Theory developed in the early writings of Marx, that seeks to characterise and to explain the estrangement of humanity from its society, and its essential or potential nature. In the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (1975), Marx attributes alienation (a term that had previously been current in philosophical and theological writings, and most significantly in Hegel) to the division of labour under capitalism. For Marx, humanity is distinguished from all other animal species by its ability, not merely to transform its environment, but to transform the environment through conscious (rather than merely instinctual) activity. The resultant conscious re-engagement with an environment that is no longer merely natural, but is itself the product of the labour of previous generations of humans, gives humanity, uniquely, the ability to shape not only its environment, but also itself. Production is, in summary, a process of objectification, such that subjective human creativity is given objective form in the product. This in turn allows a new self-consciousness on the part of the subject. Alienation is the corruption of this objectivity, and the stifling of humanity’s self-understanding. The capitalist division of labour is characterised, not merely by the

specialisation of labourers in manufacturing, so that no individual works on the whole product but only upon an isolated fragment, but further by divisions between manufacture and distribution, manual and mental labour, and labourer and capitalist. These structural features lead to four manifestations of alienation (Lukes 1969). First, the worker is alienated from the product, in so far as he or she has no control over its subsequent fate. Second, the worker is alienated from the act of production, so that it ceases to have any intrinsic satisfaction. The ability to labour itself becomes no more than one more commodity, having value only in so far as it can be exchanged for any other. Third, the worker is alienated from other workers and from society as a whole. The worker is treated as an isolated individual, and is judged by his or her ability to fulfil a pre-existing function within the production process. Production therefore ceases to be a genuinely co-operative or communal process. Finally, the worker is alienated from humanity’s ‘species being’. The term ‘species being’ was developed by philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72), and is developed by Marx to refer to humanity’s potential to determine, collectively and freely, its own destiny. In sociology and social psychology, alienation has more recently

been taken to apply to the subjective experience of modern life

(particularly in the urban environment and in work). Thus, Robert Blauner (1964) identified four empirically measurable forms of experience of alienation: powerlessness (the experience of being unable to influence one’s environment), meaninglessness (from the inability to identify one’s contribution to the product), isolation (the lack of any sense of belonging to the work organisation) and selfestrangement (the lack of any psychological reward from the work). This differs from Marx’s analysis precisely in so far as Marx’s account of alienation was an analysis of the structure of capitalism and the labourer’s position within that structure, independent of any subjective perception of it. A less precisely defined use of ‘alienation’, albeit one that makes

full use of the metaphorical association of being a foreigner, outsider or stranger in one’s own land, occurs in much philosophical and cultural commentary on the condition of modern society. Alienation may readily be associated with the experience of exile as in some sense paradigmatic of the experience of the twentieth century. Thus existentialism may tempt parallels to be drawn between alienation and such ideas as anxiety and inauthenticity. Similarly, alienation may be associated with Durkheim’s concept of anomie, or with Weber’s confrontation of the modern individual with the iron cage of bureaucracy.