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      Work Alienation and its Gravediggers: Social Class, Class Consciousness, and Activism


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          Work activity is central to human psychology. However, working conditions under capitalist socioeconomic relations have been posited as psychologically alienating. Given the negative impact of work alienation on well-being and mental health, we conducted two studies of the relations between social class, work conditions, and alienation. We also examined factors that might counteract alienation – class consciousness and activism. The utility of a Marxist measure of social class – based on objective work relations – was compared with that of SES and subjective class measures. Study 1 surveyed 240 U.S. adults from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk; Study 2 was a replication with 717 adults recruited via a sampling company. Across studies, alienation was predicted by perceived work exploitation, poor work relationships, and lack of self-expression, meaningfulness, self-actualization, autonomy, and intrinsic motivation at work. Only the Marxist class measure – not SES or subjective class measures – predicted alienation and alienating work conditions across studies. Working-class participants experienced more alienating work conditions and greater alienation. Alienation was correlated with class consciousness, and class consciousness was associated with activism. While SES measures have dominated the psychological study of social class, results suggest benefits to integrating Marxist measures and conceptions of social class.

          Translated abstract

          La actividad laboral es central para la psicología humana. Sin embargo, se ha postulado que las condiciones de trabajo bajo las relaciones socioeconómicas capitalistas son alienantes psicológicamente. Dado el impacto negativo de la alienación laboral en el bienestar y la salud mental, realizamos dos estudios sobre las relaciones entre clase social, las condiciones laborales y la alienación. También examinamos factores que podrían contrarrestar la alienación: la conciencia de clase y el activismo. La utilidad de una medida marxista de clase social, basada en relaciones laborales objetivas, fue comparada con la del nivel socioeconómico (SES por su sigla en inglés) y las medidas de clase subjetivas. El estudio 1 encuestó a 240 adultos estadounidenses de diversos orígenes socioeconómicos utilizando el Mechanical Turk de Amazon; el estudio 2 fue una réplica con 717 adultos reclutados por una empresa de muestreo. En los dos estudios, la alienación fue predicha por la explotación laboral percibida, malas relaciones laborales, y por la falta de autoexpresión, significado, autorrealización, autonomía, y motivación intrínseca en el trabajo. Solo la medida de clase marxista, no la SES ni las medidas de clase subjetivas, predijeron la alienación y las condiciones de trabajo alienantes en los estudios. Los participantes de la clase trabajadora experimentaron condiciones de trabajo más alienantes y mayor alienación. La alienación se correlacionó con la conciencia de clase, y la conciencia de clase se asoció con el activismo. Si bien las medidas de SES han dominado el estudio psicológico de la clase social, los resultados implican que hay beneficios en integrar medidas y concepciones de clase social marxistas.

          Translated abstract

          A atividade laboral é central à psicologia humana. No entanto, as condições de trabalho sob as relações socioeconômicas capitalistas já foram postuladas como alienantes psicologicamente. Dado o impacto negativo da alienação do trabalho no bem-estar e na saúde mental, realizamos duas pesquisas sobre as relações entre classe social, as condições de trabalho e a alienação. Também examinamos fatores que podem se contrapor à alienação - a consciência de classe e o ativismo. A utilidade de uma medida marxista de classe social - baseada em relações objetivas de trabalho - foi comparada com a de SES e medidas subjetivas de classe. A primeira pesquisa envolveu 240 adultos americanos de diversas origens socioeconômicas usando o Mechanical Turk da Amazon; a segunda pesquisa foi uma réplica com 717 adultos recrutados por uma empresa de amostragem. Nas duas pesquisas, a alienação foi prevista pela percepção da exploração de trabalho, más relações de trabalho, e pela falta da auto-expressão, significado, auto-atualização, autonomia e motivação intrínseca no trabalho. Só a medida de classe marxista - não a de SES nem as medidas subjetivas de classe - previam a alienação e as condições de trabalho alienantes nas pesquisas. Os participantes da classe trabalhadora experimentaram condições de trabalho mais alienantes e maior alienação. A alienação foi correlacionada com a consciência de classe, e a consciência de classe foi associada com o ativismo. Embora as medidas de SES tenham dominado o estudo psicológico de classe social, os resultados insinuam benefícios em integrar as medidas e concepções de classe social marxistas.

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                Author and article information

                J Soc Polit Psych
                Journal of Social and Political Psychology
                J. Soc. Polit. Psych.
                28 February 2020
                : 8
                : 1
                : 198-219
                [a ]Behavioral Sciences Department, CUNY Kingsborough Community College , Brooklyn, NY, USA
                [b ]Global Perspectives on Society, NYU Shanghai, Shanghai, China
                [3]University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Behavioral Sciences Department, CUNY Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY, 11235-2398, USA. Jeremy.Sawyer@ 123456kbcc.cuny.edu
                Copyright @ 2020

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 10 January 2019
                : 16 September 2019
                Original Research Reports

                conciencia de clase,status socioeconômico,trabalho,teoria da autodeterminação,marxismo,teoria marxista,ativismo,consciência de classe,classe social,alienação do trabalho,nivel socioeconómico,trabajo,teoría de la autodeterminación,teoría marxista,activismo,clase social,alienación laboral,socioeconomic status,labor,self-determination theory,Marxism,Marxist theory,activism,class consciousness,social class,work alienation


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