The main differences between the theory of alienation and the theory of exploitation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Nov 21 10:02:57 MST 2000

>I am a University student studying Marx's at the moment. I was
>just wondering if anyone had any thought's on the differences
>between the theory of alienation and the theory of exploitation. I
>have an assignment to do on it and the more views i get on it the
>R. B

Generally speaking, Marx wrote about "alienation" in his earlier works. It
was a category that owed much to the post-Hegelian philosophical milieu
which was attempting to understand the failure of bourgeois society to live
up to the expectations of the Englightenment. The difference between Marx
and the other thinkers in this tradition (Feuerbach, Bauer, etc.) is that
his analysis was grounded much more in the socio-economic relationships
than in abstractions such as "freedom" or "transcendence".

When he began his study of the origins of capitalist society in
earnest--particularly in the Grundrisse--those relationships moved to the
foreground. His writings from this point became less philosophical and more
based on history and economics. Probably the best introduction to these
questions is found in Ralph Miliband's "Marxism and Politics" which is
unfortunately out of print but worth tracking down in a library. You should
also track down Tom Bottomore's "Dictionary of Marxist Thought" which is in
print and has entries on alienation and exploitation that you should find

Exploitation, in strict Marxist terms, by the way refers to the
appropriation of surplus value through the wage relationship. For an
excellent bibliographical guide to this term and other Marxist terminology,
go to: You might
also want to check: which is an
online guide to Marxist and non-Marxist economics.

Louis Proyect
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