The Accursed Sovereign

Exploring Alienation from Language through Dialects

Posted in Criticism, Kibble, Philosophical Anthropology by bradishn on May 25, 2010


“The more precise determinations of property are to be found in the will’s relationship to the thing [Sache].  This relationship is (α) in an immediate sense taking possession, in so far as the will has its existence [Dasien] in the thing as something positive; (β) in so far as the thing is negative in relation to the will, the will has its existence in it as in something to be negated – use; (γ) the reflection of the will from the thing back into itself – alienation; – positive, negative, and infinite judgements of the will upon the thing.” – Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, pp 83-4.

“…true alienation is a declaration by the will that I no longer wish to regard the thing as mine.  The whole issue can also be viewed in such a way that alienation is regarded as a true mode of taking possession.  The first moment in property is to take possession of something immediately; use is a further means of acquiring property; and the third moment is the unity of the first two, namely taking possession of something by alienating it.” – Ibid, pp 95.

“We have considered the act of estranging practical human activity, labour, in two of its aspects.  (1) The relation of the worker to the product of labour as an alien object exercising power over him.  This relation is at the same time the relation to the sensuous external world, to the objects of nature as an alien world antagonistically opposed to him.  (2) The relation of labour to the act of production within the labour process.  This relation is the relation of the worker to his own activity as an alien activity not belonging to him; it is activity as suffering, strength as weakness, begetting as emasculating, the worker’s own physical and mental energy, his personal life or what is life other than activity – as an activity which is turned against him, neither depends on nor belongs to him.  here we have self-estrangement, as we had previously the estrangement of the thing.” – Karl Marx, The Marx-Engels Reader, Second Edition, edited by Robert C. Tucker, pp 74-5.


After attending college, many first-generation attendees find themselves speaking in a foreign tongue when they return home.  The friends they have who, say, entered the work force instead of attending an educational institution, don’t speak in the same register as the budding young undergraduate.  In at least one conversation of mine, the term ‘alien’ or ‘alienated’ was used to describe the new dialect (primarily characterized by vocabulary).  This came to my attention (again) just over a month ago when a friend of mine related an experience in which she felt as though the register or dialect she was speaking in was alien to her when she returned to her hometown.  I agreed, but wondered about the relationship between the alienation of one from one’s own speech as it is compared to the alienation of one’s labor (Marx), or perhaps alienation more broadly (a la Hegel).

In the immediate moment, the individual will owns the dialect insofar as one owns one’s own immediate speech; second, the individual denies the realization of their will within the speech act itself (the speech act always falls short of embodying the will); in the third moment, the individual realizes that the language they speak exists as an entity separate and its own, it becomes alienated from the individual, but at the same time belongs to them, they must own their language (perhaps we could also think of language as abject in some sense.  It is recognized as some creation of the self, but is alien and, in some fashion, tainted and imperfect as compared to the will).

This is perhaps a failure in exploring dialectical thought.  What exactly it means to negate in a Hegelian sense I have yet to learn fully.


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