Marxism & Alienation in the 21st Century

Why Marxism is Still Relevant — You Can’t Deny It

Jakub Ferencik

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Karl Marx argued some time ago that the Industrialized Age brought with it an alienation from our true nature, as the notorious political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought before him.

But some may think that this is an outdated principle. Sure, they shrug, back when workers did not have labor unions and actual living wages, Marx may have been correct … but now?! Surely the middle class has no right to be alienated from whatever it is we call our “true nature” — because life is just so good.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

We have smartphones, books, good coffee shops around every corner, and Netflix … so how are people alienated?

Well, they are! And they have good reason to be!

I don’t want to get into an exhaustive explanation for why alienation is a valid concern — that is for another place. And I am pretty sure that most of you would agree with me, the world is necessary an alienating place; we exchange wages for things we don’t really need like fancy watches, better phones, and clothing.

There is a reinforcing mechanism that tells us that the bigger our house is, the happier we are. But researchers are increasingly showing that this is a false reward mechanism. Indeed, our cultural desires change according to the norms and customs of the day.

In this post, I want to explore a case study from China.

Alienated Workers in China

The release of a new book titled Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of China’s Workers has once again put into public attention the prevalence of suicides, excessive overtime, and abuse many factory workers experience on a daily basis in China.

Many have now been exposed to the reality that over one million workers who manufacture Apple and Foxconn products live in immoral conditions on a daily basis.

In 2010 alone, 18 workers committed suicide by jumping from Foxconn buildings. Suicides continue to surpass expectations from outside observers.

Workers do not only have to struggle with physical and verbal abuse, however. There are also concerns over the inhumane…

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Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air,” “Beyond Reason,” & "Surprised by Uncertainty" on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | RA for EUROPEUM Prague | 700+ articles with 1+ mil. views