The Matrix and Marx

“The Matrix is a prison for the mind…designed to turn a human being into [a battery]”

The Matrix is an allegory for the alienating forces of capitalism.

Danahay & Rieder:
“According to Marx, workers under capitalism do not recognize the relationship between their labor and the capital that they produce, because they have become ‘alienated’ from the realities of work.  They also do not recognize that they are forced to work…they are exploited because they cannot choose how and when they work” (p. 217)

“Modern industry has converted the little workship of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist.  Masses of laborers, croweded into the factory, are organized like soldiers.  Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the over-looker, and above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.”

True that alienation concerns the relationship between oneself and one’s labor product:

Ownwership vs. expression of individuality

In capitalism, wage-labor is a commodity:

“Labor power…is a commodity, neither more nor less than sugar.  The former is measured by the clock, the latter by the scales.”


“…the exercise of labor power, labor, is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life.  And this life-activity he sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of subsistence.  Thus his life-activity is for him only a means to enable him to exist”


A being’s essential nature is determined by its “life-activities.”

For humans there are 3:

Production is “the direct activity of individuality”  through which the individual “reproduces himself…actively and in a real sense, and he sees his own reflection in a world which he has constructed.”  (FS, 568/B128; p. 76)

Actualization (“externalization”) of his otherwise implicit “self.” (I.e. self-realization)

Labor products are “the objectification of himself… [which] confirm and realize his individuality.” (FS, 600/B161)

Animal produce as well, but only humans produce “in accordance with the laws of beauty” (FS, 568/B128; p. 78)

Only human production is “free”

“…the kind of production considered by Marx to be man’s “life-activity” is motivated by nothing more than the need to create, to express oneself, to give oneself external embodiment” (p. 78)

Alienation = “separation through surrender”

Two “hostile powers” for Marx:

My labor product becomes an instrument of my own oppression

“Alienation is apparent not only in the fact that my means of life belong to someone else…, but also that…an inhuman power rules over everything (FS, 619/B122; p. 87)

Alien because one’s product reflects the profile of the market, not one’s own personality.