alienation In Hegel's philosophy man (sic) is seen to develop through alienation and its transcendence, realizing a spiritual essence in labour. This formulation was critiqued in the early writings of Karl Marx who saw labour itself as alienating and consequently developed the concept in one of its key modern directions. In the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), Marx describes a condition of man's (sic) alienation from nature, from others and from the products of his labour. The latter, in particular, is induced by the exploitation of the worker under capitalism, enforcing an identification of the worker with the commodity value of the products of labour. Ultimately this is seen to produce a profound alienation of man from himself.

Later observers than Marx saw alienation not so much as the effect of capitalism as the characteristic condition of urban living in the new modern metropolis. The impersonality of modern technologies, the speed of new transport and the increased size of city crowds were seen to create a disorientating double effect of proximity and isolation (Simmel 1969 [1903]). Alienation in this urban context was the subject of much modernist literature (by Charles Baudelaire, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos).

The related experience of anonymous systems of modern bureaucracy and political manipulation is close to the use of the concept in Max Weber and its development in later sociology. This too has been explored in literature and film from the writings of Franz Kafka to William Burroughs and in films such as The Parallax View (1974) and JFK (1982).

In another quite common sense, deriving from Sartre and existentialism, alienation is seen not as a specific historical mentality characteristic of capitalism or of modernity but as a universal human condition.

See also alienation effect; reification. [from: Brooker, 1999]