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Alienation refers to the social phenomenon where people are dominated by forces of their own creation, yet may fail to recognize their own authorship relative to institutions and processes at hand. The reification of these social constructs contributes to human alienation in all spheres of life. From a classical conflict perspective, alienation is to be found in all major institutions that comprise the superstructure of capitalist societies (e.g., religion, family, the state and state functions) and political economy. As Marx writes, “Objectification is the practice of alienation” (Marx in Bottomore 1963: 39).
Unlike more contemporary usages wherein alienation (and powerlessness and normlessness) are framed in more social psychological terms, classical conflict approaches to alienation frame the concept firmly in the relationship of people to their work and the extent to which they have...
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