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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S002-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

‘Alienation’ is a prominent term in twentieth-century social theory and social criticism, referring to any of various social or psychological evils which are characterized by a harmful separation, disruption or fragmentation which sunders things that properly belong together. People are alienated from one another when there is an interruption in their mutual affection or reciprocal understanding; they are alienated from political processes when they feel separated from them and powerless in relation to them. Reflection on your beliefs or values can also alienate you from them by undermining your attachment to them or your identification with them; they remain your beliefs or values faute de mieux, but are no longer yours in the way they should be. Alienation translates two distinct German terms: Entfremdung (‘estrangement’) and Entäußerung (‘externalization’). Both terms originated in the philosophy of Hegel, specifically in his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). Their influence, however, has come chiefly from their use by Karl Marx in his manuscripts of 1844 (first published in 1930). Marx’s fundamental concern was with the alienation of wage labourers from their product, the grounds of which he sought in the alienated form of their labouring activity. In both Hegel and Marx, alienation refers fundamentally to a kind of activity in which the essence of the agent is posited as something external or alien, assuming the form of hostile domination over the agent.

Citing this article:
Wood, Allen W.. Alienation, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S002-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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