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Marxist Social Theory

1. Labour and Alienation

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In this lecture, we think about Marx’s writings on labour and alienation, focusing in particular on: (i) the romantic, philosophical conception in Marx’s early writing of labour as the thing which distinguishes humans from animals, creates societies and cultures, and places humans in a dialectical relationship with nature; (ii) his ideas around labour as the means by which people realise their creative potential, and his vision of communism as a society that enables this; (iii) Marx’s concept of alienation from labour under capitalism.


In this course, Dr Ross Abbinnett (University of Birmingham) explores Karl Marx’s theory of society. In the first lecture, we consider Marx’s analysis of labour, its importance to humanity, and alienation from labour under capitalism. In the second lecture, we look at how Marx approaches history and social change, particularly his base and superstructure model and his notion of modes of production. In the third lecture, we think about Marx’s account of capitalism’s emergence and characteristics. Next, we think about the political forces which lead society from capitalism to communism. In the fifth and final lecture, we consider efforts to bring communism about in the real world, such as those of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.


Dr Ross Abbinnett is Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Theory at the University of Birmingham. His recent publications include The Neoliberal Imagination: Politics, Aesthetics, and Economics in the Evolution of Hyper-Industrial Capitalism (2021), The Thought of Bernard Stiegler: Capitalism, Technology and the Politics of Spirit (2018) and Marxism After Modernity: Politics, Technology and Social Transformation (2006).

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Abbinnett, R. (2021, August 31). Marxist Social Theory - Labour and Alienation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Abbinnett, R. "Marxist Social Theory – Labour and Alienation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Aug 2021,

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