Karl, not the Brothers.

A woman who generally takes a conservative view of things wrote, in a Facebook comment yesterday, "I'm suggesting our society is becoming so removed from itself and disconnected, or partitioned into self interest, that it no longer functions ..."

I responded, because I couldn't help myself, that her comment reminded me of "The Theory of Alienation," Karl Marx's essay from 1844 in which he described the condition of the people he saw around him during the early years of the Industrial Revolution.

I read the essay in a textbook. The following are treatments by other authors and I haven't read them: and

That essay is as far as I ever got in Marx. My second husband had a copy of , by which I tried to do my duty but couldn't get past the first paragraph. "Commodities and Money," as a chapter heading, does not a page-turner deliver. We used to hide our extra capital (in those days, it was the rare $20 bill) in that book.

"The Theory of Alienation," however, was an assigned read and that one I found not only easy to understand but still pertinent. If you read the article in the Wiki, you will find the following which I used in my reply to the Facebook comment: "While industrialization holds the promise of the masses' eventual liberation from an imagination conditioned chiefly by brute necessity, the division of labor within Industrial Capitalism blunts the worker's "species being" and renders him as a replaceable cog in an abstract machine instead of a human being capable of defining his own value through direct, purposeful activity..."

Today, when we get terms like "socialist" and "Marxist" thrown about as if they were the ultimate perjoratives, too many of us speak from complete ignorance of what these ideas actually are and out of which very real social conditions they grew. "The Theory of Alienation" is ultimately a description. A description of working conditions that today we think of as "Dickensian." Millions of us read Dickens, few read Marx. And no wonder.

They describe very similar conditions in very different ways. My conservative correspondent wrote: "... progressive notions such as Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights act, education, roads, bank reform, health care etc etc. These are ideas, reforms, or projects that any society deals with as it evolves ..."

She's a Dickensian, not a Marxist. Dickens had a deeper understanding of human nature - he didn't write his books in the cloistered atmosphere of the British Museum Library. If Marx's followers had read their Dickens along with their Marx, their revolutions might have gone better.

Nevertheless, Karl Marx is not the demon he is so often made out to be. Some things he nailed. "The Theory of Alienation" is one of the pieces in which he did so.