The alienation of social institutions: a social ontological account

Ferguson, Chris (2019) The alienation of social institutions: a social ontological account. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis examines Marx’s use of the concept of the alienation of social institutions. It examines Marx’s use of the terms Entäußerung and Entfremdung in the context of his antecedents in Fichte, Hegel, Feuerbach, and other Young Hegelians such as Stirner and Bauer. I argue that the concept makes concrete claims about the becoming-independent of social institutions, and explore the basis on which Marx takes this to have normative import. With respect to the latter, I claim that this concept draws on a conception of freedom, and is thus importantly distinct from a more frequently-emphasised normative theme in Marx’s work, that of perfectionism. The concept of the alienation of social institutions is nevertheless somewhat opaque in Marx’s writings, a product of the macro level of description at which Marx uses it. In order to adequately understand the descriptive claims this concept makes, we need a clearer idea of what social institutions are and what their relationship is to individuals. To this end, I engage in a critical reconstruction of John Searle’s social ontology. Searle’s work offers a useful, although occasionally unfortunately ambiguous, framework for describing social institutions and their alienation. I reconstruct the central claims of his account, clarifying several important aspects in order both to aid our understanding of social institutions and avoid some of the misleading (and conservative) implications that seem to follow from his account. Finally, in order to understand the normative import of Marx’s concept of alienation, I engage with the contemporary literature on freedom in order to reconstruct Marx's conception of freedom. I show how this conception of freedom underpins the normative import of his concept of the alienation of social institutions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General) > B3305.M7 Marx, Karl, 1818-1883
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0826 Social institutions
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2020 11:12
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

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