class consciousness

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class consciousness

the awareness, amongst members of a social CLASS, of common interests which are based on their own class situation and are in opposition to the interests of other classes. The term is particularly associated with MARXISM, where the concern is often either with the processes which foster the development of class consciousness in the PROLETARIAT, or involves discussions as to why such a consciousness has not developed. A basic distinction here is between a class-in-itself- the objective basis of class interests – and a class-for-itself- the consciousness of these interests. The basic idea is that a set of values and beliefs and a political organization will, or should, emerge in order to represent and realize the objective interests of a class. In the case of the WORKING CLASS, certain aspects of their work and life situations (exploitation, ALIENATION, periodic mass unemployment and poverty, etc.) are seen as facilitating a growing awareness of a common situation and encouraging a collective response. Most Marxists agree, however, that only a limited awareness and set of objectives are arrived at spontaneously LENIN, for example, in a very influential pamphlet (1902), argued that, left to itself, the working class would develop only an ‘economistic’ consciousness, limited to demands for better pay and conditions within the capitalist system. Lenin, like many Marxists, was interested in the overthrow of CAPITALISM, not in its reform. Thus, he argued that a revolutionary (‘vanguard’) party was necessary to transform TRADE UNION CONSCIOUSNESS into political, ‘revolutionary consciousness’ and action. This has been a recurrent theme in Marxist writings on the proletariat – the issue of why a revolutionary class consciousness’ has never developed among the working classes of the most developed capitalist states. In the 1920s and 30s, for example, LUKACS and GRAMSCI developed different critiques of‘crude’ Marxism, emphasizing theoretical and cultural factors which impeded the development of‘true’ consciousness or promoted the development of ‘FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS’.

A substantial literature also exists on CLASS IMAGERY, the actual images of class possessed by social ACTORS, and, at the same time, sociologists have taken up the issue of the limits and possibilities of the notion of ‘class consciousness’ in the Marxian sense. This is a theme which also underlies debate on the NEW WORKING CLASS. MANN (1973) argued that one may find awareness of class membership and also group solidarity, but it is ‘rather unlikely’ that the working class can produce, independently, an alternative vision of a new society. This type of sociological approach seeks to do more than echo Lenin's 70-year-old conclusion. Instead, it attempts to operationalize the concept of working-class consciousness by identifying it as involving four elements:

  1. ‘class identity’ – the definition of oneself as working-class;
  2. ‘class opposition’ – the definition of an opposed (capitalist) class;
  3. ‘class totality’ – (a) and (b) taken as together defining the ‘whole society’;
  4. an alternative vision of society

Mann concluded that British workers are usually limited to

  1. only occasionally incorporating
  2. See also HEGEMONY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
These emotional terms posit class consciousness as the expression of an emotional response to the social, economic and political changes that were occurring in the nineteenth century.
Nonunion workers were urged to join the union not from class consciousness and solidarity, but for a "battle for masculine legitimacy" (87).
My analysis, however, should begin not with a discussion of why zombies can form class consciousness, but instead, with an exploration of why humans can't.
To foreground the convergence and divergence of the discourses of feminism and class consciousness in the play, Real Women Have Curves can and should be read as a working-class text.
More controversially, what Lukacs apparently rejected in History and Class Consciousness was the very Kantian concept of reflection; Lukacs's realism seems to betray his early theoretical principle of non-reflection theory.
Before I had a class consciousness, I felt really connected to queer communities.
A year later, from Cuernavaca, Mexico, he asks Brown, "How is your class consciousness coming along?
Even with the ideas of group identity, class consciousness and culture considered, the return of the black middle class is not a new phenomena, since many returned in the late 1970s and 1980s, snatching up valuable brownstone properties and deserted landmark shells.
Yet other older residents attributed this "loss of class consciousness and activism" (p.
What prior writing on Lukacs has failed to establish, however, and what this paper will attempt to demonstrate, is that Lukacs's most consistent aesthetic dichotomy is a tacit but seminal structural element, a key dialectical tool, in his most well-known nonaesthetic work, History and Class Consciousness (1923).
Coming outta San Francisco in the late '70s, this threesome pounded out super-rockin' and catchy punk rock steeped in class consciousness. Sure, later they went on to form proto-country band Rank and File who had a combined total two-thirds of a good song, but in their prime the Dils were no match for anyone.
However, after reading his analysis emphasising class consciousness over and above national identity, I would have to conclude he too suffers from the same affliction.