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October 06, 2013

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GeorgeNYC

So, in a way, Mitt Romney's "Corporations are people" can be seen as a Marxist commentary on alientation.

Warren

What's wrong with capitalism exactly? One barely knows where to begin.
Marx believed that work was an integral part of humanity, but many workplaces are dehumanising, physically and mentally damaging to them. He thought the the repetitive nature of millions of people's work was not in harmony with their human nature. Marx analyses factory work; we might use that example, or people working on supermarket checkouts for hours at a time. He thought that workers were told when to work, how to work, and derived little pleasure or satisfaction in it. Workers are also alienated from what they make because it does not directly benefit them. Capitalism further alienates people from each other by encouraging hyper-competition and not co-operation. The experience of work for the vast majority of humanity is a miserable one or worse. (I did a seven year stint in a almost windowless and very noisy uk factory and much of Marx's Capital rings true to me).

Boffy

I don't think for a Marxist thinking about how a future society might work it is just the domination of capital that is important.

Many years ago when I was a City Councillor I visited an old woman who had a problem with a leaking tap flooding her kitchen. The Council, sent a plumber out several times, who failed to deal with the problem. A friend of mine who was the Plumbers Shop steward came as a favour to look at it, and fixed it within about half an hour, and was pretty scathing about his members workmanship or lack of it.

But, that is alienation for you. The plumbers didn't have ownership or control of the means of production, the old lady wasn't a human being and fellow worker, she was just a customer, and whether she was satisfied with the service she got or not was not important.

As well as problems of lack of relevant resources, the same problem explains the lack of even basic decency afforded to our elderly in NHS hospitals, but it would also apply in any future society where workers did not feel that they directly owned the means of production, where they did not feel that there was an imperative for them to produce good quality products for their fellow workers either probably initially pecuniary, or later, because real human relations replaced commodity fetishism.

Peter Dorman

Regarding alienation, I think that most of it can be summed up as extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. The more you are extrinsically motivated, the more alienated you are. Of course, for reasons you allude to it is not possible or desirable to run an economy on intrinsic motivation alone.

gordon

"The problem here, though, is not so much alienation as domination, in the sense of oppressive working conditions, and inequality".

That makes me think of Prof. Marmot's work on how powerless employment at the bottom of the traditional pyramidal organisation makes you sick; see his book "Social Determinants of Health" and this summary on the WWW:

http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-publish/abstracts/social-determinants-of-health.-the-solid-facts

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“fast internet and phone connections to billions of people in far flung corners of the earth.”

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