| Cornelia Mittendorfer Double Alienation 2012 | MR Online Cornelia Mittendorfer, Double Alienation (2012)

Alienation under capitalism and the conspiracy pipeline

Originally published: Agonas on August 21, 2023 by Ekaterina Cabylis (more by Agonas) (Posted Aug 28, 2023)

When class analysis is absent from discussions about systemic problems, issues like income inequality, access to resources, and power imbalances are often oversimplified or ignored. People may struggle to understand the factors that contribute to these problems, leading them to seek simplistic explanations offered by conspiracy theories. These feelings of detachment, frustration, and powerlessness can make individuals more susceptible to conspiracy theories as an attempt to regain a sense of control and understanding in a complex and hostile world.

Without a framework to comprehend their position within the societal structure, individuals can feel alienated and frustrated. They sense that something is fundamentally wrong but can’t articulate it. This frustration creates grounds for conspiracy theories. The connection between alienation under capitalism and the rise of conspiracy theories is rooted in the human need for understanding and agency. When capitalism fosters feelings of disconnection and disempowerment, conspiracy theories offer a seductive illusion of both.

Class analysis helps individuals recognize their agency in affecting change within a system. Without it, people may feel powerless, believing that they are at the mercy of secretive forces. Conspiracy theories often offer the illusion of empowerment. Some politicians, including Donald Trump, have employed elements of class analysis for their political gain. They may use populist rhetoric that appears to advocate for the working class and against the capitalist elite. However, their actual policies and actions can sometimes contradict these messages, as they often end up benefiting corporate interests and the wealthy.

This strategic use of class analysis can be a powerful tool in mobilizing support while maintaining the existing power structures. Phrases like “drain the swamp” created the impression that he was an outsider ready to challenge the capitalist system. However, in practice, his policies often favored the wealthy and corporations, revealing his alignment with the same capitalist interests he claimed to oppose. This dual messaging allowed Trump to attract support from a broad spectrum of voters while maintaining the status quo of economic elites.

Capitalism individualized problems, emphasizing personal success and responsibility. This focus on the individual dismisses the larger systemic issues at play. People may struggle to articulate how capitalism perpetuates inequality because the dominant narrative centers on personal choices.

  • Conspiracy Theories: Conspiracy theories often provide overly simplistic explanations for complex societal problems. They tend to attribute these issues to secretive groups or individuals, making it easy for people to grasp these simplified narratives.
  • Class Analysis: In contrast, class analysis explains the intricate dynamics of economic and social systems. It recognizes that systemic issues like income inequality, exploitation, and class struggle are multifaceted and deeply connected.
  • Conspiracy Theories: Conspiracy theories often do not advocate for structural change within the system. Instead, they may focus on uncovering alleged conspiracies, distracting from the need for systemic reform.
  • Class Analysis: Class analysis, on the other hand, acknowledges the importance of structural change to address systemic issues. It encourages individuals to engage in collective action.

    Alienation Under Capitalism:

  • Commodification of Labor: In a capitalist system, work is often reduced to a commodity. Workers may feel dehumanized, like mere cogs in a profit-driven machine, leading to a sense of estrangement from their own labor.
  • Anonymity and Isolation: Capitalism’s competitive nature can foster individualism and isolation. The pursuit of personal success can lead to fractured communities and a lack of connection with others.
  • Income Inequality: Capitalism perpetuates income inequality, leaving many with limited access to resources and opportunities. This economic disparity can intensify feelings of alienation among those who are disadvantaged.

Emphasize Solidarity: Class analysis highlights shared economic interests among people from various backgrounds. Encourage solidarity and cooperation among individuals to address systemic issues, countering the divisive narratives of conspiracy theories.

It is ironic that people of modest means sometimes become conservative out of a scarcity fear bred by the very capitalist system they support.

– Michael Parenti

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