Alienated Labor
From Marx, Karl. "Alienated Labor." As reproduced in Marx's Concept of Man, trans. T. B. Bottomore, ed. Erich Fromm (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1961), 93-96.
In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), Karl Marx (1818-1883) expounds his concept of alienation. Written before Marx's move to England in 1848, this document allows a glimpse into his philosophy before its later development into Historical Materialism. In this discussion of alienation, Marx seems particularly concerned with the fate of the individual worker in relation to his labor, and with the objectifying, or dehumanizing, quality of alienated labor. For Marx, the creator was not able to "own" his creations (literally--or psychologically).
Political economy begins with the fact of private property; it does not explain it. It conceives the material process of private property, as this occurs in reality, in general and abstract formulas which then serve it as laws. It does not comprehend these laws; that is, it does not show how they arise out of the nature of private property. Political economy provides no explanation of the basis of the distinction of labor from capital, of capital from land. When, for example, the relation of wages to profits is defined, this is explained in terms of the interests of capitalists; in other words, what should be explained is assumed. Similarly, competition is referred to at every point and is explained in terms of external conditions. Political economy tells us nothing about the extent to which these external and apparently accidental conditions are simply the expression of a necessary development. . . . The only moving forces which political economy recognizes are avarice and the war between the avaricious, competition. . . .

Let us not begin our explanation, as does the economist, from a legendary primordial condition. Such a primordial condition does not explain anything; it merely removes the question into a gray and nebulous distance. It assumes as a fact or event what it should deduce, the necessary relation between two things, for example, between the division of labor and exchange. In the same way theology explains the origin of evil by the fall of man; that is, it asserts as a historical fact what it should explain.

We shall begin from a contemporary fact. The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces and the more his production increases in power in wealth and extent. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more goods he creates. The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation with the increase in value of the world of things. Labour does not only create goods; it also produces itself and the worker as a commodity, and indeed in the same proportion as it produces goods.

This fact simply implies that the object produced by labor, its product, now stand opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labor is labor which has been embodied in an object and turned into a physical thing; this product is an objectification of labor. The performance of work is at the same time its objectification. . . . [T]he more objects the worker produces the fewer he can possess and the more he falls under domination of his product, of capital.

All these consequences follow from the fact that the worker is related to the product of his labor as to an alien object. For . . . the more the worker expends himself in work the more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his inner life, and the less he belongs to himself. It is just the same as in religion. The more of himself man attributes to God the less he has left in himself. The worker puts his life into the object, and his life then belongs no longer to himself but to the object. The greater his activity, therefore, the less he possesses. What is embodied in the product of his labor is no longer his own. The greater this product is, therefore, the more he is diminished. The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, assumes an external existence, but that it exists independently, outside himself, and alien to him, and that it stands opposed to him as an autonomous power. The life which he has given to the object sets itself against him as an alien and hostile force.