The positive transcendence of self-alienation from work

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The Marxian critique of the category of alienated work

"Synthesis in status nascendi” is how we can refer to the nature of the set of excerpts and reflections more or less textually formalized, responsible for confronting critical Marxian philosophical thought with a still neo-Hegelian basis with the political economy under discussion at the time. In the Paris Manuscripts, the central problem identified by Marx in his examination of idealist philosophy is the fact that “Hegel's point of view is that of modern political economy”[I]. Both are interpretively attached to a certain historical period and postulate the particular interpretative categories of their time as given, universal and natural. Or rather, they postulate precisely what they should explain. Thus, it is no coincidence that the finding on the basic ontological dimension of the self-alienation of work appears on purpose at the end of the work, when dealing with the money system. This is because "Marx's analytical method is more reative than positive and self-sustaining: he allows himself to be guided by the problematic of the immediate subject of his criticism”[ii]. Marx seeks self-demonstration of the theoretical confusions of his predecessors.

Throughout the work, it is at stake to expose the analytical insufficiency, on the one hand, of Hegelian abstract categories and, on the other, of the misunderstandings of national economists (and even self-critically of Marx himself) regarding the proletariat as an essential part of the process of production. A minimally attentive reading of the work makes it clear how the critique of the object has been emerging as the object itself is exposed and discussed, a methodological stance that is even present in virtually all of the author's future works. In the Manuscripts of 1844 there is the Marxian innovation in revealing, from the highest knowledge in vogue in the humanities, the “ideological fallacy of historically equating the part (that is, what corresponds to the interest partial) as All"[iii]. In it we find the cat jump from the critique of historically constituted social reproduction as a universalized particular, from the conception of the “problem in terms of the concrete dialectical concept of the “partiality that prevails as universality””[iv]. As is known, the novelty and preciousness of Marx's research work does not reside in the formulation of communism or socialism, but in the total treatment of the capitalist problematic.

We can characterize it as a synthesis in a state of birth because it is in the Manuscripts where Marx, for the first time, presents us with the category of alienated work. And it is exactly where it appears “as an essential connection between the whole range of estrangements “and the money system””[v]. Here is where the crafts of work in the capitalist era as the foundation of all other alienated and alienating expressions. More deeply, in the Manuscripts, alienated work is defended as structuring our entire society, especially at the point where private property appears as a consequence of alienated work.[vi]. Capitalist work is the common denominator. However, it would be anti-Marxian to speak in terms of only the presentation of the object, only the treatment of the relationship between capitalist alienated categories with the money system. Marx goes further and wishes for transcendence of the whole complex. For “at the moment when the problem of transcendence was concretized, in the Manuscripts, as the negation and supplantation of the “self-alienation of work”, the system of Marx was born”[vii]. Consequently, it becomes unthinkable to address the issue without defending its overcoming. So much so that the crafts science derived from overcoming alienation would be a “human science” integrated into real life, based and guided by real human needs, and rejecting the alienated relationship between philosophy and natural science given their mutual foundation in alienated labor.[viii]. It is Mészáros who accepts as a first methodological step that “the key to understanding Marx’s theory of alienation is his concept of “Aufhebung”, and not the other way around”[ix], just as it was he, as a direct disciple of Lukács, who reinforced the notably ontological aspect of the discussion of capitalist alienation.

The purpose of this article is to reconstruct and discuss the Marxian critique of the category of alienated work, necessarily linking it to its transcendence. If we accept the definition of alienation as a socially imposed inhumanity, we wish to discuss how the social reproduction by human beings of a type of relationship that is harmful to themselves becomes possible. To do so, we will use the theoretical inflection point represented by the Manuscripts of 1844, taking as support the classic work The theory of Alienation in Marx by István Mészáros. The use of the second becomes essential as the degree of theoretical systematization it offers is absent in the first, not to mention the more in-depth treatment given by Mészáros of the references, discussions and authors which together form the writing environment of the Manuscripts from 1844 to era. And, mainly, we use it because of Mészáros' privileged point of view in verifying both the synthesis in its nascent state (which also implies a greater degree of difficulty in reading), as well as its finished form. That is, capable of perceiving the following developments (be it the German Ideology or the Grundrisse, culminating in Capital) of the theoretical content introduced by Marx in the Manuscripts. What appears to us in the Manuscripts in the form of a relative draft, essays and beginnings of reflections (such as, for example, the finished project of Marx's critique of Hegel's philosophy, which was never written), appears in Mészáros's book with considerable gain in systematicity and academic exposition that facilitates the interpretation of the theme in view of its complexity. Furthermore, the Hungarian author not only reproduces the theme, but inserts important innovations and theoretical developments, including many debtors to the Lukacsian tradition in which he is inserted.

Resuming a discussion from 1844 is justified as we are still in capitalism and, in the middle of the XNUMXst century, segments of ideological reproduction of society still persist, such as the media in general, the educational system and even left-wing intellectuals from hegemonic universities in Brazil insistent on taking and to spread the categories of economic mediation of capitalist alienated exchange such as, for example, private property, money, capitalist division of labor, etc. as natural, given, ahistorical, infinite and, finally, universal. And, worse, in postulating some essentially selfish human nature, with a tendency to mercantile exchange, providing moral substrate for the maintenance of a certain type of exploitative economic relationship of the present social reproduction. As, when discussing the theme, we position the object historically, we have the possibility of denaturalizing it by recognizing its partiality imposed on the whole. Marx reveals it through the inherent movement of criticism of the object; This does not mean that the alienated relationships in question immediately melt into thin air or are not lasting, but that, in fact, there is the possibility of overcoming them since there is a relatively well-marked beginning in history and there may be an end.

 Before discussing the object to be transcended, it is necessary to differentiate the concept in order not to fall into the error of confusing the type of human activity that we are advocating for overcoming. Marx’s starting point is the triple interaction between “human being” (SH), “nature” (N) and “industry” (I), which can be represented as follows:

Figure 1: Visual representation of the basic form of human interaction with nature mediated by human activity.

The process described is called by Marx the “genesis of human society”[X] . Here, industry does not mean the way we know it of a business production perhaps subject to instability in the financial market, etc. In fact, industry is identified with the general sense of productive activity[xi]. We have, therefore, a dialectical and mediating triple interrelation capable of demonstrating, through their interaction, the fact that human beings not only act in nature industrially, but also, specifically, are molded and constructed by it. The great particularity of the human being, to the detriment of any other species in the animal world, is the ability to improve itself as it deals with nature. We cease to be wild animals because we have the brilliant creative ability to change ourselves as our activity confronts the outside world. Even the worst architect is better than the best construction bee in that he imagines in his mind beforehand the end result of his practical action in the world.

If, at first, the human being is identified as part of nature by evolving in and from it, in the suggested scheme he remains that way, but, due to his human activity, he distinguishes himself from the natural and creates the social world of work. The human being as part outside and inside nature, natural and “artificial”, both aspects together in a dialectical relationship of formation of the social individual. Thus, if we can speak of any human essence, it is closely linked with the creative potentials of practical action in the world and the corresponding effect on the development of the social individual.[xii]. To this process of imperative and ontological mediation between the three factors, Mészáros names first order mediation[xiii]. In other words, it is about human activity as an essential ontological factor, without which we do not exist.

In fact, different societies create for themselves particular forms of material social reproduction, but in all of them we find a certain type of social organization aimed at guaranteeing the fulfillment of basic needs of human existence. For example, one of the peculiarities of ours is that exchange value assumes preponderance when confronted with the use value of commodities, just as every working day has in itself a portion of unpaid labor time snapped up by a class of possessors. . In this, two additions are important. First, the notion of human labor in question at this point does not carry the meaning usually shared by the common sense of Western societies. One speaks of work and, immediately, the remunerated activity that is carried out, most of the time, against one's will by the individual in deplorable conditions, comes to mind. It is not the practice, whether physical or intellectual, performed within a certain monthly workday in exchange for a salary. We don't talk about waking up at five in the morning, having a lunch break, goals to be achieved, psychological pressure, etc. Pure and simply, we refer to the share of contribution of each social individual in the collective social work in favor of the social reproduction of the whole. In a more general sense, we take a previous step and return to the essential activity for the existence of the human being.

Second, it is not this form of work, mediation of the first order, of which we claim positive transcendence. If it were, it would be like advocating for the extinction of human beings because we would be arguing for not dealing with the objective needs of maintaining the condition of life, which would correspond to a logical error, first of all. For the object of human need is in the subject's exteriority, beyond and outside him. Hunger is human but what satisfies it is outside of it, consequently, we exist by and for the sake of external content. The being is not oriented towards the inside and the need is satiated by the object from outside. To affirm positively the objectivity of human activity for the purpose of satisfaction is to reiterate the outer and human existence itself, as Marx demonstrates by logic:

A being that does not have its nature outside itself is not a being. natural, takes no part in the essence of nature. A being that has no object outside itself is not an objective being. A being that is not itself an object for a third being has no being for its own. object, that is, it does not behave objectively, its being is no objective [being].

A non-objective being is a Do not be[xiv]

All human activity in its ontologically fundamental quality carries objectification. “Once again, it should manifest itself as the “objectification of man's generic life”: as objectification that bears intrinsically human characteristics, insofar as it enables the human being to contemplate “himself, in a world created by him , and not just in thought”[xv]. Regardless of crafts possible to be assumed, the individual, in the act of work in a universal sense, mobilizes a certain previously thought and planned idea outside his body. If the starting point is consciousness, the arrival point is the result of work in the outside world. The mediation between both is performed by action in the world. The well-marked final orientation of activity from a certain initial state takes on the quality of a teleological act. Thus, the objectification of fundamental ontological human activity is a teleological act. It is also for Lukács that the transformation of the real based on previous, singular and abstract ideation is called objectification.[xvi].

All the dynamism of the work in Lukács is positive. Although he splits the fundamental ontological work of first-order mediation into objectification and alienation, unlike Marx, the second remains in a position of positivity. If “objectification inevitably has a moment of alienation”[xvii], is because, when objectified, the idea turned into a finished product in the outside world will never be faithfully equal to the idea launched beforehand. It's as if the idea was perfect and its practical projection never followed faithfully. This differentiation between the creative individual and the created object, this necessary loss to make possible the modification of the world, Lukács names alienation. Here it is a crucial aspect of any and all universal human activity. Resuming Lukács to discuss the theme is only, for the present purpose, to demonstrate alienation in a positive sense.[xviii] within a possible interpretation of first-order mediation. In this case, it would be contradictory to assume Lukács's positive approach on the positivity of the fundamental alienation of work, since, as an essential moment of objectification, to advocate for the transcendence of the alienation of labor would be to put down every teleological act of action oriented in the external and affirming world. of human creative potential. The same did not necessarily occur with Hegel. It takes the negativity of alienation to make sense of its overcoming.

If the world of men is the complex result of human action, if praxis is the foundation of social being, then the objectivation/alienation process corresponds to the consubstantiation of the human becoming of men: hence its positivity. Without further ado, this feature is an ineradicable, central element in Lukács' rupture with all traditional ontology (including the Hegelian one).[xx]

If in Lukács, Mészáros and Marx, despite assuming it in positivity or negativity, alienation intrinsically corresponds to the concrete object lost and differentiated from the creative individual in the act of objectification, in Hegel it concerns a quality of the subject, not of the individual. object. Returning to Hegel is justified as we will only understand mediation of mediation, of the second order, if it becomes evident how the materialist notion of work was constructed in Marx and the developments in Mészáros. Hegel's issue with alienation is the substantial moment for humanity when its own history is converted into a distinct object. Between humanity and human history, a relationship of alienation is established, as allowing the subject to look at distance, in third person, over his historical development requires the loss of himself in favor of exteriorization as a distinct subject, an object after all. The subject assumes the quality of being alienated when he positions the history of himself outside of himself, externally. “Humanity, therefore, “objectifies its history in an object that is external and alienated in relation to itself: in short, humanity objectifies itself in an object that is alienated and external to itself” [xx].

If the teleology of objectification in Lukács, and even in Marx, starts from the abstract and singular idea and ends towards the modification of the concrete external world, the displacement of the development of the Hegelian Spirit from the in-itself towards the for-itself, encompassing all moments of objectification, alienation and exteriorization during humanity's self-knowledge, occur until finally reaching the subject-object identity. That is, until the alienated subject realizes that the object in question is himself. Here, the subject's journey operates teleologically entirely within abstract and mental categories, never turned towards the external world in materiality. When the Spirit of humanity progresses rationally and becomes aware of the strange object of which it reflects itself, that is, reaches the for-itself, humanity “de-objectifies” itself.[xxx]. For the philosopher of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, human activity is conceived solely within a frame of reference of mental activity and the exercise of abstract categories. Hegelian idealism is enclosed in the Absolute Spirit, Mind/Spirit in a stage for itself, when humanity overcomes the strange mediations of self-recognition of its history and, as a subject, identifies with its object. It is important here to emphasize the fact that, during the process of rational displacement from the in-itself to the for-itself, the qualitative change always occurs in the subject, and not in the predicate.[xxiii] (CITATION 21).

Before just criticizing, Marx recognizes the great achievement of the Hegelian system in dealing with alienation by linking it to repeal not as a moral “must”, but an intrinsic necessity to the concept[xxiii]. Not as an arbitrary postulate, but an intimate condition of the nature of alienation itself. However, in Hegel, suppression still operates at the level of abstract consciousness, through the interaction of categories of thought. In relation to the structures of capitalist domination and exploitation based on alienated labor, therefore, the Hegelian system has nothing to say and is silent, according to “the necessary repeal of the manifest contradictions in the dialectical process is, in the last analysis, nothing more than a merely supplanting conceptual (“abstract, logical, speculative”) of these contradictions, which leaves the reality of capitalist alienation completely unchallenged”[xxv]. That is, "all history of exteriorization and all retreat (zurucknahme) of exteriorization is thus nothing but the production history abstract thinking, absolute thinking, logical, speculative thinking”[xxiv]. The fact that the national political economy hides and/or mystifies the worker's alienation during the productive process is more or less related to the Hegelian bourgeois point of view in not reaching concrete reality, they are trapped in rejecting illusions of the whole. Hence, it is possible, in parts, for the partiality of Hegelian abstractionism to be identified with the partiality of national political economy, as with Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

The unfolding of Marx's materialist critique of Hegelian idealism is not guided, right away, by the abstract movement of the subject in an alienated situation from in-itself to the “enlightened” for-itself, Absolute. Rather, he begins by attacking the status of the movement's protagonist, the abstract subject alienated from himself. “Marx's irony turns not to the concept of self-estrangement, but to philosophical abstractionism, which replaces the real individual (historically and socially concrete) by the idealistic image of abstract human being and, consequently, mystifies the strangeness of the consciousness"[xxv]. In other words, firstly, Marx seeks to destabilize the foundations of the philosophical system, rather than the manifested content of reflection. “Man just like self-awareness, the different figures of estrangement that emerge are therefore just different figures of consciousness or self-consciousness.[xxviii]. And, even more, instead, he proposes the type of protagonist he deems necessary. In Hegel, humanity alienated as a subject, in Marx, on the other hand, the real individual with concrete needs.

It was Marx who proposed the hypothesis that, in capitalist society, ontologically universal human activity and the corresponding objectification appear as alienation from work. Furthermore, if with Hegel there is alienation of the individual, with Marx, the quality of being in a situation of alienation is, first of all, manifested in the object to, later, have its effect on the real individual. With Marx, we have alienation from the predicate and not from the subject, as before. In earlier writings on alienation, objectification and exteriorization were largely identified or, at the very least, considerably intertwined. In Hegel, they appear as moments of elevation of the Spirit towards the for-itself that has become Absolute. “He learns the day as essence, as the essence of man that confirms itself; he sees only the positive side of the job, not its negative side[xxviii]. In Lukács, in his later interpretation, the conceptual division of labor into positively equal objectification and alienation appears. In Marx and Mészáros, we have alienation as a manifestation particular of a certain kind of universal objectification of ontological work. And, even more, as it is presented here, it is inexorably accompanied by its condition of transcendence. This becomes clear when, contrary to Hegel, the alienated protagonist individual appears not as an objectified universal individual, but as a modern and alienated individual in capitalist society.[xxix].

This critical adoption of the labor point of view represented a conception of the proletariat not simply as a sociological force diametrically opposed to the point of view of capital and, consequently, remaining in the orbit of the latter, but as a historical force. self-transcending that there is no way not to supplant the alienation (that is, the crafts de objectification historically given) in the process of realizing their own immediate ends that not by chance coincide with the “reappropriation of the human essence”[xxx]

To this way in which objectification manifests itself in the mode of social reproduction of a given society, not necessarily the capitalist one, Mészáros gives the name of second order mediation. In other words, the specific type of categories capable of performing the mediations of material reproduction of the social individual can be called second-order mediation. It is the way in which ontologically fundamental human activity presents itself in particular in a certain social organization. In the present historical moment of our society, from the real subsumption of human work to the logic of capital, the mediating relations of exchange can be represented as follows:

Figure 2: Visual representation of the alienated interaction between human beings and nature mediated by alienated productive activity

As we see, ontologically essential human activity made alienated involves human being (SH) being divided into private property (alienated) (P) and wage labor (or alienated) (T), where P and T are antagonistic, diametrically contradictory when confronted. The human being (SH) is now no longer conceived in itself, but only as private property and/or salaried work, consumer and possessor of goods and/or endowed with labor goods, respectively. The genesis of human society, previously presented in the triple interaction between SH, I and N, becomes the alienated interrelation between, first, private property (P), alienated industry (IA) and alienated nature (NA). Just as, second, the same occurs between wage labor (T), alienated industry (IA) and alienated nature (NA). Worse still, the fact that work emerges as detached from the human being draws attention. not like action human of production, but mere “material fact”[xxxii].

By mediation of mediation, we understand precisely the break made by P and T between SH and all the other elements of the complex. The mediation between human being with nature and essential human activity (industry) is exchanged for the mediation between P and T with nature and human activity, now all elements being alienally determined, since the human being itself is no longer present. At this point, there is socially posed inhumanity. That is, the human being finds himself alienated from his essential relationship with his ontological human activity and nature, as P and T intersect the relationship. Moreover, among the elementary poles of the system, the equally peculiar categories of “private property”, “exchange”, “division of labor”, “money” arise as mediating factors of the other parts with the derivation of SH in P and T. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the insufficiency of politics, in its partiality, in developing property relations to absolute and impersonal economic venality. The political expropriation of land was an essential step in the realization of private property, but not enough. The overthrow of local property had as a requirement the accompaniment of the universalization of crafts merchandise and the corresponding alienating effect. Finally, the aforementioned categories of mediation assume all potentiality of unique existence and strictly through overcoming local political expropriation turned universal economic.

The most important aspect of Marx's theory of alienation is to glimpse the transcendence of all self-alienated categories and of the entire reified system.[xxxi]. Self-alienated because if productive activity is the source of consciousness, the now alienated consciousness is a reflection of the alienation of activity, of self-alienation[xxxii]. The direct and most damaging possible consequence for humankind is having its creative and conscious potential for oriented activity being limited by the impositions of the logic of salaried work and private property. Consequently, transcendence not of the genesis of universal human society (this must remain intact), but of the historically specific way in which it emerges in Western capitalist societies.

The ideal of a “positive transcendence” of alienation is formulated as a necessary socio-historical supplantation of “mediations”: private property, exchange, division of labor, which stand between human beings and their activity and prevent them from finding satisfaction in their work, in the exercise of their productive (creative) capacities and in the human appropriation of the products of their activity[xxxv].

The great mistake of Marx's predecessors was to take the given shape of work (salaried) as universal form (essential ontological activity). They did not perceive the connection of wage labor to the particular, as creative human activity is to the universal. Hegel and the political economists, but also Proudhon and the Utopian Socialists, absolutivized and elevated crafts wage-earners from work to universal labor status. The incomprehension came from the analytic field of vision being restricted to apparent partiality. However, “if one does not make a distinction between the ontologically absolute factor and the historically specific form, that is, if the activity is conceived – because of the absolutization of a particular form of activity – as a homogeneous entity, the emergence of the question of a real (practical) transcendence of alienation[xxxiv]. In short, Marx's critique is to demonstrate their inversion between first- and second-order mediation. In earlier writings, capitalistically determined second-order mediation appears as essential and universal first-order mediation.

The estrangement of the object of work summarized in the Marxian concept of alienation has four aspects[xxxiv]. First, the externality character of work appears to the worker as if the product of his work did not belong to him, but as if it were in the possession of another. Therefore, it is as if the gain of another corresponds to the loss of oneself. If the worker's relationship with his product is his relationship with the sensible world, with the things of nature, therefore, "the human being is alienated from nature"[xxxviii]. We have the strangeness of thing. Second, if a being is only a being if he objectifies himself, the worker, in modern society, is only such by the act of his activity exteriorizing. If his human activity, his act of production, mediated by P and T, is alienated, his relationship with himself is alienated. “The spiritual and physical energy own of the worker, his personal life – for what is life if not activity – as an activity directed against himself, independent of him, not belonging to him. O self-estrangement (Selbstentfremdung), as above the estrangement of the thing"[xxxviii].

          Third, for a human being to be a generic being means to be a member of general humanity, a generic type of being. It concerns the universality of the human being self-oriented by his gender shared with everyone else. To be alienated from your human race is to be cut off from the quality of being part of humanity. He finds himself apart from his universal peers[xxxix] and thus considers the satiation of his vital needs individually and not as identical to others of the same genus, of the same generic essence. And, fourth, the consequence of being alienated from things, from oneself and from one's generic humanity, is precisely to be alienated from all other human beings who are also concretely alienated. “What is the product of a man’s relationship with his work, the product of his work and with himself, counts as a man’s relationship with another man, as the work and object of another man’s work”[xl]. The relationship between individual human beings becomes alienated because their relationship with things, products of their work, is also alienated.

Being alienated, therefore, means the process by which productive activity is diverted from the essential function of humanly mediating the subject-object relationship.[xi]. It is demonstrated when a certain type of dehumanizing social relationship is socially reproduced by members of society. It is when human activity is confronted with a hostile and domineering power over it. To be alienated is also to separate the social individual from his second nature, society itself, where only in it can he individualize himself through inherent sociality. In the same way that Hegel recognizes the importance of the alienated and estranged stages of evolution and development of the Spirit in itself up to the Absolute state, Marx and Mészáros recognize the positive aspect of alienated work when they evidently defend that the entire alienated complex is an essential moment of development socio-historical development of the human being, thanks to the corresponding development of industry and the modality of sociality. As is known, Marx always recognized the importance of private property for the realization of human life, the question now is to overcome it. “Alienation, reification and their alienated reflections are, therefore, socio-historically needed of a fundamental ontological relationship. This is the "positive aspect" of self-alienation from work.[xliii]. It is not about postulating a nostalgic, or even romantic, posture for a past free of alienation. Including, as there are many forms of alienation, if today we have economic alienation, in a past like the Middle Ages there was religious alienation. But, it is about repeal of the alienated and reified complex as we live it is a necessary step for the “full realization of nature of the human being” through a self-mediation proper human activity[xiii]. It advocates the free capacity of human beings, as part of nature, to deal with their needs directly, mediating with it, and not going through capitalist mediations, representing obstacles to their free exercise.

          During the present dissertation, the innumerable terminological confusions generated by the broad conceptual reference framework made up of the terms alienation, estrangement, exteriorization, objectification, etc., become evident. Perhaps the main reason is that there is no agreement among specialists on which set of translations is the correct one, even more so when German is the source language. Furthermore, the variance of the content of meaning assumed by the concept in each author is of a considerable degree of variance, which is yet another difficult aspect to deal with the subject. In the case of Marx and Mészáros, unlike Hegel and Lukács, we demonstrate how the fact that the objectification/exteriorization of human work appears, in capitalist societies, as alienation/estrangement. Unlike Hegel, they are not all moments of the same movement of consciousness elevation and, much less as in Lukács, objectification is not positively identified with alienation. To clarify the possible confusion, it is enough to point out the point where Marx and Mészáros, with the support of Sérgio Lessa, agree on the translation. Right at the beginning of the book, in footnote number three, Mészáros states that “when the accent is on “exteriorization” or “objectification”, Marx uses the term “Entausserung”, whereas “Entfremdung” is used when the author's intention is to emphasize the fact that the human being is confronted by a power hostile produced by himself, so that he defeats his own purpose”[xiv]. In agreement,

Translating Entfremdung as alienation, on the contrary, preserves this objective essence of the alienating complexes and makes possible an adequate treatment, from an ontological point of view, of the very varied relationship of each of these complexes with consciousness. This fact is demonstrated by the decades of translation of Entfremdung by alienation and, conversely, by the countless problems generated by its translation by estrangement. There is already accumulated experience with both alternatives so that we can safely affirm the superiority of the translation of Entfremdung by alienation[xlv].

Finally, thinking about the present day, the main political and ideological implication of the inversion between first and second order mediation has as its central axis the defense and maintenance of the capitalist social order as natural and historically infinite. Within the alienated point of view, defending its overcoming would be like promoting the extinction of all human beings, as if capitalistically determined human activity was the only possible way for the existence of life. Liberals, conservatives and neoliberals, in short, defenders of private property, the family, morality, etc., in short, the guardians of the social order with all its inequalities and ills, commit more or even the same confusion in raising the particular (capitalist period) to the whole (general history of the human being). As they occupy important spaces and positions in society, such as ministries (above all, those of education, communication and economy), administrative councils of television and radio stations, as well as teaching chairs in Universities of great repercussion in Brazil, especially in the humanities and applied social sciences, it is obvious that the ways of thinking transmitted and disseminated in civil society, including the very conception of the individual, will correspond no differently to the absolutization of the capitalist order. Even more so in neoliberalism, “natural” and “artificial” (in the more social sense of overcoming nature) are mixed and inverted. But this does not only occur at the conscious level, since the previous categories and the corresponding mode of reflective thinking, “a spontaneous sociology”, are guided, orchestrated and managed unconsciously by the internal capitalist logic. And any minimally more radicalized action against it will be seen as a violation of all human existence.

We can approach the example of human nature. Much in vogue and disseminated today in common sense, there is the notion of human nature as essentially selfish, focused on its individual interests to the detriment of the community. Ideological reproduction apparatuses preach that there is a supposed tendency to selfish economic exchange, not by chance intimately essential to the circulation and realization of crafts capitalist commodity. The innumerable points of view internal to capital's second-order mediation abstractly and ahistorically postulate a certain naturally given anthropological knowledge.

O fact history of capitalist exchange appeared in an idealized form on the absolute plane of "human nature" as a "propensity to exchange and barter" (Adam Smith), from which it could easily be deduced that the "commercial" form of society ,

based on the capitalist division of labor, it is also thenature” of society. (...) Indeed, when one assumes a fixed human nature, the really natural need e Absoluta is subordinated to an order pseudonatural[xlv].

Resorting to Marx, it is necessary to dimension all kinds of general conclusions about the human being within a more or less demarcated historical frame of reference. Or rather, it is necessary to subordinate anthropology to ontology.[xlv]. If we can speak of a human nature, of an essence capable of justifying an “intrinsic way of being”, it is linked to ontological human activity and how it presents itself in a given period. For the human being is, therefore, what he does with his practical activity. The development of conscience, implicated in the individual's behavior, accompanies the practical effect of the activity. Whereas the idea of ​​activity is objectified by practice in the world, consciousness is determined. And this confers the quality of variable, not fixed, unnatural for any supposed “human behavior”. However, this does not mean its inexistence but, on the contrary, refers to the considerable degree of variability.

Assuming a certain historical period, absolutizing human activity and the frame of reference while naturally capitalist is to make all humankind equal. Consequently, “if the capitalist order is contested, in the eyes of the “political economists”, it is as if the very existence of mankind were in danger”[xlviii]. Ideological phenomenon, currently, expanded to virtually all possible fields of society, as the capitalist order increasingly appears as insurmountable. The error of universalizing a specific form of presentation to the universal individual in modern capitalist society (as, more or less, Hegel did) serves to give moral substratum and legitimation, for example, to the existence and maintenance of private property, as well as to the structure corresponding familial and paternalistic. And, even worse, it helps to naturalize all kinds of ills, oppression and domination of capitalist social reproduction, as if we were “destined” to live that way, something with an extremely clear political purpose.

*Mateus Albuquerque and Castro is majoring in social sciences at USP.


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MARX, Carl. Economic-philosophical manuscripts. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2021

MÉSZÁROS, I. The theory of alienation in Marx. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016.


[I] Mészáros, 2016, p. 94

[ii] Ibid, p. 95

[iii] Ibid, p. 150

[iv] Ibid, p. 36

[v] Ibid, p. 95

[vi] Marx, 2021, p. 87

[vii] Mészáros, 2016, p. 23

[viii] Ibid, p. 98

[ix] Ibid, p. 25

[X] Ibid, p. 98

[xi] Ibid, p. 98

[xii] Ibid, p. 100

[xiii] Ibid, p. 100

[xiv] Marx, 2021, p.127

[xv] Mészáros, 2016, p. 145

[xvi] Lessa, 1992, p. 6

[xvii] Ibid, p. 7

[xviii] Ibid, p. 7

[xx] Lessa, 1992, p. 12

[xx] Lessa, 2018, p. 9

[xxx] Ibid, p. 10

[xxiii] Lessa, 2018, p. 11

[xxiii] Mészáros, 2016, p. 63

[xxv] Ibid, p. 64

[xxiv] Marx, 2021, p. 121

[xxv] Mészáros, 2016, p. 199

[xxviii] Marx, 2021, p. 123

[xxviii] Same, p. 124

[xxix] Mészáros, 2016, p. 224

[xxx] Ibid, p. 66

[xxxii] Ibid, p. 104

[xxxi] Ibid, p. 78

[xxxii] Ibid, p. 80

[xxxv] Ibid, p. 78

[xxxiv] Ibid, p. 79

[xxxiv] Marx, 2021, p. 82-86

[xxxviii] Mészáros, 2016, p. 20

[xxxviii] Marx, 2021, p. 83

[xxxix] Mészáros, 2016, p. 21

[xl] Marx, 2021, p. 86

[xi] Ibid, p. 81

[xliii] Ibid, p. 106

[xiii] Ibid, p. 81

[xiv] Ibid, p. 20

[xlv] Lessa, 2018, p. 29

[xlv] Mészáros, 2016, p. 87

[xlv] Ibid, p. 46

[xlviii] Ibid, p. 87

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