Psychosocial alienation as dehumanization: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy revisited
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In the world of philosophy, psychosocial alienation is a well-known concept. It is a notion that represents the psychic torment of an individual who experiences the feelings of isolation, despair or anguish and gradually regress as a social being through the influence of those demoralizing attributes. During the nineteenth century, when philosophers like Karl Marx, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche posited their ideologies on human social life, economy, politics, etc. this concept of psychosocial alienation came into focus as a mode of existential predicament because of its fatal pessimism that effectively exploited human psyche and lifestyle. According to these philosophers’ capitalistic economy, rapid urbanization and industrialization are some of the major issues responsible for the development of psychosocial alienation among mankind. They believe that capitalistic and materialistic innovations undoubtedly elevate the standard of living, but in disguise, these aspects basically hamper the true essence of human beings by making them more mechanical or more artificial. As a consequence, feelings of isolation, anguish, impatience, worthlessness, bitterness and hatred infect the inherent morals or values of human beings creating a psychosocial vulnerability in them. Gradually, along with the philosophers, different psychologists, artists and literary figures have recognized this demeaning feature of alienation and therefore made the effort to raise awareness among the masses about its catastrophic effects or consequences through their works. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are two of these profound scholars who have not just explored the inside story of human psychosocial disorders, but also evaluated the manipulation of money-oriented advancement through the character portrayals and themes of their works. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the phenomenon of psychosocial alienation as a process of dehumanization through an analysis of Dostoevsky and Tosltoy’s novels. For this project, three different novels have been selected among which two are written by Dostoevsky and the rest is by Tolstoy. The initial novels are Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground. Both of these novels significantly portray the psychosocial transformation of urbanized or modernized Russians in the nineteenth century. The last novel is Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina which not only highlights the remarkable distinction between urban and rural lifestyle, but also reveals the supremacy of patriarchal social conventions over female individuality or desire. Initially, it will try to find out the facts through which the concept of psychosocial alienation has established its place in the nineteenth century. Its connection with other existential philosophies like existentialism, nihilism, as well as the philosophy of the absurd will be discussed next. Then, in view of these preliminary discussions, it will focus on three different characters (i.e. Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, the Underground Man in Notes from Underground and Anna in Anna Karenina) and the themes of the chosen novels to assess the degrading impacts of psychosocial alienation on individuals. As it is said already that, psychosocial alienationis a dehumanizing aspect which poisons human conscience with extreme pessimism, provokes people to do unlawful deeds, makes them hate their existence, the tragic accounts of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy’s characters successfully highlight these notions with their representations. While the character of Raskolnikov highlights how the intellect of an individual gets tormented after observing the socio-political disorders, the character of the Underground Man stands as an epitome of the distorted hybridity of Russian culture and traditions under western influence in the nineteenth century. Similarly, Anna’s character symbolizes the dominance of materialism over individual desire or emotions. The thesis will be divided into three chapters with an introduction in order to present the argument in a detailed manner. As mentioned above, that the introductory part will present a general discussion on the topic along with a brief overview of all the necessary philosophies like Marxist philosophy of alienation, Nietzsche’s theory of nihilism, Sartre and Kierkegaard’s principles of existentialism, etc. The subsequent chapters will elaborate the issue more broadly by examining the characters and the themes of the selected novels considering those theories. In the final segment, a conclusion will be reached at on the basis of all discussions to reclaim the fact that psychosocial alienation is an attribute that dehumanizes people by devastating their reasoning and conscience.