The main differences between the theory of alienationandthe theory of exploitation

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Nov 21 10:43:48 MST 2000

>>> lnp3 at 11/21/00 12:01PM >>>
>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


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.


CB: I agree with Lou's response. I would add that along with the technical definition
that Lou gives for exploitation under capitalism, Marxism also, considers that
feudalist and slave based modes of production, as well as other forms in other areas
of the world had exploitative relations of production , though different than those of
capitalism. In other words, private property relations mean that there is an
exploiting ruling class that lives off of surpluses produced by an exploited oppressed
class. The surpluses are extracted by different methods in capitalism, feudalism and
slavery. There have been different forms of private property. The initial Marxist
analysis of the origin of class exploitative society in general is in Engels' _The
Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State_.  The original human societies
were not class exploitative, by most anthropological hypotheses. Class exploitative
society begins about 6 or 7,000 years ago with "civilization". The prev!
ious 50 to 200,000 years of human society were not class exploitative societies.

In this regard, Marxism sees the socialist revolution as an end not only to
capitalism, but to the longer history of all class exploitative societies. Communism
is a return to "primitive" communism with a higher level of technique.

The Marxist concept of alienation is complicated. Marx discusses it at length in _The
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844_.  Perhaps a way to get to it is to think
of "alienation" as "separation".   Here it connects to exploitation, in the sense that
for a worker in capitalism, the surplus value that is separated from the worker whose
work is the source of that value, is not only exploited from that worker, but that
surplus value goes on to become capital. And capital , as it grows and becomes more
and more powerful, comes to dominate that worker and the mass of workers who produce
it. So, alienation is the workers' own labor and their labor's products "twisted" and
 used to oppress them and keep them under control. However, Marx traces a number of
other senses in which workers become alienated by their circumstance in capitalism,
such that they are separated - alienated from themselves, from each other, and other
ways, but all rooted in the alienation from the fruit!
s of their labor. It becomes a basis for explaining the widespread loneliness and
alienation many people in capitalist society, chronicled in much literature and other
sensitive expressions.

B. Ollman has a book _Alienation_.

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