Work, Civilization, And Realization Of Humanity

1989 words - 8 pages

Karl Marx believes that animals are not distinct from their life activity, and that what distinguishes man from animals is that he, instead of being the same as his life activity, treats his life activity only as an object of his will and consciousness. Yet private ownership of means of production (land, machine, raw material, etc.) leads to alienation of labor, which makes work as a life activity that is anti-human. Thus he advocates communism, which gives an end to alienation of labor by letting every man share the ownership of means of production. In this way work as a life activity agrees with man’s will and allows man to realizes his humanity. Sigmund Freud believes that civilization is a process in which man never fully exercises his will as he always has to make compromises between his will and need. Work itself is a compromise between man’s need to survive and his instinctual inclination for pleasure. It is also hardly possible for man to stop pursuing the private occupation of means of production because of his immutable inclination to aggression. Thus Freud thinks communism is an illusion. Admittedly, the failure of the communism in Soviet Union proves that communism is infeasible. However, this signifies that the activity of production should not be founded upon full satisfaction of man’s inclination to aggression and upon extreme exploitation of workers, but should be based on both efficiency and fairness.
Marx, in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, argues that private ownership of means of production is the fundamental cause of alienated labor. Private ownership of means of production results in the separation of capital from labor, which are both factors of production. Workers, who own nothing but labor, are highly dependent upon employers, who own capital. The reason is that, without means of production and thus the capability of producing independently, workers have to sell their labor to employers in exchange for wages in order to keep their subsistence. Employers are interested in not workers but their labor for rent. Thus labor is a commodity produced by workers for wages and consumed by capitalists for the production of other commodities. On the one hand, with the goal of maximizing profit, employers would pay as little as possible for labor as a commodity. On the other, forced by their need to survive, workers can only accept the price offered for their labor. Thus workers’ gains are always squeezed to the least amount necessary to maintain life, regardless of the contribution of their labor to production. Nevertheless, the more workers produce, the more profit their employers procure. Participation in production as a life activity is not voluntary but merely a means for workers to survive. With employers taking away the products in which labor is contained, workers are alienated from the product of their labor. “Coerced, forced work” (Marx 62) alienates workers’ labor from being an object of their will and...

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