American Lit

Before Karl Marx and Frederick Engles changed the world forever by publishing their famous work, The Communist Manifesto (1848), the young Marx wrote a series of philosophical reflections, in 1844, on the negative effects that 19th century capitalism had on working class individuals. In particular, Marx wrote in order to criticize the emerging field of political economy (what we now call, merely, discipline of “economics”) for neglecting to consider the psychological and sociological status of the wage worker as an economic subject. His theory of estrangement (or, “alienation”) is perhaps the most influential of these ideas.For this week’s discussion, I would like for you to explain how you understand what Marx means by the philosophical concept, “estrangement,” and how he thinks this phenomenon relates to the reality of wage workers in a capitalist economy. Do you think this reality still exists, today, in our more modern, post-industrialize society? How does Marx’s ideas help us understand Melville’s character of “Bartleby” and the story’s focus on the dehumanizing effects of mechanized labor? These are just some of the questions that you can take up here.