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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


This term has undergone a considerable history of attempted clarification, conducted especially with a view to distinguishing it from A lienation , its habitual synonym. Although the concept is present in earlier writers such as R ousseau , it first acquires a central status in the W ritings of H egel and M arx . The German word used by Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit to denote “estrangement” overlaps in its meaning with the terms used to designate “externalization” and “objectification.” All of these notions belong to the second stage of Hegel's dialectic: an entity which in the first stage is apprehended as merely given and self-identical is viewed in the second stage as “self-estranged” or “externalized,” its identity being comprised by the totality of relations into which it enters. The third stage abrogates this estrangement and restores identity, in a larger, mediated, and universal sense. In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (1959 (1981)), Marx praises this dialectic for recognizing that human beings create the objective world through labor, but criticizes it for its purely speculative supersession of estrangement; Marx makes a crucial distinction between mere objectification or externalization and estrangement or alienation. The latter is a specific social condition associated with the bourgeois world, and especially private property: the individual ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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