Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Estranged Labour

I thought I would look up a quote from Marx to flesh out what I had mentioned in our discussion today about how Jane McGonigal’s discussion of work and its unsatisfactory nature in our contemporary world brought to mind Marx’s notion of alienation. Our alienation from the work we are conscripted into doing often stems from it not being of our own devising. Office workers often seem more alienated to me than blue collar workers who are still physically involved in their work and can I think sometimes get satisfaction through its physical aspect. But this can also destroy their bodies through over-exertion and material toxicity etc. It occurs to me that playing video games is not physical (excluding wii) whereas making art or playing music is. I think it takes a combination of intellectual and physical in order to have a balanced experience of working. The way the intellect relates to the body and the way the body relates to a tool these are forms of knowledge. The flow of intellect through the body into a tool that performs an operation can be very satisfying be it a musical instrument or a carving chisel. I don’t see how this could be the case with a joystick. Just sayin.
Here is the quote:
“First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of self-sacrifice, of mortification. Lastly, the external character of labor for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone else’s, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, of the human brain and the human heart, operates on the individual independently of him – that is, operates as an alien, divine or diabolical activity – so is the worker’s activity not his spontaneous activity. It belongs to another; it is the loss of his self.”
Karl Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844

Thu, January 24 2013 » futurecinema2_2012

One Response

  1. Jon January 30 2013 @ 9:04 pm

    It’d be interesting to find out if video game beta testers find the work satisfying in the same way as regular players of the game. It would be an interesting test of whether incorporating games into work would be beneficial and promote productivity.