Alienation is associated mainly with Marx, but it seems to me that there's nothing inherently socialist or leftist about the problem or its potential solutions. One might argue that while Marx was right about the problem itself, socialism and communism would only exasperate alienation if one considers them to be anti-individualistic ideologies.

Have any authors approached alienation from a right wing/capitalist/libertarian perspective?

  • 1
    Political alienation or personal alienation and reconciliation?
    – virmaior
    Oct 20, 2016 at 2:07
  • @virmaior alienation from the species essence, from one's self, in the way Marx uses the term. Oct 20, 2016 at 2:20
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    Maybe consider Sloterdijk (an important contemporary German conservative philosopher?) In particular, his In the World Interior of Capital seems relevant here...
    – Joseph Weissman
    Oct 20, 2016 at 14:53
  • Perhaps people who are in descent from right heglianism? Oct 23, 2016 at 7:32

2 Answers 2


Since alienation is at the very kernel of capitalist relations, I don't think it is possible to approach the issue from a pro-capitalist point of view except by denying its existence, or fundamentally misunderstanding it as something different. A critique like you hint at, "socialism and communism would only exasperate alienation if one considers them to be anti-individualistic ideologies" would be an anarchist criticism, or perhaps a primitivist/anti-civilisation one.

But this doesn't mean that a right-wing critique of alienation is necessarily impossible - as long as such right-wing is based upon what Marx & Engels call "reactionary socialism", ie, a critique of capitalism based upon nostalgia of older social relations, feudalism, or simple commodity production. This is indeed not a rare thing, the criticism of commodification of social relations as a defence of the "good old times" when capitalist relations of production hadn't yet penetrated and destroyed older, "idyllic" relations - especially family ties, proper respect for the elders, and a sense of "natural" hierarchies.


Since Marx was influenced by Hegel, it might be worth going back to him and see what he had to say about alienation, and trace this influence through right Hegelianism - which I take to be the conservative counterpoint to Marx's left & radical politics.

In Hegels Philosophy of Right, he touches on alienation beginning at paragraph 66:

Some goods, or rather substantative phases of life are inalienable and the rights to them do not perish through the lapse of time. These comprise my inner personality, and the universal essence of the consciousness of myself, and are personality in general, freedom of will in the broadest sense, social life and religion.

He adds to this a long note:

What the spirit is in conception, or implicitly, it should also be in actuality: it should be a person, that is to say, be able to possess property, have sociality and religion. This idea is the conception of spirit itself

... in this very conception, namely, that spirit shall be what it is only through itself and by the infinite return into itself out of its natural and direct reality, lies the possibility of opposition between what it is implicitly, and what it is explicitly; in the will, this opposition is the possibility of evil, but in general, it is the alienation of personality and substantive being, and this alienation may occur unconsciously or intentionally.

It's Hegels metaphysics that informs his inquiry into alienation: men, being what they are, participate in spirit; and their opposition then, is the opposition of spirit; now, a whole spirit, like the spirit of a single man, cannot be against itself unless it is ignorant of its own self and the good of its own self; likewise, Hegelian spirit acts against itself as it's ignorant of its own self, which it will be as it's still unfurling its own being towards absolute knowledge.

Interestingly, 'unconscious alienation' seems to be akin to 'false consciousness' of Marxism.

He goes on to give examples:

Examples of the disposal of personality are slavery, vassalage, inability to own property, or lack of complete control over it. Relinquishment of reason, sociality, morality or religion occurs in superstition.

It occurs also if I delegate to others the right to prescribe to me what kinds of acts I can commit, as one sells himself for robbery, murder or the possibility of some other crime; it occurs, when permit others to prescribe what for me shall be duty or religious truth.

Further, in paragraph 67

The use of single products of my particular endowments or mental capacities I may hand over to others for a limited amount of time; since, when a time limit is recognised, these products may be said to have an external relation to my genuine and total being.

If I were to dispose of my whole time, made concrete in work, and all my activity, I would be giving up the essence of my production. My whole activity and reality, in short, my personality, would be the property of others.

Though, Hegel doesn't name alienation in this paragraph, given what he has said in the preceding paragraph, it can only be alienation, and it appears akin to alienation in classical Marxism - the giving up of my being, made concrete in the production of my own hands, and wrestled over by my own mind.

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