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International Phenomenological Society

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Alienation: A Conceptual Analysis

Author(s): Tronn Overend
Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Mar., 1975), pp. 301-322
Published by: International Phenomenological Society
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I. Preface:Relevanceof Epistemologicaland OntologicalConsidera-

(a) Epistemological:
In the sociological literature on alienation many sociologists
have attempted to grapple with conceptual issues related to 'aliena-
tion,'either as an end in itself (Seeman, 1959; Horton, 1964; Mizruchi,
1965; Scott, 1965; Feuer, 1965; Kon, 1967; et al.), or as a prerequisite
to substantive considerations in the sociology of alienation (Kenis-
ton, 1965; Horowitz, 1966; Blanner, 1967; Barakat, 1969;.Allardt,1970;
et al.) In either case, implicit or explicit, philosophical conclusions
are drawn as a basis for the consideration of substantive sociological
issues. These authors have realized that a sound epistemological
foundation is not only a necessary condition in avoiding consequent
sociological pitfalls, but moreover, that epistemological conclusions
affectthe direction taken in substantive theory.It is a thesis of this
analysis that many of the conclusions reached by sociologists qua
philosophers are unsatisfactory,and that in these circumstances it
not only becomes expedient to look at the linguistic questions, but
as will be argued, this clarificatoryprocedure is a prerequisite for
the systematicdevelopment of sociology in this area. To this end an
epistemological model is developed, in consequence of which the
followingfallacies are exposed:
(a) That 'alienation' has a metaphorical meaning (cf. Horton,
1964; Feuer, 1965).
(b) That 'alienation' has no meaning and/or should be re-
jected as a concept (cf. Israel, 1971; Kaufman, 1965;
et al.)
(c) That alienation has evaluative meaning (cf. Horowitz,
1966; Keniston, 1965; et al.)
In addition to the exposure of these fallacies the epistemological
model, with its distinction between locutionary and illocutionary
acts, is employed to:
(d) attack the underlying assumptions of the sociological
debate on values and associated ideological distortions
in substantive theory;
*I am particularlyindebted to Dr. Brian Birchall's instructionand inspirationover the
years, and to his encouragementat the time when this paper was written.


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(e) settle whether the concept alienation is likely' to be use-

ful in sociology; and
(f) outline a conceptual argument, through contingentiden-
tity statements,in defining the term, instead of merely
asserting its meaning (cf. Seeman, 1959; et al.)
(b) Ontological:
The central ontological issue investigated in this anaylsis is
whetheralienation is a relational or qualitative fact (Anderson, 1963).
In settling its status in this respect the following issues are con-
(a) whether alienation is a process (cf. Barakat, 1972)
(b) whether it is possible to have a state of more or less
alienation (Horton, 1964)
(c) the measurability of alienation (cf. Dean, 1961; Neal and
Rettig,1963,1967;et al.)
(d) the erroneous nature of authors taking alienation to be a
quality yet borrowing arguments from others who see it
as a relation, in establishing its conceptual status (cf.
Horton, 1964,Barakat, 1969,et al.)
2. The ConceptualProblem
In discussing the meaning of the sociological concept of 'aliena-
tion,' a broad distinction can be made between two types of ques-
tions: Linguistic questions on the one hand, Empirical questions on
the other. Linguistic questions involve semantic considerations of
what the word 'alienation' means. Enquiry along these lines thus
presupposes a theory of meaning in analytic philosophy. Empirical
questions, however,concern a sociological enquiry as to what pheno-
mena are subsumed under the term 'alienation.' Although these two
questions involve differentconsiderations,and it is in some respects
legitimatefor the individual sociologist qua sociologist to ignore the
firsttype of question, and concentrate his attention on the study of
a specific class of phenomena he technically terms 'alienation,' such
ad hoc procedures in the process of science may result in confusion
and conflictas to questions of universal meaning. Empirical evidence
of confusion in the literature suggests this is the case. Sociologists
have not at all been clear among themselves2as to what they mean
by the concept alienation, and, ipso facto, what social phenomena
(non) is alienation. The authors cited above have, at least, realized

1 There are, of course, considerationsother than epistemologicalto settle this issue.

2 This is not to say the individual sociologist using the concept is not clear what
he means by it.

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this fact and attempted to solve it. In this analysis, then,a considera-
tion will be made of the linguistic question.
3. The EpistemologicalModel
As a means to settlingthe linguisticquestion the following epis-
temological model is proposed. A synthesisis made of Austin's (1971)
theoryof speech acts, a traditional distinctionin the theoryof mean-
ing between sense and reference,and Anderson's (1963) realist ontol-
ogy. Here Austin's (1971) epistemological distinctions between locu-
tionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary is given an ontological
basis not found in Austin's writingsand not elaborated by later fol-
lowers of his ideas in the mainstream of linguistic philosophy. In
fact, contemporary philosophy has largely ignored the ontological
assumptions made in its epistemology.3By contrast the epistemologi-
cal model proposed here is based on the assumption not only that
ontologyis logically prior4to epistemology,but that this ontology to
be compatible with a scientificdiscipline must be a realist ontology.
Anderson's (1963) philosophy meets this,criteria. The broad tradi-
tional distinctionin philosophybetween sense and referenceis taken
here to be synonymouswith connotation and denotation, respective-
ly, and these two aspects are linked with what Austin calls the
locutionary force of a word.
The interrelationshipof these positions can be diagrammed as
Austin's K ('ALIENATION') Linguistic
speech-actsl questions

Traditional Empirical
theoryof questions
3 An influentialexample here is the use theoryof meaning, an epistemolgicalposi-
tion influencedgreatlyby Austin's philosophy.See Parkinson, G.H.R.(ed.), The Theory
of Meaning.
4 If X is logicallyprior to Y. then all Y are X (YaX) but not all X are Y (XoY).

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In the consideration of the meaning of a speech-act,Austin (1971)

distinguishes among the speech-acts Locutionary, Illocutionary, and
Perlocutionaryforce. A speech-act involves the use of words: (such
as 'alienation') and each particular word has a Locutionary force,
which is equivalent to both its sense and reference (Austin, 1971:
p. 94). The words in a particular speech-act, furthermore,will also
entail the performanceof an illocutionary act" . . . in saying some-
thingas opposed to performanceof an act of saying something . . ."I
Evaluating, advising, commending,entreating,etc. are many of the
illocutionaryacts associated with the use of a word. Finally,Austin's
perlocutionaryforce,although not of concern in the consideration of
'alienation' carried out here, refers to the ". . . consequential effects
upon the feelings, thoughts,or actions of the audience, or of the
speaker, or of the other persons . "6
The strict linguistic meaning of a word is thus its Locutionary
force. Here a common distinction is made between a word's refer-
ence, being the class of facts the term denotes, and a word's sense,
this being the qualities and attributes the term connotes. The deno-
tation and connotation of a word, finally,must have an ontological
basis. Here classes of facts and their attributes can be either qualita-
tiveor relational (viz., that which holds between two things). Of rela-
tions,Anderson (1963) has distinguishedbetween strict and extended.
Strict relations are not confined to any particular class of qualities
and include such relations as spatiotemporality(i.e., under, on top
of, etc.). Extended relations,however,are relations only certain qual-
ities can take up. Marriage, for example, is a (extended) relation con-
fined to certain qualities, namely individuals.
4. Application of the Model
The problems associated with the meaning of the word 'aliena-
tion' are thus seen to be a question of 'alienation's' locutionaryforce.
Here the necessary and sufficientconditions needed to be considered
to settle this question entail an investigationof alienation's denota-
tion and connotation. The consideration of 'alienation's' denotation
will involve identitystatements of the form a-b; propositions map-
ping out the relation of the term ('alienation') to the class. Because
the word alienation has such a long contextual historyin the litera-
ture, this will involve a program of contingent identification: A
Study of the literaturewill have to be made to determinewith what
classes of facts alienation has been traditionallyidentified.However,
5 Austin,J. W., How to do Thingswith Words,p. 99.
6 Austin,J. L., Ibid., p. 101.

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such a program will only include the 'classical' sociological literature

up to and includingMarx, as 'alienation' like many terms adopted in
contemporarysociology has a traditional meaning, and it is this lo-
cution which sociologists keep referringback to in an attempt to
strip away contemporary confusions and clutterings,and glean a
precise meaning.7The force then of a contingentidentityprogram
can only be gained by a consideration of traditional contextual his-
tories,if it is in the contemporaryhistorythat confusions have mani-
fested themselves.
From the investigation of traditional contingent identity,a de-
terminationwill be made, inter alia, whether 'alienation' has been
denoted by a class of qualities or a class of relations. The considera-
tion of alienation's connotations,however, requires the sociological
psychological analysis of determiningwhat sort of relations it takes
up (if it is found to be a quality) or what sort of qualities it forms
relations between (if it is found to be a relation).
5. Contextual History
The concept of alienation has a longer history than the term
'alienation.' As a concept, Fromm (1968') has argued, it can be traced
back to the prophets of the Old Testament and their discussion of
'idolatry.' The "Idolatrous man bows down to the work of his own
hands. The idol representshis own life-forcesin an alienated form."8
Lichtheim 1968) has argued the concept alienation can also be
traced back to Plotinus (AD 204-70), the founder of Neoplatonism
and the last of the great Ancient philosophers. Plotinus' doctrine
".... assumed a procession from an ultimate undefinable source or
principle to a multiplicityof finitebeings; the undivided one unfolds
into its various manifestationsby a downward process linking the
supersensible Being with a hierarchyof lower spheres and ultimately
with the world of nature and material existence, matter being the
lowest stage of the universe and the antithesis to the one"9 (my em-
(a) Meszaros (1970) points out 'alienation's' use in the New Testa-
ment, in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ch. 2. (12)), where Paul the
Apostle says:
"Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from
the Commonwealthof Israel ...." (my emphasis)

7 The other alternative,of course, is clearly to denote it to be a technical term with

a unique meaningindependentof traditionallocutions. This ad hoc procedure,however,
has been avoided by most sociologists.
8 Fromm,E., The Sane Society, p. 122.
9 Lichtheim,G., "Alienation," p. 264.

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Meszaros(1970) nevertheless, is not clear whetherhe wants to argue

that the conceptor the termalienationcan be tracedto this point,
as he quotes froma modernEnglishtranslation.An investigation of
the originalGreektexts10 howeversettlesthis question.The Greek
termsused here are: 'apallotrioomai'and "politeia"which are cog-
nates for"I am beingalienatedfrom"("appallotriomai")the citizen
body"11('politeia'). It can be concluded,then,the term'alienation'
goes back to the New Testament,whilethe conceptback further, to
theOld Testament.
(b) In a different context,and later date, the Frenchword aliens6'
was used to denotethe psychoticperson.This termwas adopted in
Englishas 'alienation'in 1482and definedas: "Loss or derangement
of mentalfaculties;insanity."12
(c) Meszaros (1970) has shown the term'alienation'to be contin-
gentlyidentifiedwith 'universalsaleability.'This denotes "The su-
premeideal .... . thateveryoneshouldbe able to give and to alien-
ate that whichbelongsto him . . ."13 Here Hobbes (1651) employs
the term,by contending the Lord has the power to ". . . sell his ser-
vant,or alienatehimby Testament""4 and Adam Smith(1776) states
. thevassal could not alienatewithouttheconsentof his superior

(d) Althougha numberof authors (Fromm,1968: 133; Lichtheim,

1961: 43-4;Meszaros,1970: 106) argue Rousseau employedthe con-
ceptpriorto Hegel in relationto man's beingseparatedfromnature,
Hegel is recognizedas the firstperson to make an extendedphilo-
sophicalelaborationon the term.
For Hegel .. . the historyof man was at the same time the his-
toryof man's alienation(Entfremdung) 'Whatthemindreallystrives
for,'he wrotein The Philosophyof History,'is the realizationof its
own notion;but in doingso it hidesthatgoalfromits own visionand
is proudand well satisfiedin thisalienationfromits'ownessence' "16
"The finalgoal of consciousnessis to arriveat this recognition:in
Hegel's language,consciousnessthus returnsto itself.The famous
10 I am indebted to M. Betteridgeof the History Department of the Universityof
New England for carryingout this analysis.
11 Or citizen rights.
12 The shorterOxfordEnglish Dictionary,Vol. I., p. 43.
13 Meszaros, I., Marx's Theoryof Alienation,p. 34.
14 Hobbes, T., Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Governmentand Society, Ch.
VIII, 6 (1651).
15Smith,A., An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol.
II., p. 342.
16 Fromm,E., Marx's Concept of Man, p. 47.

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'negation of the negation') - the negation of the existence of the ob-

jects that negate consciousness - recognizes that the objects are
merely alienated, reified consciousness.""7 Hegel's notion of aliena-
tion, then, can only be understood in relation to his idealist philo-
sophy. In denying the autonomous existence of external objects,
alienation is concluded to be a fact of the mind: a separation of the
mind from its essence into an 'alienated spirit.'1
(e) The 'Young Hegelian,' Feuerbach, although accepting Hegel's
notion of man's being alienated from himself, renounced Hegel's
idealist contention that nature is a self-alienated form of the Abso-
lute Mind. Lichtheim (1961) argues "Feuerbach begins and ends as a
critic of religion, and of philosophical idealism . . ."19and in their
place he substitutesanthropology20 as the basis for his thinking.Reli-
gion, Feuerbach argued, was the cause of alienation as it entailed the
reificationof man's essence.
(f) Marx continues in a similar vein to Feuerbach in his rejection of
Hegel's idealism. For Marx "The Phenomenology is a concealed, un-
clear and mystifyingcriticism,but insofar as it grasps the alienation
of man (even though man appears only as mind) all the elements of
criticism are contained in it . . ."21
As opposed to Feuerbach, Marx gives alienation a broader mean-
ing. In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts alienated labor
is characterized by: work being external to the worker, the lack of
spontaneity,and freedom for man only in the 'animal functions' of
eating,procreating,etc. This alienated labor, Marx asserts, "(1) alien-
ates nature from man; and (2) alienates man from himself, from
his own active function,his life activity,so it alienates him from the
species."22This second type of alienation, the alienation of species-
life, manifests itself in two other types: the alienation of man from
his products and the alienation of man from other men. Marx sums
this relationship up by arguing "A direct consequence of the aliena-
tion of man from the product of his labor, from his life activityand
from his species-life,is that man is alienated from other men."23

17 Karl Marx, p. 97.

18Hegel's philosophical systemexhibits a complexitywhich cannot be given justice
to here. Rather all that is possible, given the limitationof space, is to roughlyoutline
the sort of qualities Hegel identifiesalienation with.
19Lichtheim,G., Marxism: An Historical and CriticalStudy,p. 15.
20 In its wide European meaningas a surrogateof Psychology.
21 Marx, K., Early Writings,p. 202.
22 Marx, K., Ibid., p. 127.
23 Marx, K., Early Writings,p. 129.

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Ogurtsov (cited in Kon, 1967,pp. 521-2) argues that Marx, in his

later writings distinguishes the objective fact of alienation, that he
elaborated in his early writings,from the ideological phenomena it
produces. In Capital, for example, he discusses commodityfetishism.
McLellan (1971) concurs with this interpretation,and contends "The
counterpartof alienated man, the unalienated or 'total' man of the
manuscripts,also appears in Capital. In the chapter of volume 1 on
'Machinery and Modern Industry' Marx makes the same contrast be-
tween the effectsof alienated and unalienated modes of production
on the development of human potentiality."24Finally, in the Grun-
drisse, which McLellan (1971) believes is the centerpiece of Marx's
works, with Capital and Critique of Political Economy being only
partial elaborations, Marx is concerned in underlining" . . . not the
state of objectificationbut the state of alienation, estrangementand
abandonment, the fact that the enormous objectified power which
social labor has opposed to itself as one of its elements belongs not
to the workerbut to the conditions of production that are objectified
in capital."25
6. IdentityStatements
From this outline of the foundations of the concept alienation
and the contextualhistoryof the termup to and including Marx, the
reference (Denotation) of the word can be settled. The program of
contingentidentificationsuggests the following identity statements
(of the form a--b):
1. Alienation is the separation of man from the citizen body.
(Paul, the Apostle)
2. Alienation is the loss or derangementof mental faculties.
(From the French word alienne)
3. Alienation is universal saleability. (Hobbes, Adam Smith)
4. Alienation is the separation of the Mind from its essence.
5. Alienation is reification, through religion, of man's es-
sence. (Feuerbach)
6.1 Alienation is the separation/estrangement26 of man from
man from nature.
24McLellan, D., The Thoughtof Karl Marx, p. 109.
25 Marx, K., Grundrisse,p. 150, cited in McLellan, D., The Thought of Karl Marx,
p. 108.
26 In his translationof Marx's Early WritingsBottomore (1963) does not distinguish
between 'Entausserung' and 'Entfremdung'". . . since Marx (unlike Hegel) does not
make a systematicdistinctionbetween them; Marx distinguishesbetween 'Entausserung'
(alienation) and 'Vergegenstdndlichung' (objectivification).Bottomore,T. B. (ed.), Karl
Marx, Early Writings,p. xix. Braybrooke (1953) also agrees on this point.

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6.2 Alienation is the separation/estrangementof man from

6.3 Alienation is the separation/estrangementof man from
6.4 Alienation is the separation/estrangementof man from
other men. (Marx)
Analysis of these identitystatements reveal a common class the
term alienation denotes. 'Alienation' is contingentlyidentifiedwith
'separation,' 'loss,' 'saleability,' 'reification,' and 'estrangement.'
These are all relational facts of the form: aRb: where the relational
term R (such as 'separation'), joins two (or more) qualities a and b
(such as 'man' and 'nature'). It can be concluded then,that the term
'alienation' has the common referenceof the relational term (R) as
distinctfrom the qualitative fact (a or b).
The identity statements also show 'alienation' is a relational
term in the extended sense, as it has been contingentlyidentifiedas:
(A) a relation between individuals (identity statements: 1
and 6.4),
(B) a relation between qualities of the one individual (iden-
tity statements: 2, 4, 5, 6.2),
(C) a relation between the individual and his external milieu
(identitystatement 6.1),
(D) a relation between man and his productive activity
(identity statements 3, 6.3).27
In contendingalienation to be a relational term in the extended
sense, four broad classes of qualities are seen to take up the relation
of alienation. These can be typed,in a general sense as:
(1) Alienation between Individuals
(2) Alienationof the Individual
(3) Alienationof the Individual fromhis milieu
(4) Alienation of the Individual from his Life-style.
A furtherelaboration on the nature of these qualities would indi-
cate 'alienation's' full Locutionary force. However, returningto the
conceptual issue at hand, it remains now to criticallyconsider past
epistemological and ontological conclusions drawn in sociology, and
hence the underpinningsto this locutionary question.

27 This discussion also implies alienation is a spatiotemporalrelation in the strict


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7. Critical Considerations
1. Alienation as a Metaphor
Feuer (1965) and Horton (1964) argue that 'alienation' has meta-
phorical meaning, that as a figure of speech, it is transferredto a
class of facts to which it properly does not denote. Horton asserts,
"Alienation for Marx and anomie for Durkheim were metaphors for
a radical attack on the dominant institutionsand values of industrial
society."n Feuer argues, "'Alienation' thus leads a distinctive emo-
tive-dramaticmetaphor to experiences of social frustration.It im-
poses on them the metaphor of the prophets who failed."29In this
analysis, it has been argued, 'alienation' does have a legitimate deno-
tation and connotation with qualities and relations within the indivi-
dual, and within his milieu. It is no mere metaphor,but a relational
fact. Marx undoubtedly used metaphors when speaking of alienation
to give the term an illocutionaryforce, (the case of 'malignant form'
is an example); however,this is not to say that 'alienation,' per se, is
a metaphor,or that its locutionaryforce is metaphorical.
2. The rejection of the concept 'alienation'
Feuer's, (1965) claim, however, is seen to be strongerthan Hor-
ton's (1964). For him 'alienation' is no more than a metaphor, and
should thus be dispensed with. He elaborates, "The history of the
concept 'alienation' suggests, however, that what it says can be bet-
ter said without it; human self-destructivebehaviour is better dealt
with without this metaphor."30And again he contends, "Alienation
has a way of eluding a fixed set of dimensions because it is as multi-
potential as the varietyof human experience."31Kaufman (1965) also
joins Feuer (1965) in the call for the elimination of the term. Never-
theless these reasons for the discarding of the term are far fromcon-
clusive. 'Alienation' does not elude a fixed set of dimensions; if this
were the case it would have to be concluded 'alienation' had neither
a sense nor a reference.Although the investigationof 'alienation's'
sense and referencerevealed it to be a broad term and broadness.
per se, of a concept neitherprejudices its meaningfulnessand use in
logically informativepropositions,nor its use as a classifactoryterm
in descriptiveand analysis. What does remain to be done in sociology
is the systematic implementationof more specific terms to denote
varieties of alienation, and spell out their relation to the broader
parent term.
28 Horton, J., "The Dehumanization of Anomie and Alienation: A Problem in the
Ideology of Sociology," p. 283.
29 Feuer, L. "What is Alienation?The Career of a Concept," p. 145.
30 Feuer, L. Ibid., p. 145.
31 Feuer, L., Ibid., p. 140.

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Although Israel (1971) similarly calls for the rejection of the

concept because of its broadness, he regards a more important rea-
son for its rejection to be that the concept entails value premises
when used in sociological theory.This criticism,however,fails to see
the force of the distinction between locution and illocution; that
evaluative import is external to the concept's meaning. It remains to
consider this popular criticism in more detail.
3. Alienation's Illocutionary force
To speak of the locutionaryforce (meaning) of alienation is not
to elucidate its illocutionaryforce. These two forces of the word are
separate. Marx, for example, apart from elaborating a definite locu-
tionaryforce in 'alienation' also introduced evaluative import to the
term. For example, in his discussion of alienation he concluded ...
man is regressingto the cave dwelling,but in an alienated, malignant
form."32Marx's association of alienation with a 'malignant form' is
the introductionof an illocutionary force. Horowitz (1966) is thus
seen to be wrong in denying this illocutionary force to 'alienation.'
By not distinguishing between locutionary and illocutionary acts
Horowitz erroneously concludes some incompatibility between the
descriptive analytic content (locutionary) and the evaulative, (illo-
cutionary) force of 'alienation.' From this fictitious impasse he is
drawn to the false conclusion that for Marx and ". . . the dialectical
approach (there is) a common belief that alienation is no better and
no worse than integration. . ."33 (my elaboration). The correct view,
however, is that there is no incompatibilityand that 'alienation' like
many terms has both a locutionary and illocutionary force. Here
Keniston's (1965) attempts to define the term collapse froma similar
fault,except that he emphasizes the illocutionaryforce to the exclu-
sion of a locutionary force. In practice, he argues ". . . 'alienation'
has become an increasinglyrhetorical and at times entirelyemotive
concept .. .."3 (my emphasis). And again in speaking of self-estrange-
ment he argues that as this concept presupposes a real self it has
more ". . . normative connotations than empirical denotations . .3
Clearly,however, 'alienation' has neither an entirelyemotive content,
nor does its normative content (and again its illocution) informone
about its empirical meaning. The point of the distinctionbetween lo-
cutionary and illocutionary force is that the normative elements to

32 Marx, K., Early Writings,p. 177.

33 Horowitz,I. L. "On Alienationand the Social Order," p. 232.
34 Keniston,K., The Uncommitted:AlienatedYouth in AmericanSociety,p. 452.
35 Keniston, K., op. cit., p. 464.

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words (and concepts) can be substantivizedfrom their meaning. The

evaluative/descriptivedichotomyis thus seen not to be one of mean-
ing,as a word's illocutionaryforce whetherit be evaluative, emotive,
prescriptive,etc. tells us nothing of its locution or meaning. Horton
(1965) commits this error of supposing the evaluative/descriptive
dichotomy is one of meaning. With his discussion of alienation and
anomie, he argues, ". . . dehumanization has set in, the concepts have
been transmogrifiedinto things instead of evaluations about things,
and it is no longer clear what alienated men are alienated from."36
The meaning (locutionary force) of alienation however can be
gleaned without enteringinto its evaluative import; the analysis of
'alienation's' sense and referencecarried out above was a discussion
of these strictlylocutionary questions. An investigationcan thus be
carried out to find 'what alienated men are alienated from' without
considering whether this is commendable or not, or whether one re-
gards it as a 'malignant form' or not.
4. Evaluative import and ideological commitments
The question of alienation's illocutionary force thus raises the
whole problem of values in sociology,both in terms of the evaluative
import in sociology propositions and ideological distortions37in socio-
logical theory.There is then a distinction to be made between socio-
logical considerations and ethical considerations. The former are
concerned with questions of truthor falsity (whether proposition P
is true), validity and invalidity (whether proposition P implies pro-
positions Q). The latter, however, are not concerned with whether
proposition P is true, rather, this is taken as given, with the whole
question collapsing into a consideration whether P is moral or im-
moral. The crucial point to be made about this distinction is that
each consideration is an autonomous one, that any ethical import in
sociological considerations is external to their structure.This is not
to say that ethical considerations have not been coextensive with the
sociological, but rather they raise differentissues and can be consid-
ered separately.
A basic distinction between Marx's and Simmel's concepts of
alienation is that for Marx alienation is explicitlyboth an ethical and
sociological fact. For Marx the essence of man was exemplified in
unalienated species-life,a paradigmatic example being artistic pro-
duction. Praxis, similarly, in being part of man's essence was the
36 Horton, J., op. cit., p. 284.
37 Specificallyethical beliefs and
ideas which comprise underlyingassumptions (ex-
plicit or implicit) upon which explanationsare based.

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creative and free being. Simmel, on the other hand, was more con-
cerned with objectification, a necessary consequence, it was hypo-
thesized, of a money economy. Alienation for Simmel was the rela-
tionship between the individual and society. As the values of the col-
lectivity(society) are often in conflict with those of its constituent
parts (individuals), society often opposes the individual as an alien
force. Similarly,a comparison of Fromm (1956, 1960) and Mills (1961,
1969), exemplifiesthis same point. For Fromm (1956, 1960) the ethical
and the sociological are coextensive. Unalienated existence entails
the developmentof relatedness in the form of 'love' and the 'produc-
tive orientation.'This type of relatedness,it is argued, is a good, and
distinct from submission (masochism) and domination (sadism.)
The basis for this ethical proposition is Fromm's scientificethic of
'humanistic psychoanalysis.' Here an investigation is made of what
Fromm calls the 'human situation' and 'man's needs,' and from these
factual questions it is concluded that the unalienated existence is also
the good existence. Mills (1961, 1969), on the other hand, saw the
change from the public to the mass society as a condition leading to
meaninglessness and estrangement.This was considered a sociologi-
cal fact and no attempt was made to spell out the nature of unalien-
ated existence and why it can be considered a good.
It is clear then that alienation either has explicit evaluative im-
port (Marx, Fromm et al.) or implicit evaluative import (Simmel,
Mills et al.), Propositions incorporatingthe term can thus be seen to
raise both sociological and ethical considerations. Yet this coexten-
tionality should not blind one to the fact of autonomy. The failure
to see this distinctioncould lead to an argumentfor the rejection of
the concept from sociology. Israel (1971), for example, in not taking
cognizance of this fact, contends that as "Theories of alienation are
often anchored in normative theories that can be seen as unrealistic
in the sense that they do not sufficientlytake into account existing
social conditions . ."I'" (my emphasis), then the concept must be
disbanded from sociology. Yet Israel (1971) commits the error of
asserting that the sociological import in the concept is 'anchored,' or
in some way dependent, upon the ethical; that 'alienation' cannot
have a sociological meaning independentof its ethical meaning.
An underlyingassumption in much of the debate on values, is
that the ethical considerations have only an illocutionaryforce: that
a normative assertion is no more than the subjective (emotive, com-

38 Israel, J., AlienationfromMarx to Modern Sociology,p. 267.

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mendative, or prescriptive, etc.). With this being taken to be the

case, sociologists have tried to divorce themselves from this 'smear'
on their objectivity. However, this assumption is unfounded. If
'alienation' is used in an ethical sense, then its ethical meaning pre-
supposes an ethical locutionary force; and locutionary questions, it
has been shown, are empirical and thus in principle objective. Ques-
tions of ethical connotations and denotations are not matters of mere
arbitraryopinion but factual considerations which exhibit an objec-
tive rationality.The assumption that an ethical term will exhibit an
illocutionary force, furthermore,cannot be assumed as given. The
use of 'alienation' as an ethical term in a naturalistic ethic3 does not
logically entail an illocutionaryforce at all. Here the ethical consider-
ation is approached in a similar way to the purely sociological con-
sideration. Ethical propositions on this theory outline what is the
case (i.e., 'that alienation is bad') rather than what ought to be the
case (i.e., 'that we ought to avoid alienation because it is bad'). Of
those ethical considerations which do imply an illocutionary force
(such as a prescriptiveethic40),this, nevertheless,does not entail the
illocution to be nonempiricalor subjectively arbitraryin its use. Illo-
cutions, like locutions, are facts, and thus subject to scientific scru-
tiny.The objective question here would collapse into a consideration
of under what conditions does an individual enact an ethical illocu-
The question of ideological distortions in sociological theories
of alienation is not a problem unrelated to the problem values. Marx-
ist theories of alienation make the assumption that man is naturally
good, but corrupted by society. By contrast however, for Durkheim
and some anomie theorists,the reverse is assumed to be the case;
man is seen as potentially evil and it is only societal constraints
which can make him good. At once this ideological issue can be seen
to raise both sociological and ethical considerations on the nature
of man and social reality. In being propositional4 and exhibiting a
syntheticform,42 ideological issues are, in principle, open to empiri-
cal verificationand are not matters of arbitrarychoice.
A prerequisite to settlingthe ideological issue between Marxian
and Durkheimian theories thus involves not only verifyingsociolo-
gical but also ethical propositions. Yet as it has been argued above,

39 Such as Anderson,J., Op. cit.

40 Such as Hare, R. M., The Language of Morals.
41 A single way of being exemplifiedwhen we assert that a proposition is true.
42 I.e., the subject is not found in the predicate.

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this is not necessary in the development of sociological theory. As

sociological considerations can be substantivized from the ethical,
theories of alienation, from the sociological point of view, need only
make sociological and philosophical43assumptions. It is only because
Marx and Durkheim were concerned with moral issues that ethical
assumptions were included.
The force of sociological assumptions, moreover, to this parti-
cular debate, on the nature of man and social reality,is -dramatically
exemplified by the comparison of another theoretical position in
sociology. For the symbolic interactionist(cf. G. H. Mead)' the par-
ticular ideological issue between Marx and Durkheim dissolves itself.
On this theoreticalposition it makes no sense talking about the indi-
vidual (and a self) substantivizedfrom a society,just as it makes no
sense talking about a society without its constituent individuals. In
short,society (the whole) is logically prior to the individuals within
it, (the parts) hence Marx and Durkheim cannot talk about the (eth-
ical) nature of man independentof society.44
5. Alienation: Qualitative or Relational
An underlyingconfusion in some of the discussions on 'alien-
ation' is an uncertainty,or incomplete workingout, of its ontological
status. In this analysis it has been argued that alienation must be
either relational or qualitative, and that contingent identification
showed it to be a relational term. Horton.(1964) however, by not
clearly distinguishingbetween the two is led to imply both positions
at the same time. In some instances he takes a relational definition
(e.g., ". . . it is no longer clear what alienated men are alienated
from,"45);at other instances he implies a qualitative definition(e.g.,
"In spite of the inclusiveness of Seeman's measure, it does leave out
one meaning crucial to the original radical concepts of alienation and
anomie - egoism and self interest.Perhaps this is because self-inter-
est is so widely accepted as a value in the American system. . . In
this latter case egoism, as a qualitative fact about the mind, is
claimed to be materially equivalent to alienation. Similarly, Blauner
(1967) is lead into inconsistencies by speaking, on the one hand, of
alienation ".. as a quality of personal experience which results from
43 One ontological assumption, for example, is that facts exist, i.e., occurrences in
space and time.
44 The actual dissolvingof the debate between Marx and Durkheimwould of course,
presuppose the SymbolicInteractionistperspectiveis foundto be correctand structural-
45 Horton, J., Op. cit., p. 284.
46 Horton, J., Op. Cit., p. 293.

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specific kinds of social arrangements"47(my emphasis), then, on the

other,taking Seeman's (1959) relational dimensions of powerlessness,
meaninglessness, isolation, and self-estrangementas types of alien-
ation (Blauner, 1967:15-16).
In the settlingof this ontological question the followingconclu-
sions can be drawn:
(1) The status of the concept in sociological theory.
(2) Whether alienation can be conceived of in terms of de-
(3) Whetheralienation is a process.
(1) At the ontological level no inconsistencies are introduced whe-
ther alienation is conceived of as a quality or relation in a causal
process. The followingdiagrams exemplifythis point:
(a) In the relational fact aRb, alienation is conceptualized as a
relation where: a _ individual
O< ?-4J bE individual

R = alienation (specifically isolation)

c = consequent: Lack of social cohesion
(b) In the relational fact ArB, alienation is conceptualized as a

where: A = Alienation (specifically an egoistic motive)

B = Alienation (specifically a self-estrangedmotive)
r = relation
C = consequent: Aggressivebehavior.
Nevertheless,the status of the term in sociological theory is deter-
mined by whether alienation is concluded to be a quality or a rela-
tion. The four authors examined here who argue that alienation is a
quality (Horton, 1964; Blauner, 1967; Barakat, 1972; Allardt, 1972)
contend that its denotation is a psychological fact. However, this is
not surprisingsince an entailmentof arguing alienation to be a qual-
ity is to be harnessed to the position that alienation can only be a
psychological phenomenon. This is because no qualities in the milieu
have been denoted as alienation. The structuralvariables dealt with
by sociologists, such as norms, roles, etc., are all relations. Opposed,
then,to the position that alienation is a quality is the contentionthat
it is a relation. And here alienation may be a fact of the mind (cf.
Fromm, 1956) or a fact of society.
47 Blauner, R., Alienationand Freedom: The FactoryWorkerand His Industry,p. 15.

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The difficulties,furthermore,of the former position are three-

(a) In taking alienation to be a quality it not only departs from
the realm of the raison d'etre of sociology (which of course is not a
criticism in itself, though it may be seen as an unpalatable conse-
quent), but denies some commonly accepted dimensions of alien-
ation. Though meaninglessness,powerlessness, and self-estrangement
could be seen as qualities of the mind, isolation and normlessness
could not. Isolation has always been taken to be a relational fact of
an individual and/or a group, while norms have always been taken
to be regulatoryconstraints in a milieu, and normlessness the lack
of this relation. Powerlessness and self-estrangement,furthermore,
do have a relational meaning in terms of the milieu; the former de-
noting the control over events and the latter the relationship be-
tween the individual and the milieu. In tryingto avoid this difficulty,
Allardt (1972) takes Seeman's (1959) dimension of powerlessness to
be a psychological experience, then reduced Seeman's (1959) other
four dimensions into -the experience of uprootedness. Yet this pro-
cedure essentiallybegs the question. Powerlessness and uprootedness
could certainlybe conceived of as relational facts of the mind; Allardt
(1972) merely asserts them to be qualitative. Furthermore,in taking
alienation to be qualitative, he collapses alienation as a sociological
phenomena (as a relation) into a psychological disposition (as a qual-
ity) with no justification proposed at all. In short, Allardt (1972)
takes on the difficultiesof microscopic reductionism4for the sake of
schematic neatness in his theory.Barakat (1969), on the other hand,
asserts the dimensions of powerlessness, normlessness etc., not to be
alienation at all, but rather social variables which cause alienation.
Althoughnot taking on the problems of reductionism,his position is
perhaps more radical than Allardt (1972), since, ipso facto, what
sociologists have previously taken to be alienation is asserted not to
be alienation at all.
(b) This comment then raises the second criticism.Through con-
tingent identificationthe meaning of alienation was found in this
analysis to be relational, and it is to this tradition that contempory
sociologists have always referredback to in an attempt to settle such
questions of meaning (Seeman, 1959; Horton, 1964; Fromm, 1956;
Horowitz, 1966; Barakat, 1969; et al).
A corollary,then,from any appeal to the traditional locution
is a relational definition.To use this tradition to establish a qualita-
48 In reducingthe social fact aRb to the psychologicalfact of a or b.

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tive meaning is thus an invalid inference; and Barakat's (1969) dis-

cussion exemplifies such a position. Here reference is made to the
Hegelian and Marxian tradition to establish a qualitative meaning.
Similarly, Barakat's (1969) so-called systematic distinction between
the psychological and social levels of alienation is seen to be invalid.
In taking alienation to be qualitative, he cannot talk of a social level
of alienation at all, and thus his distinction between general alien-
ation (alienation from society) and specific alienation (e.g., alien-
ation from a job) is spurious on his criterion.
(c) The concluding criticismof regarding alienation as a quality
raises the second ontological issue of whether alienation can be con-
ceived of in terms of degrees.
(2) An upshot of alienation being a relation is that there can be de-
grees (or scales) of alienation. The proposition that 'A has become
furtherseparated fromB' becomes equivalent to 'A has become more
alienated from B.' Had 'alienation' been a quality the notion of in-
creasing (or decreasing) alienation would be ontologically impos-
sible, and just as absurd as the notion of an increasing (or decreas-
ing) scale in greenness. The true situation however (for qualities) is
that either x is green or it is not. This is not to deny differenttypes
of greenness,but rather the contention that one green is more green
than another. This fact holds true for all qualities, and ". . . the no-
tion of degrees of any quality is a confused one - that the question
of a thing's possession of a quality is confused with the question of
its possession of other qualities (or of certain relations) as well."49
Most authors, then, have wanted to talk in terms of increasing and
decreasing levels of alienation, yet only a relational conception can
allow such notions of degrees. Barakat (1969) for example, in taking
alienation to be qualitative, introduces ontological inconsistencies
when he asserts, "The greater the gap between reality and utopia the
greater the alienation and the more encompassing and overwhelm-
ing."50In short,his notion of a gap between utopia and reality onto-
logically presupposes a relational definition,thus in siding with a
qualitative definition his theory is unsatisfactory as it makes the
very assumptions it tries to show are false.
(3) It can be concluded then that Barakat's (1969) conceptual claims
exhibit confusion. If alienation is taken either to be a qualitative or
relational fact, it denotes a structuralvariable which in itself is not
49 Anderson,J., Op. cit., p. 2662.
50 Barakat, H., "Alienation: A Process of Encounter Between Utopia and Reality."
p. 7.

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a process, but rather may be a necessary condition leading to a pro-

cess. Barakat (1969) is thus wrong in contendingalienation to be ". . .
a process of three stages rather than . . . a set of variants."51While
a theory subsuming the concept may denote a process, 'alienation'
per se, is not a process.
6. Seeman and the Measure of Alienation
Although Seeman's (1969) classification has been the basis of a
number of empirical studies (Seeman, 1967; Dean, 1961; Abcarian and
Stanage, 1965; et. al.) it has neverthelesscome in for strong criticism.
Feuer (1965) has argued that an individual could score low on all
five of Seeman's variants of alienation yet still be dissatisfied and
alienated. "Alienation has a way of eluding a fixed set of dimensions
because it is as multipotential as the varieties of human experi-
ence."52Scott (1965) while agreeing with Feuer's (1965) argument has
furthercontended that Seeman's classification is an ad hoc listing
and questions why there are specificallyonly fivevarieties. Seeman is
also criticized for failing to draw relations among the five.
These criticisms,however,can be met by Seeman. Feuer's (1965)
criticism fails to see the aim of Seeman's paper. Seeman is con-
cerned with the meaning and material equivalents of alienation (pro-
positions of the form: a -b) not the causes of alienation (proposi-
tions of the form: a - b). By being concerned with the formerques-
tions, a logical entailment-is that alienation's material equivalents
(i.e., powerlessness) cannot also be the causes of alienation.53Seeman
is merely outliningthe denotations of alienation (such as powerless-
ness) not its connotations, and thus cannot be criticized by: Feuer
(1965) and Scott (1965) with the argument that powerlessness, mean-
inglessness, normlessness, isolation, and self-estrangementare not
necessary and sufficientconditions for the cause of alienation. Es-
sentially,Feuer (1965) does not come to grips with what it is to be
alienated; until this question of material equivalence is settled, argu-
ments based on examples of people with 'power,' people with 'mean-
ing,' yet people who are still (so-called) alienated, do not make sense,
for it is not at all clear what Feuer means by being alienated.
Scott (1965) also misses the essential point of Seeman's article.
Seeman's analysis on the meaning of alienation is not an ad hoc list-
ing, arbitrarilysettled at five specific types.-Ratherthan an ad hoc
listing Seeman has tried to analyze ". . . five basic ways in which the
51 Barakat,H., Op. cit., p. 9.
52 Feuer,L., Op. cit., p. 140.
53 Hume's argumentfromdistinctexistences.

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concept of alienation has been used."`4 Seeman is concerned with

usage, and it is here that he identifiesfive categories, not arbitrarily,
but presumably based on the contextual historyof the concept. Whe-
ther Seeman's five types are exhaustive, however, is another ques-
tion. The contextual history of the concept (as distinct from the
term) would need to be investigated. Prima facie, nevertheless,his
categories seem broad enough to encompass the identitystatements
of the term proposed in this analysis.
The defense of Seeman against the criticisms of Feuer (1965) and
Scott (1965) is not to say that his article is altogether satisfactory.
Rather, the reverse is the case. The most fundamental error in See-
man's article is that he fails to distinguishbetween latent and mani-
fest awareness; a cardinal error if,as he states, he is concerned with
alienation from a social-psychological point of view. By defining
powerlessness, meaningless, etc. in terms of whether the individual
manifestlyperceives himselfto have power or meaning,he disregards
the force of the latent ego defense mechanisms. The neurotic is a
paradigmatic example of the workings of these defense mechanisms,
for the neurotic is characterized by not being aware of his disabili-
ties; and this may include the relational fact of being alienated. Kon
(1967) makes essentially this same point against Seeman when he
argues: "In the light of Seeman's approach, Aldous Huxley's "happy
robot," who is quite content with life as it is because he has no indi-
viduality and yields easily to manipulation,must be considered free
from alienation. Alienation is viewed here 'as the quality of personal
experience which is the product of specific social conditions.'"" The
upshot from the neglect of this distinctionis that Seeman is not de-
fining the meanings of alienation at all. The self-estrangementhe
talks about, for example, thus becomes a phenomenon differentfrom
the latent and perhaps manifest self-estrangementreferred to by
alienation. Furthermore,the upshot from the operationalization of
these categories of alienation, in the form of a series of questions to
respondents,results not in the measure of alienation but something
very different.Questions such as: 'To what extentdo-people who run
this countrymake you do thingsyou don't really want to do?'56will
not measure latent alienation in the form of powerlessness. Rather
it is more likely to measure somethingcloser to public opinion. Inas-
"On The Meaning of Alienation,"p. 783.
54 Seeman, M.,
55Kon, I. S., Op. cit., p. 513-514.
56 Example taken fromRose, A. M., "Alienationand Participation: A Comparison of
Group Leader and the Mass."

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much as other authors have taken Seeman's analysis uncritically

(Rose, 1962; Dean, 1961; Neal and Rettig, 1963, 1967; Abcarian and
Stranage, 1965), the same criticism can be made of their attempt at
the empirical measurement of alienation.


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