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Dissertaion: Introducing the Objective

This essay is a study both of a relatively small community and of the implications of the term "fulfillment" in a contemporary capitalist society. Sidestepping more basic issues such as material inequality, I will investigate one aspect of capitalism first described at length by Marx, and since reintepreted as anything from a lack of liberty [1] to the source of status anxiety [2]: alienation. The small community I choose to study is that of the Free Software Hackers, whose driving Ethic I will propose as a candidate to overcome alienation.

At its most simple, I propose that alienation can be understood as being diametrically opposed to Aristotle's eudaimonia, or fulfillment. That intangible aspect of our life that makes it our own, that makes us more than simply happy or content, is at its most deprived when we are alienated. In contemporary capitalist societies the logic of the market is predominant, and so where the logic of the market is at odds with the logic of an individual's life - that is to say when decisions in our life governed by financial considerations don't fulfill us - the individual is alienated.

I will explore this claim through analysing three aspects of alienation, selected because I deem them to be the most poignant. They are, in no particular order: the separation of labour value from exchange value; the loss of productive autonomy; and the substitution of competition for community.

I will examine how the Ethic's orientation, techniques, the limits of its space and its logic overcome each of these aspects of alienation. Though it is no silver bullet, the Ethic subverts fundamental assumptions in contemporary capitalist societies that lead to or abet alienation.

Finally, I will briefly discuss the Ethic in the context of a wider struggle against the shortcomings of capitalism. Taking lead from Gorz, who sought "broader spaces in which a 'logic of life' can unfold freely" [3], I will show how certain factors such as the Hackers' subversion of Intellectual Property laws give their Ethic a significance wider than their own communities.


[1] - Need a reference, or remove

[2] - In Status Anxiety (2004), Alain De Botton.

[3] - A suitable reference to Gorz by page number