Karl Marx presented two class models of society namely the bourgeoisie and proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the capitalists who are few in number and are the owners of capital. They are also rich, powerful, oppressors, exploiters and they always win elections in democratic countries.
On the other hand, the proletariats are the workers, owners of labor and they are the majority in numbers but are powerless since they are oppressed and exploited by the rich and they always lose in election in democratic nations. The proletariat can be described as a class in itself in the sense that they share same objectives and relationships to the means of production, that is, they are laborers who are paid in wages.
The two classes are always in conflict with each other because their interests are incompatible. While the bourgeoisie have the interests of maintaining the status quo which ensures their dominance, the proletariats are interested in changing the status quo which deprives them of good life.
However, the two classes are not aware of the nature of the circumstances which they live in but assume that the situations which they find themselves in are natural and nothing can be done to change them. This is what Karl Marx calls a false class consciousness.
The bourgeoisie are not aware that they are the exploiters while the proletariats are not aware that they are exploited or oppressed, they are also not aware that they are poor but assume that they are naturally supposed to be poor. However; when the proletariats become aware of the reality, that is, when they know that they are exploited by the bourgeoisie, what follows is a revolution. Marx argues that the Russian revolution of 1917 was as a result of the realization of the proletariats that they were being oppressed by the bourgeoisie.
Karl Marx understood work as alienating. His argument was based on the capitalistic mode of production which has its roots in the industrial revolution of 1600. This mode of production is characterized by the two groups named above that is, the bourgeoisie and the proletariats. According to Karl Marx, the proletariats own nothing except their labor, which they sale at cheap price to the capitalists (Wharton 44-68).
The concept of alienation simply means the existence of some dividing forces between things which are essentially supposed to be in harmony with each other. For example, man created and discovered religion, but the same man subjects himself to uncomfortable religious beliefs or practices like refusing to take medicine due to religious beliefs. In this situation, religion makes man to be uneasy, yet it is the same man who creates the religion (Wharton 44-68).
Marx argued that the ideal purpose of work was to make man happy by enabling him move towards the actualization levels in his life. But due to the capitalistic economy, work is no longer playing its primary function in man, but rather, it is alienating him. According to Marx, man can be alienated in four major ways namely the alienation from the results of labor, alienation from the other workers, alienation of the worker from him or herself and alienation of the worker from working (Wharton 44-68).
Alienation from the results of labor happens when man works but he does not have a stake in the products of his labor and only gets his wages, which are way below the worth of the products of his labor. This is what Karl Marx calls exploitation, which creates profits in form of surplus. Paradoxically, the surplus is not attributed to the workers but rather to the capitalists (Wharton 44-68).
Alienation from other workers takes place when the worker is transformed into a commodity to be used in the competitive capitalist economy. In this situation, the worker is not viewed as a social being but is tied to his or her work, in which he or she is paid as per his or her output. The execs labor which is not paid for is what Marx referred to as surplus value, which ends up benefiting the owners of the means of production at the expense of the worker.
Alienation of the worker from working takes place when the worker is robbed off his ability or opportunity to enjoy the intrinsic value of work. In the capitalistic economy, personal lives are separated from work, meaning that the worker is transformed into a machine. This makes him or her to work for the sake of working, but not as a way of serving other humanity or quenching his passion to work in a certain field (Wharton 44-68).
Alienation of the worker from him or herself takes place when the worker is robbed off his objectivity in life. The nature of the work does not allow the worker to do what he or she pleases him. In many cases, the jobs in a capitalist system are very well defined with strict guidelines through job descriptions.
Many jobs do not allow the worker to bring in his innovation, creativity and passionate input to the jobs and this only helps the capitalists to attain their objectives in life, without the worker having an opportunity to attain his objectives in life unless he works hard to own the means of production.
Wharton, Amy. Selected Material From Working In America: Continuity, Conflict, and Change, (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 2006.44-68.Print.