Essay about Historical Roles of Alienation, Class, and Hegemony

Essay about Historical Roles of Alienation, Class, and Hegemony

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Alienation, class, and hegemony are three important terms defined in Raymond Williams' "Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture of Society." These terms apply in both Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

Alienation, as defined by Williams, has two meanings. He first describes the term as "an act of estrangement, normally in relation to a `cutting-off' or being cut off from God, or to a breakdown of relations between a man or a group and some received political authority." The second definition Williams gives for alienation is "the act of transferring the ownership of anything to another, and especially the transfer of rights, estates, or money. Alienation is a major concept in Marx's Communist Manifesto. Marx argues that class struggle causes the formation of all historical developments. He identifies alienation as the main cause of class inequality. The two class rivals in Marx's Manifesto are the bourgeoisie, or middle class, and the proletariat, or wage-laborers. According to Marx, the proletariat was alienated.

Frederick Douglass also faces extreme alienation through the practice of slavery. During this time in American history, black slaves were considered property rather than human beings. They didn't have any of the rights or privileges of their white masters. Frederick Douglass explains that he, like most other slaves, was separated from his mother as an infant. He believes that the slaveholders do this to eliminate any affection between mother and child. Douglass barely recalls the times when he mother traveled twelve miles in the middle of the night to lay with him in bed for a very short amount of



... middle of paper ...

...s again (Douglass 69). In this moment, Douglass has achieved hegemony over a brutal slave-owner.

Alienation, class, and hegemony are three important terms defined and discussed in Raymond Williams' "Keywords." They each apply to Marx's Communist Manifesto and Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In the Manifesto, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are rival classes. The proletariat is competing with and struggling for power or hegemony over the dominating middle class, or bourgeoisie. The proletariat experiences alienation, class struggle, and hegemony as does Frederick Douglass and most black slaves. The class division between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is very similar to those of the race division between blacks


and whites in 19th century America in the aspects of alienation, class, and hegemony.

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