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On The Meaning of Alienation

Melvin Seeman
American Sociological Review
Vol. 24, No. 6 (Dec., 1959), pp. 783-791
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2088565
Page Count: 9
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On The Meaning of Alienation
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Abstract

The problem of alienation is a pervasive theme in the classics of sociology, and the concept has a prominent place in contemporary work. This paper seeks to accomplish two tasks: to present an organized view of the uses that have been made of this concept; and to provide an approach that ties the historical interest in alienation to the modern empirical effort. Five alternative meanings of alienation are identified: powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation, and self-estrangement. The derivation of these meanings from traditional sociological analysis is sketched, and the necessity for making the indicated distinctions is specified. In each case, an effort is made to provide a viable research formulation of these five alternatives.

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