Alienation can be considered part of the process of capitalist exploitation, but it can also mean feeling cut off and isolated from the surrounding world. Alienation in the Marxist sense means that capitalist production separates the worker from the object or service he produces, leading him to separate the effect of his own labour from the products he uses that are made by others. At the same time, he becomes no more than a product or object himself.
Thus the more the worker by his labor appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in two respects: first, in that the sensuous external world more and more ceases to be an object belonging to his labor – to be his labor’s means of life; and, second, in that it more and more ceases to be a means of life in the immediate sense, means for the physical subsistence of the worker.
In both respects, therefore, the worker becomes a servant of his object, first, in that he receives an object of labor, i.e., in that he receives work, and, secondly, in that he receives means of subsistence. This enables him to exist, first as a worker; and second, as a physical subject. The height of this servitude is that it is only as a worker that he can maintain himself as a physical subject and that it is only as a physical subject that he is a worker. (emphasis his)
This separation can often lead to alienation in the sense that I use it here: the feeling of being cut off from society, which leads to feelings so deadened that the outside word seems unreal. This is a common feature of depression, a disease, and dis-ease is an appropriate description, so common that it is considered the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide.
Communism, cooperative working associations, and unions were meant to address not only the economic injustice of capitalist working conditions, but also the loss of identity that comes with the lack of control over circumstances in working life. Justina expresses this aspect in her diary on Venezuelan workers’ cooperatives:
The key to overcoming capitalism’s human devastation and systemic greed is to be found in joining together with other members of one’s community or work place and acting to transform our economy and thus our society into one that places human needs and aspirations at the top of our priorities.