Who’s Alienated?

If one is to judge from the Winter 1956 DISSENT, a blind spot has afflicted its contributors en masse. I refer to the contention that Marx believed that a simple cancellation of private property, “capitalism minus exploitation,” is sufficient to dispose of alienation. Andrieux and Lignon, Henri Rabassiere, Erich Fromm and his reviewer, H. P., all believe that Marx held that to abolish private property is to abolish the alienation of the worker.

Marx held precisely the opposite. As early as 1844 (in the Okonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte), Marx argued that any overthrow of capitalism would be empty unless the alienated human values were recovered for man. The various utopian schemes for supplanting private property which would not humanize man he dismissed as “vulgar communism,” mere logical extensions of private property, which require the continued mediation of alienation for their realization. Alienation ceases only when man becomes man in and for himself (an sich and fur sich) .