Volume 13, Issue 1, 2016
Marx and Industrial Age Aesthetics of Alienation
Karl Marx’s socio-economic analysis of capitalism and the conditions of industrial production are meant to imply the competitive alienation of workers in at least two important senses: (1) Workers are alienated from their tools and materials because under capitalism they generally do not own, develop or cultivate the means of production or market for products themselves; and (2) Workers are alienated from one another in competitive isolation prior to the evolution of assembly-line production in the classical progression of capitalist manufacturing. The present essay develops two main aspects of the art of alienation in this characteristically Marxist aesthetic – directly influenced by Marx, as opposed to existential or atheistic among other kinds of alienation. Focus is placed on Marx’s PhD dissertation and Philosophical and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, as a reflection of the state of social life, philosophical perspectives on the human condition, in a time of mechanization, consumerism and godless materialism. The history of artistic developments offers independent confirmation of Marx’s thematization of alienation objectifying itself as a sign of the times in artistic production and aesthetic theory.