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Alienation in the Industrial Society file:///C:/Users/James%20Heffernan/Desktop/BackUp%20J.Heff/D/Dad...

James D. Heffernan

Course: Ethics

Societal Alienation and Discontent


Comparisons to the Alienation of God and Man
Solution - Abandon Historical Models that don't work

Societal Alienation and Discontent


Some modern-day continental philosophers of the 1960's and 1970's, notably Herbert Marcuse, state the most highly developed
contemporary societies today are suffering from wide range alienation. Alienation being the perversion by way of the materialization
of ideals. What they see occuring is the transformation of the higher culture into the material culture. The qualitative changes appear to
be possible only from outside the material culture. The domination of forces are pre-conditioning the basic happiness to feel, think
and imagine. "Planned obsolesence, advertising, public relations are no longer unproductive overhead costs but rather elements of
basic production costs." 1 People march off to war knowing they may die with the acceptance and irrational belief that the system,
since it delivers the "goods", declares that if you want to enjoy life you have to pay a price. What has happened here is the
"rationality" of the system has become the absorbing factor of conscience and "morality".

The struggle for existence is not only material but also moral. What is lacking today in industrial societies, according to Professor
Marcuse, are the means to bring about the free development of human needs to combat this struggle. In order to bring about these
needs, the elimination of profitable waste, frustration and political domination is necessary. In the industrial socities, mass
consumption of goods and services becomes the good life. The idea of annihilation and defense are rationalized. "The idea and
classification of nuclear plants and laboratories labeled as Industrial Parks and the Civil Defense display of a deluxe fallout shelter
with wall to wall carpeting" 2 does not enter the consciousness with reason. The problem is it registers perfectly rational in terms of
the existing society and the nuclear age. Man is honored for his brain power in dreaming up such stuff. The frustration and fear of a
free thinking human being is justifiable. His discontent and alienation develops into a nightmare.

Technological progress has come to be identifed with human progress. Our work has become more easier and efficient, but it has
become more depersonalized. Even our thinking and actions outside of work practices are standardized and predictable. People are
treated as material (i.e. "college material"). The critics say that the machine in the industrial society has gained so much power that
man now has no say in his own destiny. There is no escape from depersonalization. Man can no longer express himself in his work.
The alienation from his work, himself and his union with society is shattered by the very mechanization of his life. Technology itself
is really nuetral and therefore depends on something else to activate alienation. This spark is simply political development. Along
with technology, it can turn individuals into mere objects.

The workers within the industrial complex are alienated from themselves as human beings because their work downgrades their
human nature to an animal needing food and shelter to survive. They can be alienated from their family and children because his or
her work is in constant competition with them. Finally, they are alienated from society because it's economic growth and prosperity
do not increase their own living standards.

1.. Marcuse, Herbert, One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964, p. 49.
2.. Ibid., p. 248. According to the New York Times, November 11, 1960, displayed at the New York City Civil Defense
Headquarters, Lexington Ave and Fifty-fifth Street.

Comparisons to the Alienation of God and Man


Accompanying this discussion, I feel it is also plausible here to draw similiarities to the alienation of God and man with man's
alienation in advanced industrial society. One area that deserves attention here are the writings of Calvin and Luthur who stated the
alienation of God and man is the result of original sin. Man is a sinner and therefore alienates himself from God when he does so. St.
Paul and St. Augustine also agreed that sin was the alienation of God and man. Therefore, the alienation comparison I see is that man's
societal powerlessness, isolation, and feelings of meaningless can be also be likened with the sin of stagnation of the cultural and
deontologically based spiritual needs he has abandoned.

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Alienation in the Industrial Society file:///C:/Users/James%20Heffernan/Desktop/BackUp%20J.Heff/D/Dad...

Man, with the aid of politics and technology, has created an alienation that will take who knows how long to ease. God also has been
materialized, and his moral guidelines have been replaced by easier institutional methods. Should we classify the "institution" as god?
Technology coupled with politics may say yes! Naive as it may sound, properties such as love, brotherhood and charity are still
attainable realities in this ever growing complex society. Although I agree that instead of gazing endlessly at a divine ruler, the
maturity of religion as Jesus, and others, have stated comes down to peace and love on earth. To follow those simple rules on earth
for the betterment of humanity and a happier life (thus satisfying the real needs of man) is the rational. I therefore feel God's message
should not be abandoned but elevated above materialization as well.

Many critics would disagree with the deontologically based spiritual stance here on the grounds that God prevents man from creating
a human religion. But today, man has neglected or abandoned God and is still alienated in society. One conclusion I see is that if
mankind finds happiness on the spiritual path, don't demean it. Breaking down the walls of man's alientation with God and society
needs to promoted, not eroded, in every way possible.

Solution - Abandon Historical Models that don't work


The solution to the problem of alienation in advanced industrial societies will be slow and tedious. No society has ever ended
alientation completely. Marcuse mentions that as far as workers are concerned, one area to consider would be toning down the
emphasis on foremen, assembly lines and straw bosses. The would allow workers themselves to invent and develop more productive
methods of industry on their own. There should be incentives though in order to preserve the need for self accomplishment. Our
resources are dwindling so new methods of production will be needed.

As far as all of society is concerned, the emphasis on a new cultural and spiritual renaissance is necessary. The divisions alienation
brings about can only be diminished over time and man's realization that he is here to live a pacified life. The stagnation of existence,
I feel, demoralizes the individual. Many critics say that the demoralization will never be conquered. I tend to agree with them seeing
the way things are going. Unless a spiritual and cultural rebirth can develop somehow, and by any means, for those of us who live in
industrial societies, I'm afraid the individual consciousness will continue to dwindle and decay.

The need for true happiness cannot be satisfied if the industrial system continues to substitute material pleasures as the cure. Here I
am confronted with a utilitarian problem that deserves attention. The rationality absorbed by the industrial society includes the
transformation of deep-seated interests and desires into material pleasures. The enjoyment and achievement of a happy life are the
real interests that technology cannot provide. Therefore, another answer would be an anti-hedonistic attitude towards the material
culture. Instead of escaping the alienation, man will need to place a stronger emphasis on the demechanization of himself in favor of
the development of his human personality. Escapism cannot fulfill these needs. It may serve as a temporary retreat from alienation, but
not the positive long-term need that requires us to reject following history (because that's all we know) and strive for a more utopian
society.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Marcuse, Herbert, One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Pappenheim, Fritz, The Alienation of Modern Man. New York, 1959.

Ethics-An International Journal of Social, Political and Legal Philosophy, Vol. 83 (July 1973), Number 4.

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