical concept than a specific experience.

    Then there is another kind of alienation where one becomes a stranger in one's own land and is cut off from such comforts and joys as family, community, and faith can provide. This kind of alienation feels awful and isn't specifically related to economics.

    There are many more factors contributing to the second kind of... 'existential alienation' than there are contributing to the alienation Marx was talking about.

    More confusing and worse, one may be alienated in both senses of the word at the same time.

    Marx's comments on alienation are in some scattered locations; what he had to say about it in the philosophical manuscripts are very resonant to what a lot of people are feeling in the second sense of the word (alienation).

    But we don't have to rely on what Marx said. A lot of people have written cogently and perceptively about alienation.
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