One of the
fundamental issues of most socio-political debate in recent years is
ALIENATION, which means “estrangement”. This essay will elucidate the doctrine
of alienation in its origin until the era of Karl Marx. Much attention will be
focused on the way Marx conceived alienation, its causes, types and effects.
Attempt will be made to use this doctrine to explicate the circumstances of the
majority of Nigerians, who are predominantly poor.
The approach will
be a theoretical exposition of K. Marx theory of alienation. An attempt will be
made to juxtapose the arguments for and against the Marxist doctrine of
alienation, and how it tallies with the Nigerian society. This will aim at
correcting the defective systems of the Nigerian society. Here it will be
explained, whether the suffering and the inhuman conditions that
most Nigerians pass through can be termed, “alienation” following Marx theory.
If this doctrine is applied to the Nigerian society, the question will then be;
how does the Nigerian system alienates its citizens?
The purpose of this
essay, is to show whether there is any connections between the Marxist doctrine
of alienation and the condition of the average Nigerian worker. Here, I will
examine the solution proffered by Karl Marx. I will also show that though his
alienation doctrine seems to elucidate the conditions of many Nigerians, the
causes and solution proffered by Marx cannot be adapted to the Nigerian society.
To put it precisely, the solution proffered by Karl Marx is not workable nor
attainable in the Nigerian system. Finally, I shall propose that alienation can
only be mitigated within the context of solidarity.
OF THE STUDY
OF THE STUDY
SCOPE OF THE
LIFE AND WORKS OF KARL HEINRICH MARX
ON KARL MARK
of Class Struggle
Theory of Value
of Surplus Value
MARXIST DOCTRINE OF ALIENATION
ORIGIN AND DEFINITION OF THE CONCEPT
CAUSES OF ALIENATION
TYPES OF ALIENATION
AND WORKER’S SITUATION IN NIGERIA
CRITIQUE OF MARXIST THEORY OF
ALIENATION IN THE CONTEXT OF
REFLECTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE
It has become increasingly common to hear
life in the present age characterized in term of alienation1 The
concept of alienation has become an almost obsessive concern in areas of
socio-political philosophy, as a condition of man in this modern age. The
subject matter has become the isolated individual. The individual is estranged
from other people, the fruit of his labour, and his self. The alienating
condition of modern man shows that we are confronted by the symptoms of a
morbid and acute social sickness.
In this present Nigerian society, there has
been lamentations of oppressions exploitation and dehumanization. Nigerians are
exploited by fellow Nigerians, hence, M. I. Akimbo exclaimed, “we have done
very estimable evil to ourselves in this land”.2 Thus, a lot of
thinkers now term Nigerian workers as alienated beings. The question, which
seems to be cropping up, is whether some Nigerians are really alienated and
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE
The greatest ontological evil that can happen
to being in its essence, existence
and expression is alienation.3 There has been various attempts to
interpret the conditions of the Nigerian workers following the basic tenets of
the Marxist doctrine of alienation, over the years. The worst part, is the
attempt to proffer solutions to the alienating conditions of Nigerian workers
following the pattern of Karl Marx’s-revolution.
The problems created by alienation are
multifarious. There is a problem of man’s inhumanity to man dehumanization, as
exemplified in the way the rich treat the poor in Nigeria. There is also the
estrangement of some Nigerians; from the fruits of their labour, from friends
and from family. Added to the above is the exploitation of the resources in the
Niger Delta to develop the northern region of Nigeria. This exploitation is in
all regions; employers exploiting employees, the rulers exploiting the ruled,
the clergy men exploiting their members, some lecturers in the university
exploiting their students and so on. How do we reconcile alienation with global
call for freedom and human dignity? How can man exercise himself fully in a
society that is characterized with all forms of alienation.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research among others is to assess
the doctrine of alienation and the applications of the solutions proffered with
reference to Karl Marx, and why this solutions cannot be applied to the
Nigerian society. An attempt will be made to give an elucidation of a workable
solution to address the alienating conditions in Nigeria.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE
The significance of this research work is bipolar,
firstly, it will serve as assessment of the much esteemed doctrine of
alienation enunciated by Karl Marx, secondly it will serve as awareness to many
Nigerians that there is a workable solution to this alienating condition which
characterize their society.
It will also create the awareness that the solutions
to the problems of alienation in Nigeria cannot be located in the
solutions proffered by Karl Marx.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project shall be limited to the doctrine
of alienation and its solutions as enunciated by Karl Marx. This is not to
neglect what other theorists have said about the concept of alienation. This
work will also attend to alienation of Nigerian workers and the workable
solutions to these alienations or estrangement. The role of the labour unions’
strikes will be examined to see if it is justified. The reactions of the
Nigerian government to the conditions of the labour class will not be
Also, the applicability or non-applicability
of the solutions proffered by Karl Mark will be examined critically to show how
workable it is in the Nigerian context.
My approach to this research work will be critical
and analytical (a method where the issue at stake will be dissected and
evaluated to show its good and had qualities.
To this end, therefore, materials to execute
the research will be gotten from the library. This is not to undermine the
importance of relevant books gotten from friends, relevant class notes and
1.7 LITERATURE REVIEW
The first book to be reviewed here is
authored by Karl Marx and is titled, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of
1844, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, English Translation). In this
book, Marx attempted a critical examination of the bourgeoisie society and its
One of the core problems that Marx elucidated
in this book is the problem of estrangement or alienation. Here, the concept of
alienation was used by Marx for the purposes of a profound analysis of social
relations. For him, there is a close connection between alienation with the
ownership of private property and the social system it engenders.
The theoretical generalizations contained in
this book are Marx first attempt at a scientific analysis of the scientific
mode of production and to examine the law of its development. This law, Marx
opined that will lead capitalism to inevitable doom, and its replacement by a
higher and more rational social structure.4
The second book under review is authored by
Richard Schacht and is titled, Alienation, (London: George Allen and
Unwin Ltd, 1974).5 In this book, the author takes a cursory look at
the concept of alienation in its origin. Schacht undertook the explanation of
alienation in recent philosophical and sociological literature, paying great
attention to the writings of Erich Fromm, Hegel, Feuerbach, G. Marcel and Marx.
The author attempted to find answers to
questions such as; what does it mean to say that someone is alienated? It
alienation a state of mind or a relationship? Is modern man really alienated
from his work, his government, his society, or himself or from all of these?
Yet another book under review is the book
co-authored by Ernest Mandel and George Movack, and it is titled, The
Marxist Theory of Alienation, (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970). Here, two
great Marxist scholars take a look at the causes of individual and collective
alienation in both the west and the soviet bloc.
These two authors formulated ways to overcome
alienation. They based the causes of alienation on the expropriation and
exploitation of the labour force. The solution they proffered is a socialist
revolution, which will establish a regime based upon a nationalized economy
operated under the democratic control of the workers themselves.6
Another text to be reviewed is authored by R.
N. Carow Hunt and is titled, The Theory and Practice of Communism,
(London: Penguin Books, 1950). The author here gives a short account of Marxism
and its consequences in Russia,
from a highly critical standpoint.
The author clearly explained that modern
Marxism is a synthesis, in which the basic principles of Karl Marx and Engels
have been tailored by Lenin and Stalin to fit into the twentieth century. The
book gives an analysis of the relationship and the differences between Marx’s
predictions and the polices of the communist government of the twentieth
The exposition in this book can be grouped
into three parts. The first deals with the basis of communist theory laid down
by Marx and Engels. The second part elucidates the development of the European
labour movement, both as influenced by Marx and by others after the demise of
Marx. The third part deals with Lenin’s attempt to adapt Karl Marx’s theory to Russia after
Added to the book to be reviewed is the book
authored by Bertell Ouman titled, Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in
Capitalist Society, (Cambridge: University Press, 1971). In this book, the
author gives us one of the most thorough accounts of Marx’s theory of
Alienation. He reconstructs the theory from its constituents parts and offers
it as a vantage point from which one can understand the whole of Marxism.
The book further contains a detailed
examination of Marx’s philosophy of internal relations and provides a
systematic account of Marx’s conception of human nature. The author also explained
that a lot of criticisms of Marx are due to inadequate appreciation of the way
Marx used concept.8
Another book to be reviewed is authored by
Istavian Meszaros titled, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, (London: Merlin
Press, 1970). The book portrays how the concept of alienation was the base to
Marx’s whole development of a critique of capitalist society.
This book also assessed the significance of
the Marxist theory of alienation in the development and historical impact of
Marx’s work as a whole. The author wrote on the origin of the concept of
alienation and the aspects or forms of alienation. He also gives an explanation
of the contemporary significance of Marxist theory of alienation.9
R. Schacht, Alienation, (London: George and Unwin
Ltd, 1970), p. ix.
A. I. Martins, In Search of A New Nigeria, (Benin: Akilmart
Integrated Services, 2004), p. 79.
“Alienation or Solidarity”, Enwisdomization
Journals, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003-2004, pp. 68 – 102.
K. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of
1844, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), pp. 77, 184.
Schachit, Op. Cit,
E. Mandel and G.
Novack, The Marxist Theory of Alienation,
(New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970),
R. N. C. Hunt, The Theory and Practice of Communism,
(London: Penguin Books, 1950), pp. 84 – 89.
B. Oilman, Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in
Capitalist Society, (Cambridge: University Press, 1971), p. 12.
I. Meszaros, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, (London:
Merlin Press, 1970), pp. 50 – 53, 89.