Alienation and reification

Stephen Eric Bronner

in Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction

Second edition

Published in print October 2017 | ISBN: 9780190692674
Published online October 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190692704 | DOI:

Series: Very Short Introductions

Alienation and reification

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‘Alienation and reification’ explores the concepts of alienation and reification in Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and how this affected 20th century Western Marxism. Alienation is not a uniquely Marxist concept, but Marx defined it as an inability to grasp the workings of history and subject them to human control. In the capitalist system, alienation occurs through the lack of working class consciousness, and their transformation from people into objects—their reification. The Frankfurt School saw alienation and reification as philosophical and experiential problems, but believed that trying to remedy them in the current system was pointless, and a new framework was needed to cultivate autonomy.

Keywords: alienation; class; concept; consciousness; Frankfurt School; Marxism; reification

Chapter.  3795 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: 20th-Century Philosophy

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