The Echoes of the Mind (153-6) Alienation


Karl Marx believed that the replacement of living in Nature with living within the institutional constructs of capitalism led to alienation: a state where life is unhappily tyrannized by the forces of human invention.

In the 1887 book Community and Society German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies sensed the alienation within societies under the sway of impersonal organizations, particularly the increase in goal oriented relations at the expense of emotively-bonded relationships.

Family life is the general basis of life in the community. Both village and town retain many characteristics of the family; the village retains more, the town less. Only when the town develops into the city are these characteristics entirely lost. In the city, and therefore where general conditions characteristic of the state prevail, only the upper strata, the rich and the cultured, are really active and alive.

The state is the common people’s enemy. The state is an alien and unfriendly power; although seemingly authorized by them and embodying their own will, it is nevertheless opposed to all their needs and desires, protecting property which they do not possess, forcing them into military service for a country which offers them hearth and alter only in the form of a heated room on the upper floor, or gives them, for native soil, city streets where they may stare at the glitter and luxury in lighted windows forever beyond their reach!

City life and the state down the common people to decay and death; in vain they struggle to attain power only for a revolution if they want to free themselves from their fate. The masses become conscious of this social position through the education in schools and through newspapers. They proceed from class consciousness to class struggle. ~ Ferdinand Tönnies

German sociologist Georg Simmel highlighted how relationships in modern society were increasingly mediated by money in the 1907 book The Philosophy of Money.

The individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life. ~ Georg Simmel

In the 1951 book White Collar American sociologist Wright Mills described how modern consumption-capitalism shaped society in such a way that people had to sell their personalities as well as their skill set. This is especially true in a service-oriented economy.

In a society of employees dominated by the marketing mentality, it is inevitable that a personality market should arise. People are required by the salesman ethic and convention to pretend interest in others in order to manipulate them. Men are estranged from one another as each secretly tries to make an instrument of the other, and in time a full circle is made: one makes an instrument of himself and is estranged from it also. ~ Wright Mills