Derived from the work of Marx (and others), it describes the experience of people in capitalist society, their feeling that they have no control over their fate, play no part in social life beyond giving obedience to an employer or to the law, and have no control over the products of their labour because these do not belong to them but to the owners of capital.
The social condition in which dominant beliefs are questioned or repudiated. As a result, individuals are confused as to correct ways of behaving. Durkheim noted that such a state of affairs could develop in times of either extreme social and economic decline or of prosperity. Related, but different from, the idea of alienation (q.v.).