In the previous post I wrote of how a twenty-something Karl Marx felt that humanity has become alienated from Nature because so few people now work directly IN Nature and for direct, natural outcomes. Instead they labor indoors and for something quite abstract… this strange thing called Money. Man also has become alienated from himself— this is because he works against himself by perpetuating the system that denigrates him and that separates him from Nature and from his natural Self.
But there is more to the story of the workplace-induced degradation of Man than alienation… The type of work Man does today is especially stultifying to his Self due the extremity to which Division Of Labor has been taken.
The scope of cognitive processing required of a specialized laborer throughout his workday continues to narrow, and because Man IS what Man DOES, the narrowing of Man’s labor is the narrowing of Man, himself.
Man’s assembly-line tasks are so limited, so removed from the final product, that a chasm opens between Man’s activity and the fundamental purpose of his activity. He is no longer Man-the-craftsman or Man-as-problem-solver… he is a robot, a mere piece of machinery. His bridge to Nature has been burned, and he has no real concept of the logical and physical connections leading from the repetition of his task to the product at the end of the assembly line. Neither has he been mentally engaged in the problem-solving process leading from the presented problem to the concept, design, and overall assembly of the finished product constructed to address said problem. An unalienated, fully present, fully developed man operating in Nature would have been engaged in every step of the problem-solving and device-making process.
Our present world’s implementation of an extreme form of Division Of Labor has another effect, as well, one very important to Young Marx’s thinking… namely this… the vastly different work environments people experience, together with the extremely different demands made on them by their jobs, creates –not just different classes but– fundamentally different types of people. To state it boldly… the completely different workplace environments and demands created by the extreme division of labor creates several different sub-species of humankind.
Division of labor perpetuates, widens, and petrifies the differences between the classes. For example, the man on the assembly line pulling a few levers all day long will develop a different consciousness from that of the man in charge, say, of research and development for a computer company. The latter worker will constantly be called upon to memorize and recall certain facts, to problem-solve, to perform financial or production calculations, to prepare and deliver reports, to interact successfully with others. The two men will naturally learn to think differently from each other.
“Society is forever splitting into the most varied races,” asserts a twenty-six-year old Karl Marx. What people are, he says, “coincides with what they produce” […] “and how they produce.” A worker’s style of human nature will depend on the conditions of his workplace and the occupational roles he fills.
Young Marx views these different types of workplace-determined human natures as different evolutionary phases of consciousness. Those families providing the workers for similar workplaces (each workplace corresponding to, of course, a particular evolutionary phase of consciousness) will naturally cohere, and just as naturally these families will push-back against those families existing in a different evolutionary phase. Thus, classes are born… “Various individuals form a class only insofar as they have to carry-on a joint battle against ANOTHER class,” says Young Marx.
In the next post, we’ll leave the workplace and go out into the soul-destroying marketplace.
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