Today I read Marx’s essay “Estranged Labor” or “Alienated Labour,” and on the back of my mind was thinking of friendship. While I seem to be drawing a far-fetched link, nonetheless, I find we can establish a relationship between “estranged labor” and friendship, failed friendship to be specific. In this essay Marx explicates the economic system in terms of ownership divided into two classes: the property owners and the property-less workers. The workers experiences estrangement from the external world, because the objects he produces belong to the outside world. Here the worker is alienated from the product of his labor. Further, the worker is alienated from the activity of production belongs to an other, who is superior, independent, and is characterized as hostile. As such, the work arises not from one’s creativity but is forced from an outside force. After experiencing alienation from the act of production, the worker is also alienated from “species-being.” That is to say, the worker is estranged from other humans because being human, or recognizing one’s identity, arises from creating things from inorganic matter. The final estrangement that Marx postulates is the estrangement of man to man because the owner is not perceived as a human.
I think it may have become clear why I’m drawing an analogy between Marx’s description of estranged labor and friendship. Friendship should arise from the premise of recognizing the other as human and like oneself. It must be consist of mutual exchange. Not to say that the same things are being exchanged, but rather a mutual recognition of the other’s humanity. Marx’s final description of alienation is particularly relevant here, because once one feels alienated from his/her friend, friendship stagnates and returns us to the relationship between lord and bondsman as explicated by Hegel and which Marx takes up. While friendship isn’t always consistent, it should not fall on possession.
This entry will strike you as commonsensical, but I’m curious as to how you would define friendship? Is some sort of estrangement required for a strong relationship to develop? Have you been in a friendship that ended in estrangement?