I was taught that even the most self interested bourgeois is alienated, I think due to having to continually invest capital in competition with other capitalists. As so called state capitalism seems to have collapsed, and not be coming back easily, I wondered if the bourgeois class are able to realise their alienation, their estrangement from themselves, including but not limited to endless competition with other capitalists, more deeply, perhaps outside everyday investment of capital in labour, and the successes and failures of that.


How does the capitalist understand their alienation, and has that mostly stayed the same since Marx/ism?

I'm not so much asking about left wing capitalists, more the global bourgeoisie in general.

  • 2
    If by "alienation" you mean Marx's commodity fetishism and its elaborations in Lukács, Adorno-Horkheimer and Baudrillard I am afraid I do not follow. "Bourgeois class" can read, some of them did read alienation theorists, and presumably understood what they read. The real question is perhaps whether "bourgeois", or anybody else, feel the need to remove alienation, and how to accomplish that with or without their help. But on this even alienation theorists came up short, I am afraid, Marx's and New Left's solutions did not work out.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 21:11
  • @Conifold not to argue, but i did say "outside the critique of capital".. you are right i fudged the question a little, though, sorry
    – user28117
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 21:15
  • Commodity fetishism is not critique of capital even in Marx, he elaborated on it in his early works before turning to economics of capitalism. Later alienation theorists are even more focused on social psychology and culture, so I still do not see what you are asking about.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 22:18
  • @Conifold i absolutely disagree that "commodity fetishism is not a critique of capitalism" !!!!!!!
    – user28117
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 22:25
  • "I absolutely disagree with X" is not a very illuminating comment, especially if X was not mentioned. Critique of capital is one thing, critique of capitalism is another, and its cultural and socio-psychological effects, like alienation, are a third. Perhaps you should explain in your post what you take alienation to be because at this point I am mystified. If "outside critique of capital" was meant as "outside critique of capitalism" then what is "alienation outside critique of capitalism" exactly?
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


I'm understanding alienation as the lack of self-consciousness an individual has of the material determination of its actions inside the mode of production. In this case an alienated capitalist could be a billionaire who thinks he's extracting surplus value because he consciously wants to and it is unaware that his actions are determined by the natural movement of capital.

I would say that a capitalist that is self-conscious is not going to want to change his material status. A non-alienated capitalist would keep extracting surplus but now consciously and efficiently. This is to oppose the non-alienated conscious worker who understands why his life is so miserable and that it needs to change in order for him to survive.

TLDR: A non-alienated capitalist would not care about the moral implications of what he's doing.

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