Basically, alienation refers to an individual sense of estrangement from society; or to the state of isolation of those people who, because of their customs, allegiances, behaviour, race or other factors, are marked out by those with whom they mix as "different", strange and sometimes unacceptable. Thus, certain people, races, social classes or groups are alien for various reasons from the point of view of the surrounding society. The ensuing sense of estrangement or self-alienation involves the loss of a sense of identity, a feeling of powerlessness to affect social change and of depersonalization in a large and bureaucratic society.
2. Is not perhaps one of the miseries of our times to be found in the imbalance between the conditions of collective existence and the requisite of personal thought and even of contemplation? Many people, including many of the young, have lost sight of the meaning of their lives and are anxiously searching for the contemplative dimension of their being. They do not realize that Christ, through His Church, can respond to their expectations. Facts of this kind should cause you to reflect seriously on what men have the right to expect of you -- you who have formally committed yourselves to a life in the service of the Word, the true light that enlightens all men. Be conscious then of the importance of prayer in your lives and learn to devote yourselves to it generously. Faithfulness to daily prayer always remains for each one of you a basic necessity. It must have a primary place in your constitutions and in your lives. (Papal Writings, 29 June 1971).
3. Marxism criticized capitalist bourgeois societies, blaming them for the commercialization and alienation of human existence. This rebuke is of course based on a mistaken and inadequate idea of alienation, derived solely from the sphere of relationships of production and ownership, that is, giving them a materialistic foundation and moreover denying the legitimacy and positive value of market relationships even in their own sphere. Marxism thus ends up by affirming that only in a collective society can alienation be eliminated. However, the historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency. The historical experience of the West, for its part, shows that even if the Marxist analysis and its foundation of alienation are false, nevertheless alienation - and the loss of the authentic meaning of life - is a reality in Western societies too. This happens in consumerism, when people are ensnared in a web of false and superficial gratifications rather than being helped to experience their personhood in an authentic and concrete way. Alienation is found also in work, when it is organized so as to ensure maximum returns and profits with no concern whether the worker, through his own labour, grows or diminishes as a person, either through increased sharing in a genuinely supportive community or through increased isolation in a maze of relationships marked by destructive competitiveness and estrangement, in which he is considered only a means and not an end. The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alienation a reversal of means and ends. When man does not recognize in himself and in others the value and grandeur of the human person, he effectively deprives himself of the possibility of benefitting from his humanity and of entering into that relationship of solidarity and communion with others for which God created him_ Man cannot give himself to a purely human plan for reality, to an abstract ideal or to a false utopia. As a person, he can give himself to another person or to other persons, and ultimately to God, who is the author of his being and who alone can fully accept his gift.82 A man is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of selfgiving and of the formation of an authentic human community oriented towards his final destiny, which is God. A society is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish this solidarity between people. (Papal Encyclical, Centesimus Annus, 1 May 1991).