For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Activity, Passivity, Alienation: A Reading of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844"

by Fischbach, Franck (2006)


The concept of alienation, as put forward in the 1844 Manuscripts, is a particularly complex one. Marx tentatively outlines a conception of alienation that is proper to him, that is not merely the transfer of the Feuerbachian conception from the religious sphere to social and economic life. Marx’s innovation is to have gone beyond a conception in which alienation is regarded as the loss of a subjective content in the object, or as the experience of the loss of the object that is intrinsically alienating, insofar as the worker is deemed to have invested his subjectivity in the object that has been produced. Marx thus puts forward the idea that objectification is not in itself alienating. This is the case with work, an activity that is naturally objectifying, or with a being that is itself natural and objective, such as the worker. What is alienating, for an objective being (and not for a “subject”), is the suppression of the objectivity that is proper to it: That is, the negation of its naturalness, and of the originally passive and “affected”, acted upon, dimension of its being.


Alienation, Passivity, Marx, Subjectivity, Objectification, Interpassivity


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