ABSTRACT

Introduction Alienation implies the experience of separation, from a person, object, or social situation. Perhaps the most profound level of alienation is estrangement from one’s self. The modern individual’s experience of ‘self’ can range from a sound sense of clear personal identity, meaningful purpose, and committed involvement in work and social life to the loss of self and state of inauthenticity, futility, discontent, depersonalization, or dissociation. In his seminal work on alienation, Seeman (1959:789-90) calls this negative condition “self-estrangement,” and includes it as one of his original fi ve varieties of alienation. Seeman (1972:473) notes the diffi culty of defi ning self-estrangement, and suggests a three-part defi nition: (i) “the failure to satisfy postulated human needs”; (ii) “to be engaged in activities that are not rewarding in themselves”; and (iii) “the individual’s sense of a discrepancy between his ideal self and his actual self-image.”