Tuesday, February 5, 2013

NGUYỄN THIÊN THỤ * ALIENATION

 ALIENATION
by NGUYỄN THIÊN THỤ

I. DEFINITION
 
The word comes from Latin, to "alienate" means "to be made into a stranger."To alienate also means cause (someone) to feel isolated or estranged, cause (someone) to become unsympathetic or hostile: "the association alienated its members".
Merriam-webster dictionary defines "alienate " is to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent especially where attachment formerly existed, or
to convey or transfer (as property or a right) usually by a specific act rather than the due course of law;or to cause to be withdrawn or diverted.
Dictionary Reference defines "alienate" as to make indifferent or hostile: (He has alienated his entire family); to turn away; transfer or divert ( to alienate funds from their intended purpose); or to transfer or convey, as title, property, or other right, to another: to alienate lands. 
Thus, alienation is the act of alienating; the state of being alienated; the state of being withdrawn or isolated from the objective world, as through indifference or disaffection. 
In Statistics, alienation is the lack of correlation in the variation of two measurable variates over a population. In Law, alienation is a transfer of the title to property by one person to another; conveyance.
"Alienation", the medical term for splitting apart of the faculties of the mind
Social alienation, the individual subject's estrangement from its community, society, or world.
The sociologist Seeman analyzed alienation into six aspects that still have meaning:
1.  Powerlessness:  "Nothing I do makes a difference."  "You can't fight city hall."
2.  Normlessness:  "Being 'good' just won't cut it anymore."  "Nice guys finish last."
3.  Meaninglessness:  "I can't make sense of it all anymore."  "What's it all about?"
4.  Cultural estrangement:  "My culture's values aren't mine."  "What is 'success,' anyway?"
5.  Self-estrangement:  "My work doesn't mean much to me."  "What I learn in school isn't relevant."
6.  Social isolation:  "I'm alone."  "I don't fit in."  "No one visits me anymore."
Who hasn't felt at least one of these?  Or know others who feel them?  Some psychologists and sociologists have suggested that alienation is a sign of our times.[1]
 
The term "alienation" reminds us the relationship between individual and  society.  Alienation is the state of person referred to being deprived of his/ her society, or his/ her birthright, and he /she  feels like a fish out of water.


 II. MARX'S  THEORY OF ALIENATION

Alienation is a popular phenomena in our life and in our society. But Marx also carried  a theory of alienation that is a part of his philosophy in order to criticize bourgeoisie and religion like in Communist Manifesto:"In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation" (Communist Manifesto)

1. CAPITALISM' S ALIANATION
  Firstly, Marx criticizes capitalism. Marx's theory of alienation is articulated most clearly in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844) and The German Ideology (1846). Marx's concepts of alienation have been classed into four types by Kostas Axelos: Economic and Social Alienation, Political Alienation, Human Alienation, and Ideological Alienation (Axelos, 1976).
 In the concept's most prominent use, it refers to the economic and social alienation aspect in which workers are disconnected from what they produce and why they produce. Marx believed that alienation is a systematic result of capitalism. Essentially, there is an “exploitation of men by men” where the division of labor creates an economic hierarchy (Axelos, 1976: 58). 

Marx wrote: "The object produced by labor, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer. . . . The more the worker expends himself in work the more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his inner life, and the less he belongs to himself" (1964b, p. 122). 

His theory of alienation was based upon his observation that in emerging industrial production under capitalism, workers inevitably lose control of their lives and selves by not having any control of their work..


"This is the relationship of the worker to his own activity as something alien, not belonging to him, activity as suffering (passivity), strength as powerlessness, creation as emasculation, the personal physical and mental energy of the worker, his personal life. . . . as an activity which is directed against himself, independent of him and not belonging to him" (1964b, p. 125).
"What is true of man's relationship to his work, to the product of his work and to himself, is also true of his relationship to other men. . . . Each man is alienated from others . . .each of the others is likewise alienated from human life" (1964b, p. 129).
Communism
 
Marx dreamed of a communist paradise. In the Communist socio-economic organisation, the relations of production would operate the mode of production and employ each worker according to his abilities, and benefit each worker according to his needs. Hence, each worker could direct his and her labour to productive work suitable to his and her innate abilities — rather than be forced into a narrowly defined, minimal-wage “job” meant to extract maximal profit from the labour of the individual worker, as determined by and dictated under the capitalist mode of production. 
In the classless, collectively-managed Communist society, the exchange of value between the objectified productive labour of one worker, and the consumption benefit derived from that production, will not be determined by or directed to the narrow business interests of a bourgeois capitalist class, but, instead, will be directed to meet the needs of each producer and consumer, of each member of society. Although production will be differentiated, by the degree of each worker’s abilities (by what work he and she can do) the purpose of the communist system of industrial production will be determined by the collective requirements of society, not by the profit-oriented demands of an individualistic bourgeois social class who live at the expense of the greater society. Under the collective ownership of the means of production, the relation of each worker to the mode of production will be identical, and will have the social character that corresponds to the universal interests of the communist society.
 Therefore, the direct distribution of the profits generated by the labour of each worker — to fulfil the interests of the working class, and so to his and her own interest and benefit — will constitute an un-alienated state of labour conditions, which restores to the worker the fullest exercise and determination of his and her human nature.


2.  RELIGION' S ALIENATION
Secondly, Marx criticized religion. His theory relies on Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity (1841), which argues that the idea of God has alienated the characteristics of the human being Marx wrote:
"If the product of labor is alien to me, if it confronts me as an alien power, to whom, then, does it belong?
To a being other than myself.
Who is this being?
The gods? To be sure, in the earliest times the principal production (for example, the building of temples, etc., in Egypt, India and Mexico) appears to be in the service of the gods,  and the product belongs to the gods. However, the gods on their own were never the lords of labor. [2]
Marx also said: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It is the opium of the people" (1959, p. 263)

"Objectification is the practice of alienation. Just as man, so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his essence by an alien and fantastic being; so under the sway of egoistic need, he can only affirm himself and produce objects in practice by subordinating his products and his own activity to the domination of an alien entity, and by attributing to them the significance of an alien entity, namely money. . " (1964b, p. 39).
 Here are some main ideas of Marx's theory of alienation:
 -"Money is the alienated essence of man's work and existence; the essence dominates him and he worships it" (1964b, p. 37). 

 
III. CRITIQUE OF MARX'S THEORY OF  ALIENATION
1. Every body have to undergo the alienation, not only  the  workers. 

 In Chapter 4 of The Holy Family (1845), Karl Marx said that capitalists and proletarians are equally alienated, but that each social class experiences alienation in a different form:
The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power, and has in it the semblance of a human existence. The class of the proletariat feels annihilated, this means that they cease to exist in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and in the reality of an inhuman existence. It is, to use an expression of Hegel, in its abasement, the indignation at that abasement, an indignation to which it is necessarily driven by the contradiction between its human nature and its condition of life, which is the outright, resolute and comprehensive negation of that nature. Within this antithesis, the private property-owner is therefore the conservative side, and the proletarian the destructive side. From the former arises the action of preserving the antithesis, from the latter the action of annihilating it.[3]
2. Our fellow human beings can cause alienation for the workers.
Marx also said of Alienation of the worker from other workers:"In a capitalist economy, the businessmen who own the means of production establish a competitive labour-market meant to extract from the worker as much labour (value) as possible, in the form of capital. 
The capitalist economy’s arrangement of the relations of production provokes social conflict by pitting worker against worker, in a competition for “higher wages”, thereby alienating them from their mutual economic interests; the effect is a false consciousness, which is a form of ideologic control exercised by the capitalist bourgeoisie.
 We are also alienated from our fellow human beings. This alienation arises in part because of the antagonisms which inevitably arise from the class structure of society. We are alienated from those who exploit our labour and control the things we produce. As Marx put it:
If his activity is a torment for him, it must provide pleasure and enjoyment for someone else... If therefore he regards the product of his labour, his objectified labour, as an alien, hostile and powerful object which is independent of him, then his relationship to that object is such that another man - alien, hostile, powerful and independent of him - is its master. If he relates to his own activity an unfree activity, then he relates to it as activity in the service, under the rule, coercion and yoke of another man.[4]
In addition, we are connected to others through the buying and selling of the commodities we produce. Our lives are touched by thousands of people every day, people whose labour has made our clothes, food, home, etc. But we only know them through the objects we buy and consume. Ernst Fischer pointed out that because of this we do not see each other 'as fellow-men having equal rights, but as superiors or subordinates, as holders of a rank, as a small or large unit of power.[5]

 3. People including the workers in the Commuinist country are alienated more than the workers in the capitalist society.

(1). The workers in the capitalist country have freedom to choose their jobs and their owners, but the workers in the communist society have no right to choose their owner and their job. They are forced to work. They can not choose not to work, they can not choose what they made, and they can  not choose how they made it. Therefore they are aliened from their job,  the communists, and their society.
(2).The workers in capitalist country are exploited but the workers in  communist country are more exploited, and more alienated  than the workers in the capitalist country because  in Vietnam, before 1975,  teacher has enough money to spend for a month, but in the communist country, the salary of a month of a cadre  is  enough for  two weeks.
3. What Marx dreamed of were imaginary or deceitful.
 The workers in the communist society had to suffer so much. The relations of production did not operate the mode of production and employ each worker according to his abilities, and benefit each worker according to his needs. In communist society, the workers were forced to work and controlled and directed severely by the communists. 
 

4. Vietnamese communists now betrayed their country, and their people. People lost faith in them.
They sold Vietnam to China, they robbed people's of  house and land. They imprisoned the students, and bloggers protesting China invading Vietnam. Vietnamese people  feel a vindictive hatred for them, and feel estranged for them. 
General Trần Độ criticized  communist party , an alienated party:
"Communist party now becomes a bulky system of  politics, bureaucracy, nationalisation of all social activities. It is a political system of antidemocracy and a system of impotence."  (TRẦN ĐỘ * NHẬT KÝ RỒNG RẮN V, 2)

Former General Secretary Trần Xuân Bách criticized the alienation of Communism:
"Marx lived in the classic capitalism, but now we live in the the modern  capitalism, there are many  things which are different from time of Marx. Even in Lenin's time, the New Economic Policy was different from Marx's theory. We must  have the scientific thoughts. The sentences in the Marx's Bible" can not save Marxism (CHỦ NGHĨA XÃ HỘI THẠT SỰ LÀ GÌ? )

5. In the communist world, the writers and Communists  are alienated . 

Under the communist regime, the writers lost freedom, therefore they felt estranged.
Hồ Dzếnh expressed his state of mind under his son words:" A writer like my dad is a whore, the whore flattered her custom , the writer flattered his time.[6]

Chế Lan Viên had to cover his real face with a mask, a mask of stupid poet:
Not yet holding  it up
I realize that it is a fake cake.
But I seat down with my friends 
I pick it up and eat
If I refuse
They will accuse me of destroying  their joyful  night ..
 (The fake cake)
 
 According to Vũ Thư Hiên (Đêm Giữa Ban Ngày), Lê Đức Tho many years ago were a nice man, he worshiped Trường Chinh so much, but when he came back from the South, he became so arrogant and brutal that he killed Trường Chinh, his old boss. Before 1954, Trường Chinh was a modest and joyful person but after he was criticized by Hồ Chí Minh,  and lost the position " General Secretary", he became indifferent, serious and brutal.[ 7]


 In his last work, "Le Problème de l’Homme et l’Antihumanisme Théorique" (Theory of Human kind and Antihumanism"), Trần Đức Thảo presented his new ideas on the Alienation.
Alienation of people means negation of people, means putting them in brutality. Althusser  and Mao Zedong joined together to  create  a school of inhumanity (33)


Trần Đức Thảo criticized Marx s' theory of " class struggle" which leads human kind to the alienation especially in the communist world. Only the theory of humankind or humanism  could liberate humankind from the alienation.  Only by the name of human,  a unjustly person   could justify himself. Every body is a human. Nobody can seize that name.(122)
Trần Đức Thảo wrote:" Last time, Marx said that the capitalism alienated the worker class. Now in the communist society, communism also alienated people: 

From 1930, the bureaucracy,  the cult of personality, and dogmatism alienated people, that has been resolved  by the spirit of revolution in the progress of innovation for three years."[8]
Marx criticized the capitalism but people here are not alienated as much as people  in the communist society, because they have freedom, democracy and happiness. Compare North Korea to South Korea [9], we will see  clearly  the difference between Communist and Capitalism. 
  __

REFERENCE

[1]. C. George Boeree. ALIENATION. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/alienation.html
[2]. Karl Marx (trans. by Martin Mulligan).Estranged Labor
From Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844
Marxists Internet Archive (www.marxists.org)
[3]. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/index.htm
[4].Karl Marx, Early Writing.Penguin, 1975,313.
[5].Karl Marx. Capitalism. V.I, Penguin,  1976, 202-03.
[6]. Hồ Dzếnh. Truyện Không Tên. Thanh Væn, Hoa Kÿ, 1993, 31-32
[7].Vũ Thư HIên. Đêm Giữa Ban Ngày. Văn Nghê. Cali, 1997. 344-345
[8].Trần Đức Thảo. Vấn Đề Con Người và Chủ Nghĩa Lý Luận Không Có Con Người (Le Problème de l’Homme et l’Antihumanisme Théorique] (1988). In lần thứ hai có viết thêm. TP Hồ Chí Minh: Nxb TP Hồ Chí Minh, 1989,p.23
[9].Salary in North Korea : $47/ month ( Wikipedia).The average wage of South Korean full-time workers reached US$33,221 in 2010 in terms of purchasing power, compared with $43,933 for full-time workers in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, according to the "Employment Outlook 2011" report by the 34-member organization.
http://www.asiatoday.com/pressrelease/full-time-wages-s-korea-75-pct-oecd-average-report 
 The GNP per capita of North Korea was $920 in 1996, whereas South Korea was $11,270 in the sameyear. http://econc10.bu.edu/economic_systems/Country_comparisons/Korea_North_South.htm

No comments: