Alienation

Alienation is estrangement or splitting apart.

  • In law, "alienation" refers to a transfer of title.

  • In medicine, "alienation" can refer to a splitting apart of the faculties of the mind; an "alienist" is an old name for a psychiatrist.

  • In sociology, "alienation" refers to the individual's estrangement from traditional community and others in general. It is considered by many that the atomism of modern society, means that individuals have shallower relations with other people than they would in a traditional, 'organic' community. This, it is argued, leads to difficulties in understanding and adapting to each other's uniqueness. This is also referred to as commodification, emphasizing the compatibility of capitalism with alienation.

This idea of alienation can be observed in some other contexts, although the term may or may not be as frequently used. In the context of individual-society relation, alienation means the unresponsiveness of the society as a whole to the individuality of each member of the society. When collective decisions are made, it is usually impossible for the unique needs of each person to be taken into account.

In the context of human-world relation, alienation means the misfit of human being to the world. When one uses his/her reason or logos, it typically makes the relation that of subject-object, and as the subject of perception, s/he is distanciated from the world (the object) rather than living within it. This line of thought can be found, among others, in Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Theodor Adorno.

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