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In sociology and critical social theory, 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 community. This, it is argued, leads to difficulties in understanding and adapting to each other's uniqueness (see normlessness). This is sometimes also referred to as commodification, emphasizing the compatibility of capitalism with alienation (a common theme of the early work of Karl Marx). Many sociologists of the late 19th/early 20th century were concerned about alienating effects of modernization. German sociologists Georg Simmel and Ferdinand Tönnies have written rather critical works on individualization and urbanization. Simmel's "Philosophie des Geldes" ("Philosophy of Money") describes how relationships become more and more mediated through money. Tönnies' "Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft" ("Community and Society") is about the loss of primary relationships such as family bonds in favor of goal oriented secondary relationships.
This idea of alienation can be observed in some other contexts, although the term 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. This form of alienation was criticized by many of the Young Hegelians.
In a broader philosophical context, especially in existentialism and phenomenology, alienation is the inadequation of human being or mind to the world. The human mind, as the subject of perception, relates to the world as an object of its perception, and so is distanced from the world rather than living within it. This line of thought can be found, among others, in Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Theodor Adorno.
There is a commonly noted problem of translation in grappling with ideas of alienation derived from German-language philosophical texts: the word alienation, and similar words such as estrangement, are often used to translate two quite distinct German words, Entfremdung and Entäußerung, interchangeably.
Socially Alienated Groups
Some socially alienated groups includes:
- Alien Residents
- Ethnic Minorities
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