One of the various anonymi [anonymata?] asks that I say a few words about alienation and point to some readings. The locus classicus is of course Marx’s 1844 manuscript on alienated labor, part of the 1844 Manuscripts, working papers written in Paris by the 26 year old Marx. The subject is of the very greatest interest because it is one of the two points in Marx’s thought at which the broad structural analysis of capitalism intersects with the focused analysis of the subjective experience of the individual in a capitalist society [the other is his dscussion of ideological mystification.] The central undertaking of the so-called Frankfurt School in Germany in the 1920’s and early 30’s was to carry through a fusion of Marx’s analysis of capitalist economy and society with Freud’s new understanding of the functioning of the individual mind, especially of the unconscious. Hence the work of the Frankfurt School can be understood as an updating of Marx’s early work in the 1844 manuscripts and associated texts [such as the German Ideology.] The works of Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, among many others, can be read on this subject with great profit.
The concept of alienation itself is provocatively ambiguous, a fact that Marx uses to great advantage. In the law, “to alienate” means “to transfer ownership of.” But the word also carries the meaning “to make an enemy of, to distance oneself from.” In the Manuscripts Marx plays on this ambiguity, noting that workers by their labor create capital which, because it is owned by the capitalist, not by them, becomes their enemy and oppresses them. Because the labor process, the activity of laboring, is under the control of and routinized by the capitalist, the worker becomes alienated from his or her own human nature, which is to collectively and purposefully transform nature so that it serves human needs and desires. Hence, “to be a good worker” comes to mean “to work in an inhumane and spiritually stultifying manner, steadily, obediently, profitably.”
Well, that is a start.