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In law, the ability to transfer a property to another party, either by sale or gift. Most property is alienable, but subject to certain restrictions. For example, a property may be temporarily inalienable because a third party has right of first refusal on it.


the separation of people from their essential qualities as human beings in capitalist societies. Karl Marx (1818-83), who first developed the concept, believed that ‘free conscious activity’ was the hallmark of human activity Work in modern capitalist society, which involves the worker producing goods and services for the profit of an employer and in a manner dictated by the employer, separates (i.e. alienates) people from their essence. In effect an individual's labour power is reduced to a commodity to be bought and sold. Job dissatisfaction may well result, but the possibility arises that alienation from ‘true’ human desires is so deep that individuals have no standard against which to compare their lot and hence may nevertheless experience job satisfaction. Since alienation, as defined here, has no clear discernible relationship with SATISFACTION, many critics have argued that its use in the analysis of work attitudes and behaviour is decidedly limited.

A closer link between alienation and job satisfaction has been provided by American sociologist Robert Blauner (1929 -). He defined alienation as a ‘fragmentation in man's consciousness’, experienced as dissatisfaction. The dimensions of this are a sense of powerlessness (i.e. inability to control what happens at work), a feeling of meaninglessness (i.e. the job tasks seem pointless), a sense of isolation from others, and a feeling of self-estrangement (i.e. that one's creativity is stifled). In Blauner's view, technology is the most important determinant of alienation.

In assembly-line work (see FORDISM) alienation reaches its peak. By contrast, more recent process technology, in which the worker oversees a range of operations rather than being subjugated to the machine, is associated with lower levels of alienation. The logic of Blauner's account, in contrast to that of Marx, is that alienation can be reduced by managerial policies to modify the nature of workers'tasks (see JOB DESIGN AND REDESIGN) and to integrate workers into a work community (see HUMAN RELATIONS). See ANOMIE.


The act of transferring ownership or some partial interest in real property from one person to another. Voluntary alienation occurs when one executes a deed or a lease. Involuntary alienation occurs when there is a foreclosure,tax sale,or condemnation.

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