Decolonize ALL The Things

The UNsettling reflections of a Decolonial Scientist in a Constant State of Rage

Labour & The Self

January 31, 2017

What is Karl Marx’s conceptualization of the self?  How is it shaped by labor processes?  According to Karl Marx, an individual’s self-identity influences their local context or is it always the converse?  Refer to at least two contexts – for example: the workplace, neighborhood, family, etc.



Karl Marx’s conceptualization of the self can be best understood through his reflections on the impact of the labor process resulting in the alienation of the species’ being.  Alienation occurs when the labour of man becomes materialized in an object as private property.  This relation between man, labour, product, and property is hence also about the relationship between men.  Objects are alienated because they are not produced for the worker.  They are made by the worker for the capitalist and in essence a part of the worker is crystalized and sold to belong to another for the purpose of generating capital.  As Robert C. Tucker elaborates, “History, particularly under modern capitalism, is seen as a story of man’s alienation in his life as producer, and communism is presented as the final transcendence of alienation via a revolution against private property” (1978:66).  This reveals that everything that we see about capitalism is very much about exchanging people.  Thus exploitation and alienation is about the commodification of life itself.  Marx’s conception of the self then is best understood within the dialectic of alienation and unalienation (Ollman 1977).  For Marx, unalienation, is a life that only exists under communism.  Alienation is, “used by Marx to refer to any state of human existence which is ‘away from’ or ‘less than’ unalienation” (Ollman 1977).  A person as well as their way of life can be alienated.  Alienation differed though for each person based on their class position, thus their relation to the means of production: the property owners and the property-less (who have nothing to sell but their labor).    Continue Reading

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