Peterson, Murphy, and Marxist Alienation

Recently, Jordan Peterson did an extended interview with Bob Murphy. Peterson begins the interview by pitching it as a “two hour lesson in Austrian Economics”, but mainly, it was an overview comparison of the principles of Austrian economics against Marxism. It was difficult to dispute much of it. I’m already a proponent of free market capitalism, and I’m also fairly partial to Friedrich Hayek’s work (at least, as it is represented in The Constitution of Liberty, and Law, Legislation, and Liberty).

What Does Marx Mean by Alienated Labor?

In his famous Paris Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argues that a society organized around the principle of private property and the commercial production of commodities forces man to stand in opposition to his own nature in order to subsist, and that this self-oppositional stance is best described as ‘alienated’ (or ‘estranged’) labor. To fully understand what Marx means by ‘alienated labor’, and under what circumstances labor becomes alienated, we must therefore first understand what Marx means by ‘human nature’.