I'm not a professional philosopher. I'm only a curious person taking an interest in Hegel and Marx and I was reading Peter Singer's book named Hegel: A Very Short Introduction since I was trying to understand the basic ideas of Hegel for a class I'm taking. I loved the book, as a quick introduction I felt Peter Singer did a marvelous job, however, there was one aspect that I couldn't fully grasp of Hegel's thought: alienation.

It is as if every time I try to understand alienation according to Hegel, I simply get an explanation from Marx's standpoint, and in that aspect, Peter Singer did the same. After introducing the master/slave idea and without having defined the concept of alienation explicitly, he just moved to say:

"Some forty years later, Karl Marx developed his own notion of alienated labor. Like Hegel, Marx regarded labor as a process in which the worker puts his own thoughts and efforts --in fact, all that is best in himself-- into the object of his labors. The worker, therefore, objectifies himself or externalizes himself. Marx then made much of a point that is implicit in what Hegel says: if the object of labor is the property of another, especially an alien, hostile other, the worker has lost his own objectified essence"

Then, did Hegel and Marx mean the same when they were thinking about alienation?

I'm hoping that anyone could help me understand alienation in Hegel's thought and independent of Marx's point of view, if possible.

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    "Alienation translates two distinct German terms: Entfremdung (‘estrangement’) and Entäußerung (‘externalization’). Both terms originated in the philosophy of Hegel, specifically in his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). " so says an Encyclopedia. I would add that Hegel was more interested in Entäußerung, that is projecting- as- other which is not Marx's interest. Being deeply concerned with property and ownership Marx' alienation is mostly appropriation by some unrelated 'stranger'. Hegel's perspective is first of all 'mental', not material.
    – sand1
    Jun 25, 2021 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Just building on @sand1's comment to your answer, there is an interesting passage in Hegel's Philosophy of Right where he discusses his notion of alienation in great detail. He writes that "it is possible for me to alienate my property, for it is only mine so long as I embody my will into it." Here he emphasizes the freedom in not only owning property, but legally transferring it so that it is possible to disown it. The use of the term "alienation" stems more from the legal definition of transferring property, or Entäußerung in German; whereas Marx's definition stems more from the common notion of estrangement when there is dissonance in a relationship that should otherwise be harmonious.

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