Karl Marx on alienation, BBC animation video

This video says about itself:

Karl Marx on Alienation

19 January 2015

Karl Marx believed that work, at its best, is what makes us human. It allows us to live, be creative and flourish. But under capitalism he saw workers alienated from each other and the product of their labour.

Narrated by Gillian Anderson. Scripted by Nigel Warburton.

From the BBC Radio 4 series about life’s big questions – A History of Ideas.

This project is from the BBC in partnership with The Open University, the animations were created by Cognitive.

34 thoughts on “Karl Marx on alienation, BBC animation video

  1. Why is the video in past tense? This happens more today than ever before. Today, it is even more prevalent in fact as the alienation has become a societal norm, and is thus almost invisible to most people. You HAVE to work or you will die in today’s society – how are we anymore free than in the 19th century?


    • Inded, you are right. Several commenters at YouTube also remarked this. The BBC radio people may have been scared that, if they would have mentioned the present, then the Murdoch press and/or Tory politicians might have become angry, and the radio people would have been sacked.


  2. How far is Marx to turn the clock back? is not working in the fields backbreaking and alienating? considering automation is taking over a lot of work, we should be highly suspicious of Marx, he just did not get the future of mass production and work done by the machine, communism is pretty much the same as capitalism in so far it is always a elite that is over paid, defining how the worker should work. Marx is a romantic divorced from what most people endured at the time he was creating more kids and having a good times at the British Museum, feeling superior and being a hedonist.


    • Automation is taking over a lot of work as well as creating a lot of new jobs. For example, there are no printing press workers anymore, but there are a lot of computer programmers.

      In communism, there would be no one getting paid anything whatsoever as there would be no money. The main problem with capitalism is that there exists private property (i.e. people can own stuff). Because of this, you get certain people owning more stuff than others, hence the divide between rich and poor. In communism, there would be no private property – no one would own anything. And, there are no elitist groups – everyone is equal and does what they can for the society. (Note: what has masqueraded under the banner of ‘communism’ thus far in history is not true communism. Personally, I think people now are too selfish and egocentric for real communism – perhaps it will be possible in a few hundred years time).

      Do not commit the ad hoc move and attack Marx as a person as that is a logical fallacy – look purely at his arguments.

      Peace brother 😉


      • Stefan sorry if I offended you, capitalism is OK from my point of view, my problem with capitalism is the corruption within this system, this requires a cure of greater penalties, also the propaganda is rife, what you have with capitalism is variety, and innovation, to put forward the idea that all are equal is not true to what the human system is, I am not saying that a ratio of payment of CEOs, say the guy who set up our telephone system from America who left Australia with 35 million dollars is all part of corruption in Australia.
        I now look at your idea on computer programmers are involved with a sedentary occupation and the health ideology and work has to change, the problem with your sympathy with Marx is its another religion, as if no one can be paid and they have no personal choice? Marxism is so rigid it is a ludicrous ideology, your problem is as a concept of God, That All Before God Are Equal? I suggest to you before your mind decides to set and becomes unchangeable that you look at our family of our planets? they are all radically different.
        My problem with you is I think you are within yourself disgruntled with your lot? I suggest I am also distressed within, this anxiety within is all part of what I have to live with, the fact that I am unhappy within is not because I do not have Marx as the hero, it is the condition of existence, I have had my share of the insane, the vindictive venom of those who decide to lay it on me, and so on its just what we have to live with, naturally I attempt to avoid those who are deranged.
        If I choose to analyze Marx as a individual it is my choice, to seek out the weaknesses of humans is the most important aspect of our choice of our integrity, not only am I critical of Marx, Lennon, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohamed, Freud, is all part of analytical thinking, whether our maker is a possibility is God must by the creation be defective, what I mean is all material stuff has flaws, same as diamonds, they are all flawed, I suggest Marx being Jewish, the Jews have had a great ability in story telling as such Marx is just another story teller as Freud and Jesus, theirs a lot more to this story than what we are able to discuss here as the story is not linear.


        • You didn’t offend me; I just like debating…let us continue!

          Your view that capitalism encourages innovation is very misled – there are many new ideas out there that are being ignored because they are not profitable (cleaner and renewable sources of energy, for example). Oil companies do not want these technologies to hit the market as then their oil companies go bust! So much for innovation. There are many examples of this.

          Furthermore, if you actually look at what kind of ideology capitalism relies on, it is one of self-reproduction. Look at the popular music industry for example – it’s the same song done in a million different ways! Art is being destroyed through your ‘mechanization’ as mechanization has become a norm in itself and thus influences the very way you see reality – Faster! More efficiency! Pay them less! More work! One question – what’s the rush? Where are we going in this wonderful society of ours exactly? Or, are you so eager to get to the end of life that you want to live it in a constant blur? Slow down and smell the roses. It’s good for you.

          Because there is no real aim in capitalism other than to make more and more and more stuff and to consume it quicker and quicker and quicker, it makes the people’s lives involved in this way of life utterly meaningless. This is the main reason capitalism must be exposed for the evil that it is – a human life is an amazing thing, yet it is squandered when you are told how to live and what to do (you are put in a cage from birth that you think is normal because that’s all you’ve ever known, and you live your entire life looking at the world through the bars of this cage). This is a very sad thing that has happened to our species.

          There are many different kinds of readings of Marx depending on which commentator you think is most accurate. Marx isn’t the only person involved in the attempt to find a cure for the societal pathology we call ‘capitalism’ anyway – there are many others.

          Just a couple of questions about your last post:
          What do you mean by “our family of our planets”?
          How can you be critical of people like Jesus or Buddha? They never said anything.

          I am not happy nor unhappy – my mood changes from situation to situation depending on various factors, just like everyone’s. I criticize capitalism, not for my sake (I’ll be alright), but for the sake of those that cannot see that they are wasting their lives – I wish to show them that they’ve been duped so that they can stop falling for it and realize how beautiful existence is. It would be a horrible thing to come to the end of your life and realize that you have not lived at all…too little too late. Better to admit this whilst a person is still alive as then their is still hope for change.


          • That planets in the solar system are of different size maybe is an argument against ideas that all people should supposedly be of the same length, the same hair colour or all people should like the same music; but it can NEVER be an argument against all people having the same economic, social and political rights.

            As for liking capitalism, but not liking corruption as a consequence of capitalism: if you fight just symptoms, but not causes, the symptoms will return again and again, even after, eg, one corrupt person is stopped. Malcolm X, whose murder 50 years ago we remember these days, famously said “You can’t have capitalism without racism”. So, one should fight symptoms of racism, but its cause as well. Etc.


          • I do not as a polarized interpretation like capitalism as it exists today, the manufacturing of machinery and arms produced by Britain and others is clearly evil, how this works in part is Britain produces destruction instruments of war, the defense of this policy is we create employment and what is not said is the destruction of those whom are deemed as different and do not reflect our ideology, this in tern uses the the energy resources and weakens these countries, the problem with this set up is the power a few have, that is a governing elite controlling capitalism, that incorporates corruption, the think tanks such as The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London is all part of the input that informs how to control the masses mind set, this is to protect the rich the 1%, also organizations such as the intelligentsia of MI5/6 are all part of the corruption, as far as their policies go, also the hangers on such as the Royals, of Britain are also all part the pantomime, not only are these elites all part of the scams of the illusion, also the public are set within the mindset having been indoctrinated by the propaganda of the media and are culpable.
            The houses of parliament are all part of the non representation of the people, as you are aware the two politicians on $10,000 a day is all part of the corruption.
            I do not understand your reply on my comments on Jesus, it is plain to see the characters mentioned are all false as from what we are informed about these people, that is if any information is supposed to be a true rendition of them, and are just all part of the controlling system.
            Regarding oil, BP, as far as I know were charged some $4000.00 a barrel for oil spilt in the American Southern sea, BP attempted to avoid costs in this spill, this is corruption, also the guy the British national who covered for BP, got millions of dollars from his public front, clearly we are in the hands of the depraved and corrupt.
            If within human nature is prone to depravity, what system we have is doomed because its not the system but the human being, what bothers me about the Marx system is the possibility of being so correct that no change can be allowed or no adjustment made.
            My meaning of the planetary system is the variety that is created rather than sameness.
            It is obvious we are are locked into a debate that is complex, I mention that Marx was financed by a capitalist, whether this is important I leave to the reader to interpret, one of many points I wish to make is, how will it work with unanimous agreement with workers? also individuals have different degrees of insight, considering the decision of the masses may well not grasp the insight of a more evolved human being?


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  13. Monday 22nd August 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    ANDREW MURRAY takes issue with tendentious and impenetrable interpretations of Marx’s great contribution to social science

    Reading Capital
    by Various
    (Verso £30)

    Reading Capital, now available in English in its entirety, is a work of its time. That time is not, however, today.

    That may seem paradoxical, given that the study of the works of Marx, and above all the study of his greatest contribution to social science Capital has undergone a major resurgence since the capitalist crash of 2008.

    But this volume, primarily the work of the tormented French Communist philosopher Louis Althusser, is not mainly about Capital, at all. For those wanting to gain a better understanding of Marx’s masterwork there are many superior guides available. Those recently published by David Harvey may be the most useful and accessible.

    Reading Capital’s purpose was different. Starting life as a series of lectures given at the Paris Ecole Normale Superieure in 1962, the present edition brings together for the first time the well-known essays of Althusser and Etienne Balibar (pictured) with the other original contributions.

    It is explicitly a work of philosophy rather than political economy, designed to reconceptualise Marx’s methodological approach rather than elucidate his analysis of capitalism as such. Its purpose as an intervention was to draw a line between the scientific Marx that Althusser saw revealed in Capital and the “humanistic” Marx, concerned with alienation, then becoming fashionable with the contemporary unearthing of the 1844 Manuscripts.

    Reading Capital is therefore situated in the foundational debates of “western Marxism,” the intellectual trends that arose mainly after 1956 in the groves of academe as the unity of the world communist movement and its Marxist-Leninist ideology started to crumble.

    As other academics were enlisting in the struggle to extract from Marx’s earliest writings an “anti-Stalinist” Marxism, Althusser and his colleagues instead sought to establish a new basis for an anti-humanist and non-Hegelian Marxism which had only been fully revealed in Capital as the first full exposition of historical materialism.

    In contrast to much of the “new left,” they sought to liquidate the individual as an object of philosophical inquiry and instead to give pre-eminence to the strictly scientific system which Marx eventually unfolded.

    This volume is therefore the first staging of Althusser’s celebrated epistemological break, in which Marx’s intellectual work is seen as a long struggle to free himself from his Hegelian inheritance, an argument Althusser later somewhat retreated from.

    This Capital is read as a landmark in the theory of knowledge, of “ideological production” and structural causality. Althusser’s own theory of knowledge, which he defines as the theory of theoretical practice, relates closely to Spinoza, inter alia, and much effort has been expended since in trying to replace Hegel with Spinoza as a philosophical foundation for Marxism.

    Freud is in the mix too.

    Spinoza’s profound materialism would certainly have been congenial to Marx but the evidence that the former actually influenced the latter seems somewhat speculative.

    At any event, Balibar’s later argument that there is no such thing as Marxist philosophy at all, and that Marx himself saw his work as the negation of philosophy, seems more compelling and is in fact something that can be inferred by reading — literally — Marx’s tomb in Highgate, where the final thesis on Feuerbach seems to make that point.

    In Reading Capital the argument is that Marx was “doing science” — specifically dialectical and historical materialism — by analysing the capitalist system but was not himself aware of the concepts allowing him to undertake this. That had to wait for Althusser to identify and name what he was up to.

    Now you pay your money and you take your choice. But the idea that Althusser was, as it were, explaining to Marx what Marx was actually trying to do about a century after the event has always seemed fairly preposterous, as if Marxism could only finally exist as a product of Althusser’s own theoretical production.

    This position was in no wise helped by the revelation — by Althusser himself in his memoirs, largely written to explain his killing of his wife — that he had not in fact properly read Capital at the time of the lectures, relying instead on his superior intuition to get Marx’s philosophical drift from a few key passages.

    And then there is the fact that Reading Capital is rendered in the impenetrable language which became the hallmark of Althusser and so many other academic Marxists — Balibar, it should be said, is an exception.

    “When we pose the question of the mechanism by which the object of knowledge produces the cognitive appropriation of the world object”, Althusser asserts, “we are posing quite a different question from that of the conditions of the production of knowledge.” Well, aren’t we just?

    It is unsurprising, if a bit unfair, that British Marxist philosopher GF Cohen summed up Althusser in a single word — “bullshit.”

    Whatever, the unity of Marxist theory and working-class struggle was certainly not one of the objectives of the exercise.

    Of course Althusser, who was after all a lifelong communist, occasionally allows some sense of the struggle to intrude.

    His opening passage will strike a chord with many: “We all do read Capital … we have been able to read it every day, transparently, in the dramas and dreams of our history, in the disputes and conflicts, in the defeats and victories of the workers’ movement which is our only hope and destiny.”

    That Capital lives and breathes today, as much as ever. Reading Capital is more the rustle of dead leaves.



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