This intriguing work deals with the plight of the alienated individual, estranged from humanity and the surrounding world. It examines such questions as: Why do writers like Kafka, Thomas Wolfe, Rilke, and the existential philosophers, who portray man as a stranger in the world, have such a strong appeal? Is estrangement limited to individual cases or has it become a universal fate? Is alienation a consequence of the triumph of the machine? Is it caused by the increasing complication of our political life and by the growing separation between leaders and masses? Is it characteristic of the human condition, or is it a specific development of modern society? Should mankind resign itself to alienation, or can it be overcome, conquered?
Marx’s ideas on alienation, which had been ignored for a long time, have become quite fashionable in recent years. Frequently they are even overemphasized at the expense of other concepts of Marx, in particular, his economic concepts. This trend is sometimes due to the attempt to make Marx respectable and to win new supporters for him, especially in intellectual circles which show some interest in socialism but are still reluctant to accept the Marxian analysis of our society. These people are often told: Don’t worry about the later Marx, who wrote the Critique of Political Economy and Capital, and who was so tactless as to develop the theory of exploitation