Alienation is the separation of things that naturally belong together, or antagonism between those who are properly in harmony. Theoretically, Alienation (German Entfremdung) describes the social estrangement of people from aspects of their human nature (Gattungswesen, “species-essence”) as a consequence of living in a society stratified into social classes.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it; every old language is immediately compromised, and every language becomes old once it is repeated.
- In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts. They come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1883), p. 48
- I'm the classic example of alienation: I grew up in a middle-class household without art or books. I was going to be a chemical engineer until I went to the theatre for the first time at 16 and was blown away by it.
G - L
- Dem Reichen übergibt der Baumeister mit dem Schlüssel des Palastes alle Bequemlichkeit und Behäbigkeit, ohne irgend etwas davon mitzugenießen. Muß sich nicht allgemach auf diese Weise die Kunst von dem Künstler entfernen, wenn das Werk wie ein ausgestattetes Kind nicht mehr auf den Vater zurückwirkt? Und wie sehr mußte die Kunst sich selbst befördern, als sie fast allein mit dem öffentlichen, mit dem, was allen und also auch dem Künstler gehörte, sich zu beschäftigen bestimmt war!
- The architect hands over to the rich man with the keys to his palace all the ease and comfort to be found in it without being able to enjoy any of it himself. Must the artist not in this way gradually become alienated from his art, since his work, like a child that has been provided for and left home, can no longer have any effect upon its father? And how beneficial it must have been for art when it was intended to be concerned almost exclusively with what was public property, and belonged to everybody and therefore also to the artist!
- There's a huge dichotomy between people who grow up with alienation, which, for me, was invaluable, and people who grow up so completely privileged that it breeds this complacency and lack of desire to question or challenge or do anything significant. Those are the types of people who become partners at the corporate law firms.
- The Simpsons' is about alienation and the ambivalence of living with a family who you love but who drive you completely crazy.
- Marks of Identity is, among other things, the expression of the process of alienation in a contemporary intellectual with respect to his own country.
- The fate of the Jewish people is the fate of Macbeth who stepped out of nature itself, clung to alien beings, and so in their service had to trample and slay everything holy in human nature.
- Hegel, The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate
- In the final analysis alienation is, among other things a response to the frustration created by the lack of meaning in modern society.
- Paul Hollander, The Survival of the Adversary Culture (1991), Transaction Publishers, pp. 157–158
- We have to heal our wounded world. The chaos, despair, and senseless destruction we see today are a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment.
- Alienation as our present destiny is achieved only by outrageous violence perpetrated by human beings on human beings.
- We often have need of a profound philosophy to restore to our feelings their original state of innocence, to find our way out of the rubble of things alien to us, to begin to feel for ourselves and to speak ourselves, and I might almost say to exist ourselves.
- Georg Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, R. J. Hollingdale trans. (2000), B49
M - R
- The question of the stranger in a society which estranges everybody from it--while forcing everybody to assimilate their own alienation--takes cover under dubious and sinister masks.”
- If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this kind of freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization. … The individual would be liberated from the work world's imposing upon him alien needs and alien possibilities. The individual would be free to exert autonomy over a life that would be his own.
- Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (1964), p. 2
- Money is the alienated essence of man’s work and existence, this essence dominates him and he worships it.
- Karl Marx, Marx-Engels Reader (1978), p. 50
- Original German: "Das Geld ist das dem Menschen entfremdete Wesen seiner Arbeit und seines Daseins, und dies fremde Wesen beherrscht ihn, und er betet es an" in 'II. Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen, frei zu werden.' in "Zur Judenfrage" (written 1843)
- What, then, constitutes the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, that is, that it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel well but unhappy, does not freely develop his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker, therefore, feels himself only outside his work, and feels beside himself in his work. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His work therefore is not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that labor is shunned like the plague as soon as there is no physical or other compulsion.
- Karl Marx, “Alienated Labor,” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844), The Potable Karl Marx (1983), p. 136
- Though private property appears to be the reason, the cause of alienated labor, it is rather its consequence, just as the gods are originally not the cause but the effect of man’s intellectual confusion.
- Karl Marx, “Estranged Labor,” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)
- The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.
- Everything which the political economist takes from you in life and in humanity, he replaces for you in money and in wealth; and all the things which you cannot do, your money can do. It can eat and, drink, go to the dance hall and the theatre; it can travel, it can appropriate art, learning, the treasures of the past, political power – all this it can appropriate for you – it can buy all this: it is true endowment.“
- A direct consequence of the alienation of man from the product of his labour, from his life activity and from his species life is that man is alienated from other men. When man confronts himself, he also confronts other men. What is true of man’s relationship to his work, to the product of his work and to himself, is also true of his relationship to other men, to their labour
- Without alienation, there can be no politics.
- We carry faithfully what one gives us to bear, on hard shoulders and over rough mountains. And should we sweat, we are told “Yes, life is a grave burden.” But man is only a grave burden to himself! That is because he carries on his shoulders too much that is alien to him. … Especially the strong, reverent spirit that would bear much: he loads too many alien grave words and values on himself.
- Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 305, “On the Spirit of Gravity”
- The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.
- Sociologists well understand that chaos at home causes violent behavior, educational failure and social alienation among children. Yet, many of us in America stay far, far away from this topic. That in itself is a national scandal. Bad parenting is gravely harming this nation.
S - Z
- The polypoid character of the Greek states, in which every individual enjoyed an independent existence but could, when need arose, grow into the whole organism, now made way for an ingenious clock-work, in which out of the piecing together of innumerable but lifeless parts, a mechanical kind of collective life ensued. State and church, laws and customs were now torn asunder; enjoyment was divorced from labor, the means from the end, the effort from the reward. Everlastingly chained to a single little fragment of the whole, man himself develops into nothing but a fragment; everlastingly in his ear the monotonous sound of the wheel that he turns, he never develops the harmony of his being, and instead of putting the stamp of humanity upon his own nature, he becomes nothing more than the imprint of his occupation or of his specialized knowledge.
- Friedrich Schiller, The Aesthetic Education of Man, Sixth Letter
- The Cathedral in Mayence is so shut in by the houses that are built round about it, that there is no one spot from which you can see it as a whole. This is symbolic of everything great or beautiful in the world. It ought to exist for its own sake alone, but before very long it is misused to serve alien ends. People come from all directions wanting to find in it support and maintenance for themselves; they stand in the way and spoil its effect. To be sure, there is nothing surprising in this, for in a world of need and imperfection everything is seized upon which can be used to satisfy want. Nothing is exempt from this service, no, not even those very things which arise only when need and want are for a moment lost sight of—the beautiful and the true, sought for their own sakes.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, “Similes, Parables and Fables,” Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, § 394
- For me, heaven would be a lack of alienation. The whole time I was growing up, I felt comfort was inherently evil. I think that, for me, heaven isn't about couches and milk shakes and never having a troubling thought again.
- I don't want to express alienation. It isn't what I feel. I'm interested in various kinds of passionate engagement. All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up.
- The whole meadow and distant fields all seemed to be shaking and singing to the measures of this wild merry song with its shouts and whistles and clapping. Levin felt envious of this health and mirthfulness; he longed to take part in the expression of this joy of life. But he could do nothing, and had to lie and look on and listen. When the peasants, with their singing, had vanished out of sight and hearing, a weary feeling of despondency at his own isolation, his physical inactivity, his alienation from this world, came over Levin.
- Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, C. Garnett, trans. (New York: 2003), Part 3, Chapter 12, p. 258