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Abstract

Alienation as a diagnostic political concept is frequently dismissed due to its reliance, in Marx’s account, on a dubious notion of human essence. Such conceptual foundations tend to stunt the potential critical force the concept might have thanks to its psycho-social and politico-existential character. This paper contends that the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon provides a revised notion of alienation which retains its force while moving beyond its dubious foundations. Simondon allows us to see alienation as alienation from time, and subsequently to found a category of political critique which has diagnostic force free from anthropocentric and essentialist assumptions. The first section gives an overview of Simondon’s philosophy, while the second section puts this philosophy in conversation with Marx, ultimately leading to a notion of non-human alienation gestured to by the example of the machine which is usually taken merely as ‘means of production.’ The third section engages Simondon’s ‘genetic account’ of the machine as a way of understanding the general sense of non-human alienation through a particular example. The fourth section then outlines, through the notion of a transindividual relation, what a non-alienated and non-anthropocentric relation to time and becoming might look like. The final section spells out the specifically human dimensions of the problematic of alienation in an attempt to reconnect it not only with Marx, but with a humanistic politics more generally.

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