The concept of alienation in Marx refers to what he sees as the impact on the individual of the dehumanizing processes of capitalism, such as the division of labor and commodity fetishism. Although he was idealistic in his belief that communism would do away with such alienation, Marx is accurate in his critique of capitalism and its alienating effects. The individual to Marx becomes a part of a machine producing things, and in effect becomes a thing himself, alienating him from his true self, from the tools he uses and the product he makes, and from his fellow man. He becomes an "alien" with respect to his own humanity.
The bourgeoisie who control the relations of production in capitalism, says Marx, are engaged in a search for greater markets and profits which inevitably turn individual man and humanity en masse into things whose relations are based on money. The bourgeoisie "has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment,'" has "reduced the family relation to a mere money relation" (206).
Marx argues that even the bourgeoisie, the capitalists themselves, become alienated by this process of dehumanization in which all relations are based on exploitation and money. The capitalists are just as dehumanized as the workers, although Marx has no time for sympathy for the capitalists who, he says, will fall before the forces of revolution they themselves have created. Alienation, in that sense, is a force for good because it aggravates the conflict between the classes and brings about the revolution: "The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself" (210).
Again, while Marx has been proven far too hopeful in his prediction of revolution and the coming of a communist paradise on earth he is nevertheless accurate in his description of the alienation which results from capitalism. As Marx points out, not only are ...