One of the fundamental issues of most socio-political debate in recent years is ALIENATION, which means “estrangement”. This essay will elucidate the doctrine of alienation in its origin until the era of Karl Marx. Much attention will be focused on the way Marx conceived alienation, its causes, types and effects. Attempt will be made to use this doctrine to explicate the circumstances of the majority of Nigerians, who are predominantly poor.
The approach will be a theoretical exposition of K. Marx theory of alienation. An attempt will be made to juxtapose the arguments for and against the Marxist doctrine of alienation, and how it tallies with the Nigerian society. This will aim at correcting the defective systems of the Nigerian society. Here it will be explained, whether the suffering and the inhuman conditions that most Nigerians pass through can be termed, “alienation” following Marx theory. If this doctrine is applied to the Nigerian society, the question will then be; how does the Nigerian system alienates its citizens?
The purpose of this essay, is to show whether there is any connections between the Marxist doctrine of alienation and the condition of the average Nigerian worker. Here, I will examine the solution proffered by Karl Marx. I will also show that though his alienation doctrine seems to elucidate the conditions of many Nigerians, the causes and solution proffered by Marx cannot be adapted to the Nigerian society. To put it precisely, the solution proffered by Karl Marx is not workable nor attainable in the Nigerian system. Finally, I shall propose that alienation can only be mitigated within the context of solidarity.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
It has become increasingly common to hear life in the present age characterized in term of alienation1 The concept of alienation has become an almost obsessive concern in areas of socio-political philosophy, as a condition of man in this modern age. The subject matter has become the isolated individual. The individual is estranged from other people, the fruit of his labour, and his self. The alienating condition of modern man shows that we are confronted by the symptoms of a morbid and acute social sickness.
In this present Nigerian society, there has been lamentations of oppressions exploitation and dehumanization. Nigerians are exploited by fellow Nigerians, hence, M. I. Akimbo exclaimed, “we have done very estimable evil to ourselves in this land”.2Thus, a lot of thinkers now term Nigerian workers as alienated beings. The question, which seems to be cropping up, is whether some Nigerians are really alienated and marginalized?
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The greatest ontological evil that can happen to being in its essence, existence and expression is alienation.3 There has been various attempts to interpret the conditions of the Nigerian workers following the basic tenets of the Marxist doctrine of alienation, over the years. The worst part, is the attempt to proffer solutions to the alienating conditions of Nigerian workers following the pattern of Karl Marx’s-revolution.
The problems created by alienation are multifarious. There is a problem of man’s inhumanity to man dehumanization, as exemplified in the way the rich treat the poor in Nigeria. There is also the estrangement of some Nigerians; from the fruits of their labour, from friends and from family. Added to the above is the exploitation of the resources in the Niger Delta to develop the northern region of Nigeria. This exploitation is in all regions; employers exploiting employees, the rulers exploiting the ruled, the clergy men exploiting their members, some lecturers in the university exploiting their students and so on. How do we reconcile alienation with global call for freedom and human dignity? How can man exercise himself fully in a society that is characterized with all forms of alienation.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research among others is to assess the doctrine of alienation and the applications of the solutions proffered with reference to Karl Marx, and why this solutions cannot be applied to the Nigerian society. An attempt will be made to give an elucidation of a workable solution to address the alienating conditions in Nigeria.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of this research work is bipolar, firstly, it will serve as assessment of the much esteemed doctrine of alienation enunciated by Karl Marx, secondly it will serve as awareness to many Nigerians that there is a workable solution to this alienating condition which characterize their society.
It will also create the awareness that the solutions to the problems of alienation in Nigeria cannot be located in the solutions proffered by Karl Marx.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project shall be limited to the doctrine of alienation and its solutions as enunciated by Karl Marx. This is not to neglect what other theorists have said about the concept of alienation. This work will also attend to alienation of Nigerian workers and the workable solutions to these alienations or estrangement. The role of the labour unions’ strikes will be examined to see if it is justified. The reactions of the Nigerian government to the conditions of the labour class will not be neglected.
Also, the applicability or non-applicability of the solutions proffered by Karl Mark will be examined critically to show how workable it is in the Nigerian context.
My approach to this research work will be critical and analytical (a method where the issue at stake will be dissected and evaluated to show its good and had qualities.
To this end, therefore, materials to execute the research will be gotten from the library. This is not to undermine the importance of relevant books gotten from friends, relevant class notes and interviews.
1.7 LITERATURE REVIEW
The first book to be reviewed here is authored by Karl Marx and is titled, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,(Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, English Translation). In this book, Marx attempted a critical examination of the bourgeoisie society and its economy.
One of the core problems that Marx elucidated in this book is the problem of estrangement or alienation. Here, the concept of alienation was used by Marx for the purposes of a profound analysis of social relations. For him, there is a close connection between alienation with the ownership of private property and the social system it engenders.
The theoretical generalizations contained in this book are Marx first attempt at a scientific analysis of the scientific mode of production and to examine the law of its development. This law, Marx opined that will lead capitalism to inevitable doom, and its replacement by a higher and more rational social structure.4
The second book under review is authored by Richard Schacht and is titled, Alienation, (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1974).5 In this book, the author takes a cursory look at the concept of alienation in its origin. Schacht undertook the explanation of alienation in recent philosophical and sociological literature, paying great attention to the writings of Erich Fromm, Hegel, Feuerbach, G. Marcel and Marx.
The author attempted to find answers to questions such as; what does it mean to say that someone is alienated? It alienation a state of mind or a relationship? Is modern man really alienated from his work, his government, his society, or himself or from all of these?
Yet another book under review is the book co-authored by Ernest Mandel and George Movack, and it is titled, The Marxist Theory of Alienation, (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970). Here, two great Marxist scholars take a look at the causes of individual and collective alienation in both the west and the soviet bloc.
These two authors formulated ways to overcome alienation. They based the causes of alienation on the expropriation and exploitation of the labour force. The solution they proffered is a socialist revolution, which will establish a regime based upon a nationalized economy operated under the democratic control of the workers themselves.6
Another text to be reviewed is authored by R. N. Carow Hunt and is titled, The Theory and Practice of Communism, (London: Penguin Books, 1950). The author here gives a short account of Marxism and its consequences in Russia, from a highly critical standpoint.
The author clearly explained that modern Marxism is a synthesis, in which the basic principles of Karl Marx and Engels have been tailored by Lenin and Stalin to fit into the twentieth century. The book gives an analysis of the relationship and the differences between Marx’s predictions and the polices of the communist government of the twentieth century.
The exposition in this book can be grouped into three parts. The first deals with the basis of communist theory laid down by Marx and Engels. The second part elucidates the development of the European labour movement, both as influenced by Marx and by others after the demise of Marx. The third part deals with Lenin’s attempt to adapt Karl Marx’s theory to Russia after the revolution.7
Added to the book to be reviewed is the book authored by Bertell Ouman titled, Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, (Cambridge: University Press, 1971). In this book, the author gives us one of the most thorough accounts of Marx’s theory of Alienation. He reconstructs the theory from its constituents parts and offers it as a vantage point from which one can understand the whole of Marxism.
The book further contains a detailed examination of Marx’s philosophy of internal relations and provides a systematic account of Marx’s conception of human nature. The author also explained that a lot of criticisms of Marx are due to inadequate appreciation of the way Marx used concept.8
Another book to be reviewed is authored by Istavian Meszaros titled, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, (London: Merlin Press, 1970). The book portrays how the concept of alienation was the base to Marx’s whole development of a critique of capitalist society.
This book also assessed the significance of the Marxist theory of alienation in the development and historical impact of Marx’s work as a whole. The author wrote on the origin of the concept of alienation and the aspects or forms of alienation. He also gives an explanation of the contemporary significance of Marxist theory of alienation.9
- R. Schacht, Alienation, (London: George and Unwin Ltd, 1970), p. ix.
- A. I. Martins, In Search of A New Nigeria, (Benin: Akilmart Integrated Services, 2004), p. 79.
- P. Iroegbu, “Alienation or Solidarity”, Enwisdomization Journals, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003-2004, pp. 68 – 102.
- K. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), pp. 77, 184.
- Schachit, Op. Cit, p. 22.
- E. Mandel and G. Novack, The Marxist Theory of Alienation, (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), p. 220.
- R. N. C. Hunt, The Theory and Practice of Communism,(London: Penguin Books, 1950), pp. 84 – 89.
- B. Oilman, Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, (Cambridge: University Press, 1971), p. 12.
- I. Meszaros, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, (London: Merlin Press, 1970), pp. 50 – 53, 89.