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The modern meaning and usage of the term alienation refer to becoming separated or estranged from something or oneself, and come from various philosophical, religious, and theoretical traditions. This entry will concentrate on the Hegelian and Western Marxist theory of alienation, given its prominence in contemporary social and educational theory as well as recent empirical sociological studies.

Hegel and Marx

Georg W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) in his epic work The Phenomenology of Spirit (1977) popularized the modern theoretical understanding of alienation using the German words entfremdung (“to make alien”) and entäusserung (“to surrender or divest,” as in property). Hegel utilizes both words to characterize alienation in terms of a particular historical period and culture, or “spirit” of the age, which is marked by the separation of ...

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