Karl Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor is an interesting theory, but it is not based on sound economic principles. In 1844, Karl Marx “Comments on James Mill.” In it, he outlined a concept which is called “The Alienation of Labor.” One of the main issues that Marx has with capitalist ownership of the means of production is how it alienates the individual from his labor. There are four main points to the alienation of labor, all of which are grounded in philosophy and not economic theory. However, in his second point, he does comment on an area that applies to economics. He says “In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature.” In this statement, Karl Marx is talking about how creating an object that fills the needs of another is part of his essential nature. While understanding the meaning of “essential nature” is an important discussion to have, it must be left for later. However, it must be said that, according to Marx, removing a person from his essential nature is wrong.
Alienation of labor is perhaps Karl Marx’s most effective critique of capitalism. In this case, however, he falls short. Marx believed that capitalist ownership of the means of production leads individuals to be distanced from their essential nature. This is what the alienation of labor is. What he fails to understand is how capitalist ownership of the means of production allows for greater possibilities. Even Marx admits it other writings that technology allows for greater output. Capitalist ownership of the means of productions allows for greater technology.
The question that must be asked is “Does capitalism help to provide for the needs of others?” Perhaps the most important need is food. Since 1970, there has been a people in the less-developed world form 30%-16%. In the 20th century, the life expectancy in England, France, and the United States has 30%. In these cases, we see that the needs of individuals are being met in greater amounts.
Marx doesn’t understand the capitalist owners are still dependent on the will of the consumers. In other words, producers can only produce what consumers want. Through the market, the producers that do well must be satisfying a need of the consumers. This demolishes the crux of Marx’s argument. While Marx says that capitalism prevents individuals from fulfilling their essential nature by fulfilling the needs of others, we have found that capitalism has provided an opportunity for their needs to be filled.
Karl Marx might very well have had great insights into issues facing societies. However, he is not perfect. In the preceding paragraphs, it can be seen that Marx didn’t incorporate historical data or established economic theory in his theory of alienation of labor. Through the capitalist system, we have seen the needs of individuals filled, which is in direct contrast to Marx’s theory.