The expansive literature on alienation demonstrates how various treatments emphasize different parts of human estrangement. This recovery focuses on demonstrating how Marx’s theory of alienation can prove fruitful in understanding social movement activity and promoting social justice. At the centre of collective action is a hope and vision for an alternative future, an imagination of communities based on mutual reliance and a strategy for dealienation. In this paper, I begin with a review of Marx’s theory with an emphasis on a philosophy of internal relations, followed by an application to a recently completed case study with housing activists in Scarborough, Ontario. By posing questions for further development, I conclude that social alienation and responses to it can be developed further when seen as a learning process; that is, to understand the learning processes of one’s own estrangement as central to taking positive steps to overcome alienation.
We can continue this downward path toward a society ever more regimented,
manipulated, and self-deceived, or we can band together with groups of friends and,
looking away from our own comfort and convenience, face the poverty, cruelty, and
tyranny that dominate the world. In bestirring ourselves to heal the world, we
reassert our humanity and reclaim our lives for ourselves. Protesting our own
commodification, we can affirm once again the humanity of each of us—that human
beings are ends in themselves and should not be treated as means to the ends of
power-hungry governments or corporations seeking fatter profits […] Turning our
backs on the seductive comforts and narcotizing conveniences of the world of
commodities, we shall try to build a free society where each furthers his or her own
well-being and promotes that of the others.