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Environment, Space, Place

Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2011

Gerald Philips
Pages 72-85
DOI: 10.7761/ESP.3.1.72

Büchner/Berg
Wozzeck—Alienation from Nature

Alienation as an aspect of the human condition has a long and storied history. Much of the attention has been focused, however, on alienation among humans themselves. Yet it is increasingly clear that we are in the process of alienating ourselves from the world and all of the creatures and objects in it. This discussion examines the second choral ode from Sophocles’ Antigone and some analyses of the content and formal aspects of Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, in the context of Adorno’s concept of “distinctness without domination,” as means of providing a brief analysis of the problem of alienation considered in this larger sense. These considerations enable the isolation of several important factors that have inhibited our insight into the seriousness of this form of alienation: First, alienation among humans has effectively distracted us from the increasing urgency of our alienation from the world and the things in it. Second, blinded by our spectacular illusion of “progress,” we continue to pay for it by wreaking destruction upon the planet, the very fount of our existence. Third, morality has only too often been seen as being located in rationalized (hierarchical) relationships among humans rather than as an equally shared, spiritual relationship among the human community, the rest of the biosphere, and the very rocks and water upon which we exist. This final point suggests changes in attitude and behavior that could help us avoid the most devastating effects of this more broadly conceived form of alienation.