The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Jonathan Wolff
Reference work entry


The term ‘alienation’ is associated especially with the early writings of Karl Marx, for whom the core idea was that of human beings becoming detached from part of their ‘essence’. At one stage Marx hoped to demonstrate that all of the concepts of classical economics could be derived from the concept of alienation. As he matured, exploitation and surplus value replaced alienation at the heart of his analysis. Nevertheless, Marx’s observations regarding alienation remain insightful to this day.


Alienation Capitalism Classical economics Communism Engels, F. Exploitation Feuerbach, L. Hegel, G. W. F. Historical materialism Marx, K. H. Smith, A. Surplus value 

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  1. All the writings of Marx and Engels discussed are available in McLellan (2000) and online at Accessed 4 Nov 2006.
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Wolff
    • 1
  1. 1.