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Karl Marx

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Marx?s Notion of Man as a ?Species Being? and His Idea of Alienation

The notion of man as a ?species-being? for Marx meant the recognition of man?s human essence as a member of a species. A species that takes part in a process of conscious production where we produce as human beings for one another. Marx used the term ?species being? as a method to distinguish human life from animal life; where production is more a consequence of blind instinct rather than conscious productive labor.

Alienation for Marx was a consequence of the conditions within systems of capitalism, which caused man to lose his identity as a species being and fall into an alienated state through the production of capital. ?Therefore, when human beings are alienated from themselves, it is their powers of production and their artistic creativity from which they are alienated; they confront their own works as alien beings? (219). Consequently, he also becomes detached from his conscious life activity causing him to be detached from himself, from others, and the product of his labor. Essentially man comes to lose all his traits that identify his recognition of himself as human, causing him to become de-humanized. The main concern of my essay will be to explain Marx?s notion of man as a ?species being? and how capitalism in the workforce leads to alienation.

Marx observed man within a capitalist state where he had become a vital means of producing capital through his labor. Man no longer exercised his essence as a species-being in productive labor for the good of others, but on the contrary, he becomes detached from his essence and the product of his labor is used as a means to produce for the sake of capital. ?His work is not voluntary but imposed, forced labor. It is not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying other needs? (220). In this sense man becomes reduced to nothing but a machine; the more money the product of his labor acquires, the more the worker will be encouraged to produce through the influence of wages. The appeal of this profit for the worker sustains his alienated state by further sacrificing his body and spirit for the sake of his wages.

So essentially the increase in production and the power of mans product of his labor suppresses him further into an alienated state at the cost of his humanity. His fulfillment at work is minimal; he is miserable and survives only as a means to produce income. The worker remains detached from the product of his labor and produces only wages in an attempt to prosper in the same way as the capitalist owner seeks to prosper.

From here competition between workers becomes almost predictable as another condition highlighting the alienation of the worker. Instead of working together as a team the workers are competing for jobs and wages. ?The employed workers must compete with the unemployed for the available jobs, guaranteeing that wages will always be at bare subsistence level? (231). Here competition is seen to put emphasis on mans state of alienation through his use as a commodity. The workers exploitation as a commodity reduces his labor to that of a machine.

It is these relations between wages, labor, and the product of labor that Marx believes to be responsible for the alienation of man. With the economic conditions and considerations of capitalism Marx has provided, it is clear to see that man has been deprived from



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