For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Marx, Alienation and the Denial of Dignity of Work"

by Healy, Mike; Wilkowska, Iwona (2017)


This chapter examines the relevance of Marx’s theory of alienation to discussions concerning dignity and work. Ultimately, We provide an exposition of Marx’s theory of alienation, which includes Marx’s view of what he calls our species-being, the nature of alienated labour, the implications for dignity denial arising from a lack of control over work products and work processes, the adverse impact alienated labour has on working relationships, and the relationship between labour and dignity. This theoretical discussion is followed by a reference to a case study concerning ICT professionals in an attempt to illustrate how effective Marx’s view of alienation can be in comprehending the experiences, including dignity denial, of these professionals at work. This section of the chapter opens with a number of comments about the overarching environment within which these professionals work before focusing tightly on a key aspect of the working conditions these professionals experience: namely, control of their work process and its impact on dignity at work. The chapter concludes by discussing the implications of using Marx’s theory of alienation to research and oppose dignity-denying work.

Key Passage

For Marx dignity is an attribute fundamentally linked to the nature of labour, and one that cannot be attained merely by an improvement in working conditions or increased remuneration (important as these are). (p.101)


Marx, Alienation, Dignity, Critical Theory


On Marx on Alienation, Marx

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