Alienated labor also has a great deal to do, at least in the modern interpretation, with the specific working conditions of industrialization and especially the assembly line system. Prior to industrialization, an artisan oversees every aspect of the creation of their product. They plan the design, gather the materials, do every stage of the work, and then sell the product, most likely to somebody they know, or keep it for their own use. In any case, they can point to the pot they threw or the clothing they made, and say, "I created this." In effect, their work becomes a mode of self-expression.

In contrast to this (no doubt slightly romanticized) picture stands the modern assembly-line worker who spends all day working a drill press in one place, or tightening the same rivet on each unit which passes by. They are alienated from their labor, not just because they have no financial control over their circumstances, but because their work has been reduced to a form of near-mindless rote repetiton.

The modern service economy, arguably, takes this a step further, as a low-level worker in the service industries, say a counter clerk or a first-line tech-support worker or a telemarketer, not only has no control over their circumstances, and is compelled to hold to a rigidly defined routine, but is producing no product at all.