Karl Marx and Depression?
Depression within our society is widespread, in the United States for example, “diagnoses of major depression have risen dramatically by 33 percent since 2013”. Throughout the globe, the level of depression has also seen a rise of 18.4% between 2005 and 2015, with the pandemic evidently making things much worse.
On top of that, job satisfaction is also at all-time lows with more than half the American workforce feeling unhappy in their employment, citing feeling unfulfilled and not being paid what they are worth (which is a crucial part of Marx’s analysis).
People like the late David Graeber have also spoken about the dissatisfaction within the workplace with the emergence of “bullshit” jobs. Graeber saw “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”
Karl Marx, the 19th-century economist, philosopher, sociologist, and historian, however, saw all of this coming. Marx referred to this as the theory of alienation. In short, his premise was that under a capitalist mode of production the worker loses their agency; their ability to dictate their own lives; the right to think for themselves and act accordingly; and to own the items of value from the goods produced by their own labour (think a worker in a shoe factory unable to own the shoe he/she makes).
Despite the human being self-aware and autonomous as an economic entity, the worker is told to complete tasks and goals dictated by the bourgeoisie (owner of the means of production) who then extracts the maximum level of surplus value from the worker, in order to maintain competition with other industrialists. Think of it like this, have you ever been at work and felt like you've put in more than you've got given in return? Well, that's sort of what Marx was talking about.