|A state of estrangement of individuals and societies from God, each other,
and themselves. The Gnostics viewed estrangement from God as a necessary precondition to
rebirth. Plotinus, Augustine, and Aquinas also propose alienation as the proving ground
for the true life. More pessimistic accounts include Calvin's, in which original sin
threatens separation from God in perpetuity, and Rousseau's secular vision of humanity
estranged from its own original nature by society. In Hegel's work, overcoming
alienationthe unfolding of self-consciousnessis the principal force in
historical development. In contrast, Feuerbach stated that God (Absolute Spirit) is the
estranged essence of humanity, and thus religion is an alienated search for
self-awareness. Seizing on this point, the young Karl Marx conceptualized alienation as a
pervasive social process inherent in the capitalist mode of production in which workers
are estranged from their product, work itself, their human qualities, and each other.
Religion expresses real suffering and desires in an alienated form. The writings of Paul
Tillich and Karl Barth each carry the analysis of alienation into the present century with
special reference to theology. Alienation is often used as a variable in survey research,
usually in a social psychological sense, with regard to analyses of the disaffection of
youth, work experience, and religiosity.
L. Feuer, "What Is Alienation?" in Sociology on Trial , ed. M. Stein and A. Vidich (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1963): 127-147
P. Ludz, "A Forgotten Intellectual Tradition of the Alienation Concept," in Alienation , ed. R. F. Geyer and D. Schweitzer (London: Routledge, 1981): 21-35
I. Meszaros, Marx's Theory of Alienation (London: Merlin, 1970).
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