Alienation

Alienation

RAHEL JAEGGI
Frederick Neuhouser
Alan E. Smith
Edited by Frederick Neuhouser
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jaeg15198
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  • Book Info
    Alienation
    Book Description:

    The Hegelian-Marxist idea of alienation fell out of favor after the postmetaphysical rejection of humanism and essentialist views of human nature. In this book Rahel Jaeggi draws on the Hegelian philosophical tradition, phenomenological analyses grounded in modern conceptions of agency, and recent work in the analytical tradition to reconceive alienation as the absence of a meaningful relationship to oneself and others, which manifests in feelings of helplessness and the despondent acceptance of ossified social roles and expectations.

    A revived approach to alienation helps critical social theory engage with phenomena such as meaninglessness, isolation, and indifference. By severing alienation's link to a problematic conception of human essence while retaining its social-philosophical content, Jaeggi provides resources for a renewed critique of social pathologies, a much-neglected concern in contemporary liberal political philosophy. Her work revisits the arguments of Rousseau, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, placing them in dialogue with Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, and Charles Taylor.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53759-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-x)
    Axel Honneth

    NO CONCEPT HAS BEEN MORE powerful in defining the character of early Critical Theory than that of alienation. For the first members of this tradition the content of the concept was taken to be so self-evident that it needed no definition or justification; it served as the more or less self-evident starting point of all social analysis and critique. Regardless of how untransparent and complicated social relations might be, Adorno, Marcuse, and Horkheimer regarded the alienated nature of social relations as a fact beyond all doubt. Today this shared assumption strikes us as strange, for it seems as though these...

  4. TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Frederick Neuhouser

    RAHEL JAEGGI’SALIENATIONIS ONE of the most exciting books to have appeared on the German philosophical scene in the last decade.¹ It has two signifi cant strengths that are rarely joined in a single book: it presents a rigorous and enlightening analysis of an important but now neglected philosophical concept (alienation), and it illuminates, far better than any purely historical study could do, fundamental ideas of one of the most obscure fi gures in the history of philosophy (G. W. F. Hegel). That the latter is one of the book’s chief achievements may not be apparent to many of...

  5. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xix-xxvi)
  6. PART 1 THE RELATION OF RELATIONLESSNESS:: RECONSTRUCTING A CONCEPT OF SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY
    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      ALIENATION IS ARELATION OF relationlessness. This, condensed into a very brief and abstract formulation, is the starting point of my reflections here. According to this formulation, alienation does not indicate the absence of a relation but is itself a relation, if a deficient one. Conversely, overcoming alienation does not mean returning to an undifferentiated state of oneness with oneself and the world; it too is a relation: arelation of appropriation. The principal idea underlying my reconstruction of the concept of alienation is the following: in order to make the concept of alienation fruitful once again, we must give...

    • 1 “A STRANGER IN THE WORLD THAT HE HIMSELF HAS MADE”: THE CONCEPT AND PHENOMENON OF ALIENATION
      (pp. 3-10)

      THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION REFERS to an entire bundle of intertwined topics. Alienation means indifference and internal division, but also powerlessness and relationlessness with respect to oneself and to a world experienced as indifferent and alien. Alienation is the inability to establish a relation to other human beings, to things, to social institutions and thereby also—so the fundamental intuition of the theory of alienation—to oneself. An alienated world presents itself to individuals as insignificant and meaningless, as rigidified or impoverished, as a world that is not one’s own, which is to say, a world in which one is...

    • 2 MARX AND HEIDEGGER: TWO VERSIONS OF ALIENATION CRITIQUE
      (pp. 11-21)

      IN WHAT FOLLOWS I WILL discuss Marx and Heidegger in further detail, viewing them as the sources of two historically important versions of alienation critique that overlap in multiple ways with respect to their influence. Directed against the “pseudo-ontology of the given world,”¹ Marx’s and Heidegger’s critiques of alienation—despite different conceptual foundations—thematize the dominance of modern individuals’ reified relations to world and self and the “ transformation of the human being into a thing” that accompanies it,² a situation in which individuals mistakenly view the world as given rather than as the result of their own world-creating acts....

    • 3 THE STRUCTURE AND PROBLEMS OF ALIENATION CRITIQUE
      (pp. 22-31)

      ALIENATION, AS SKETCHED THUS FAR, is an interpretive schema, a concept with whose help one (individually or collectively) understands and articulates one’s relation to oneself and to the world. An interpretive schema of this kind is productive when it puts us in a position to perceive, judge, or understand aspects of the world that would remain unknown without it. The merit of concepts like alienation lies also in their ability to enable us to see certain phenomena “together” (or to think them together)—that is, to make visible connections among phenomena that would otherwise remain hidden. And in some respects...

    • 4 HAVING ONESELF AT ONE’S COMMAND: RECONSTRUCTING THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION
      (pp. 32-42)

      MY CLAIM IS THAT ALIENATION critique todaycannot, but alsoneed not begrounded in strongly essentialist or metaphysical presuppositions;¹ moreover, it cannot but also need not rely on perfectionist or paternalistic arguments. The rich social and ethical dimension of alienation critique can be made accessible without the strongly objectivistic interpretive scheme that is frequently associated with it. And it is possible to avail ourselves of the critical import of the concept of alienation without relying on the certainty of a final harmony or reconciliation, on the idea of a fully self-transparent individual, or on the illusion of having oneself...

  7. PART 2 LIVING ONE’S LIFE AS AN ALIEN LIFE:: FOUR CASES
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 43-50)

      AN EVERYDAY THEME. SOMEONE SUDDENLY becomes aware that her own life has become alien to her in crucial respects. She is now indifferent to people who once meant something to her; things that once excited her now leave her cold; projects she earlier pursued with dedication now seem pointless to her. In her job she merely gets by. She lives, as it were,her own life as an alien life. When a social role forces us to behave in ways that make us feel uneasy, when we suddenly become aware that in everything we do we are only attempting to...

    • 5 SEINESGLEICHEN GESCHIEHT OR “THE LIKE OF IT NOW HAPPENS”: THE FEELING OF POWERLESSNESS AND THE INDEPENDENT EXISTENCE OF ONE’S OWN ACTIONS
      (pp. 51-67)

      IN THIS CHAPTER I EXAMINE one aspect of self-alienation: the feeling of powerlessness or of loss of control over one’s own life.¹ It involves the (not uncommon) impression that one’s life confronts one as an independent event over which one has no influence without, however, being able to describe oneself as determined by alien causes, or heteronomous, in any straightforward sense. What explains how it can be that someone experiences her own life as determined by an alien power if, at first glance anyway, she herself is the agent? How are we to understand the relation here between what is...

    • 6 “A PALE, INCOMPLETE, STRANGE, ARTIFICIAL MAN”: SOCIAL ROLES AND THE LOSS OF AUTHENTICITY
      (pp. 68-98)

      ROLE BEHAVIOR, A FIXED PATTERN of behavior imposed on individuals by social roles, is often taken to be the paradigmatic manifestation of self-alienation. Thus Helmuth Plessner remarks in 1960: “With the figure of the alienated human being contemporary literature gives expression to the idea of the solitary individual in social roles dictated to him by an administered world: the human being as the bearer of a function.”¹ In everyday usage, as well as in sociology and social philosophy, role functions as a code word under which sociality in general is discussed as well as the relationship between the authenticity of...

    • 7 “SHE BUT NOT HERSELF”: SELF-ALIENATION AS INTERNAL DIVISION
      (pp. 99-130)

      IN THIS CHAPTER I DEAL with cases in which one experiences one’s own desires and impulses as alien, cases in which one sees oneself as dominated by desires that one has, but as if from an alien power, or cases in which one’s own behavior leads one to feel like a stranger to oneself. These are situations in which one wants to say “that can’t be me,” but in which, at the same time, one is oddly incapable of rejecting the behavior one experiences as alien or of dismissing the desires one feels so distant from. In this sense being...

    • 8 “AS IF THROUGH A WALL OF GLASS”: INDIFFERENCE AND SELF-ALIENATION
      (pp. 131-150)

      THIS CHAPTER IS ABOUT INDIFFERENCE as a kind of self-alienation and loss of self—hence about phenomena of alienation in which one perceives the entire world as alien and indifferent, in which one loses one’s relation to the world and “withdraws one’s feelers” from it. To what extent, though, is indifference alienation, if the capacity to distance oneself from certain involvements in the world can also be understood as freedom? At issue here is the relation between self and world as well as the thesis that it is not possible to understandself-realizationoutside a successful relation to the world....

  8. PART 3 ALIENATION AS A DISTURBED APPROPRIATION OF SELF AND WORLD
    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 151-154)

      CONSIDERED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF the subject, alienation is a deficient relation to world and self that, according to my thesis, can be understood as a disturbed relation of appropriation: alienation is an impeded appropriation of world and self.

      Whereas the first part of this book undertook to introduce the historical and systematic issues bound up with the concept of alienation, and the second attempted to elaborate my initial suggestions for reconstructing the concept of alienation, the aim of this third part is to bring these threads together once again by evaluating the results of my discussion of cases of...

    • 9 “LIKE A STRUCTURE OF COTTON CANDY”: BEING ONESELF AS SELF-APPROPRIATION
      (pp. 155-198)

      IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE PHENOMENA discussed in part 2, I described self-alienation as an inadequatepowerand a lack ofpresencein what one does, a failure toidentifywith one’s own actions and desires and to take part in one’s own life. Conversely, one is not alienated when one is present in one’s actions,steersone’s life instead of being driven by it, independentlyappropriatessocial roles, is able toidentifywith one’s desires, and isinvolvedin the world—in short, when one canappropriateone’s life (as one’s own) and is accessible to oneself in what one...

    • 10 “LIVING ONE’S OWN LIFE”: SELF-DETERMINATION, SELF-REALIZATION, AND AUTHENTICITY
      (pp. 199-215)

      WHAT IS THE OPPOSITE OF alienation? What positive criteria do we use to define the disturbances I have described as instances of alienation? And what does it mean to be able to live one’s life as one’s own in an unalienated fashion?

      From the perspective developed here the answer to these questions is that alienation hinders a life of freedom. Only when we can experience our life as our own in a demanding sense are we free. Alienation refers to those processes and disturbances that hinder such an appropriation of our own lives. If alienation is understood as the opposite...

  9. CONCLUSION: THE SOCIALITY OF THE SELF, THE SOCIALITY OF FREEDOM
    (pp. 216-220)

    WHAT FOLLOWS FROM THE POSITIONS I have developed here concerning individuals’ relations to the social relationships, practices, and institutions within which they lead their lives?

    My concluding remarks follow directly on my critique of Rorty. Although for Rorty authenticity is emphatically not to be realized at the cost of others, it also does not depend on them in a significant sense. His enclosure of romantic aspirations within a domain of self-realization that he conceives of as individualistic and private provides no space in which a theory of alienation—with its claim that alienation from self and alienation from society are...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 221-250)
  11. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 251-260)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 261-274)