Alienation the ‘Is-Ought’ Gap and two Sorts of Discord

  • Richard Schacht


The notion of alienation has excited a great deal of interest in recent years, especially among reformists and revolutionists in social-scientific circles. Much of this interest would appear to be related to the widespread belief that this notion enables one to bridge the seemingly impassable gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’, by means of an ‘ought not’ — and thereby to establish normative conclusions without paying the price of going beyond the limits of sound scientific method. Marx himself, whose rather recently discovered early writings initially inspired high hopes along these lines, seems to have been drawn to the notion for something like this reason. Before the already extensive alienation-literature is swelled even further, however, it is desirable and even imperative to pause and consider whether in fact the notion of alienation enables us to perform this remarkable feat. If it does, then social scientists and social philosophers are indeed fortunate. But if it does not, those who would continue to make use of it must revise their thinking about the status of the notion, and about the role(s) it is capable of playing in the kinds of intellectual endeavor in which it is to be employed.


Social Relation Epistemic Status Normative Commitment Social Philosopher Epistemic Evaluation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    See my Alienation (New York: Doubleday, 1970; also London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971), Ch.l.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marshall B. Clinard, Sociology of Deviant Behavior, Fourth Edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974), Ch. 15 and references; also the writings of T. J. Scheff, beginning with Being Mentally III (Chicago: Aldine, 1966), and the writings of T. S. Szasz, beginning with The Myth of Mental Illness (New York: Paul B. Hoeber, 1961).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See my discussion of this literature in Alienation, esp. Ch. 5; also the Bibliography for Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Alienation, Chs. 2–4.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid.: also Ch. 7, Part III. See also Melvin Seeman, ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ in A. Campbell and P. E. Converse, eds., Human Meaning of Social Change (New York: Russell Sage, 1972), pp. 505 ff.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alienation, Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Alienation, Chs. 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See my Hegel and After (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1975), Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Alienation, Ch. 3.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Alienation, Introductory Essay by Walter Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Alienation, Chs. 4 and 5.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Alienation, Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Alienation, Ch. 7.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a somewhat similar treatment of the notion of alienation in the social-scientific literature, see: J. Horton, “The Dehumanization of Anomie and Alienation: A Problem in the Ideology of Sociology,” British Journal of Sociology, Vol. XV, No. 4 (December, 1964), pp. 283–300. See also Seeman, op. cit. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© H. E. Stenfert Kroese bv, Leiden 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Schacht
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IllinoisUrbana-ChampaignUSA

Personalised recommendations