By John Torrance
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Additional info for Estrangement, Alienation and Exploitation: A Sociological Approach to Historical Materialism
The ruler, since he represents no collective self-consciousness, and none stands opposed to him either, takes himself to be the 'living god' of the world he rules; yet by the Estrangement, Alienation and Exploitation same token he can rule it only in accordance with personal caprice and his individual talents, for common customs and values do not exist. Yet this does nevertheless constitute a political communiry, in terms of the common legal system which defines all its subjects as persons and private proprietors, on a footing of formal equality, and gives the ruler his legitimate authority as the personal sovereigtl of each.
This appears to be a wholly metaphysical, or at best epistemological usage, and I propose to ignore it and confine myself to the historical sense. There is, however, a connection between the two senses which ought to be noted. It is (or seems to me) somewhat as follows. Man figures in the metaphysical self-estrangement of spirit in nature only as spirit's redeemer: human knowledge is the means and vehicle by which spirit returns to itself out of its alien material condition. But the process through which this actually occurs is that of history.
This theological idealism was, for Hegel, the supersession of the estrangement of the unhappy consciousness, but still on the basis of religious self-alienation. The further stages of the development of reason completed the return of man to himself. ' 25 The unhappy consciousness, however, was the response, at first, of an oppressed foreign people under the yoke of Rome, then of persecuted minorities throughout the empire, finally it became the general mentality of the Roman world and of the European civilisation which followed it.
Estrangement, Alienation and Exploitation: A Sociological Approach to Historical Materialism by John Torrance