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 ?
"Teamster Bureaucracy" also covers how Washington, backed by top AFL, CIO, and Teamsters officials, acted to gag class-conscious workers.
"Importante sa akin na yung kolonyal na kamalayan ay buwagin at palitan ng kamalayan na mulat sa mga tunay na suliranin ng mga Pilipino at ng lipunan nito (My mission as a writer is to destroy that colonial mentality and replace it with a mentality that is class-conscious, aware of the real societal condition)." And this is his challenge to all the young writers: to spread revolutionary ideas, which serve the people, instead of ideas that will just maintain the ruling order.
I don't fill gas myself," she reasoned, seeking to win a modicum of respectability for a job that class-conscious Saudi men disdain.
"Sooner or later, she'll tire of your life, of having nothing," sneers her class-conscious father (Frederic Lehne).
"The palace and its loyalists among Thailand's class-conscious elite fear that if Vajiralongkorn comes to the throne, he will usher in a period of revolutionary upheaval that could destroy the structure of Thai society."
They weave feminist, class-conscious, and anti-racist approaches to the study of sociology, not only to reflect their personal interests and strengths, but also to broaden the traditional theoretical and political approaches of many sociology readers.
My platoon commander was a stocky individual whose friendly attitude to his troops was a startling contrast to the class-conscious British officers.
While no official qualification standards were published, Grosvenor clearly had three criteria for squadron membership: 1) given the primitive state of aviation training and non-availability of centralized flying schools for the Auxiliary, it was helpful if an applicant already knew how to fly; 2) wealth played a role in the selection process; and 3) most importantly, in the class-conscious Britain of the 1920s, the individual had to be a member of the right social class.
After a rip-roaring and oddly class-conscious importuning to not mess around with "Booshwa Sally,'' the listener is back on the road in "Bobb's Psychedelic Car,'' where the breaks are shot and tires are squealing.
Although I've always said, 'Vive la difference' (excuse my French), it does seem to me that us Scots are, in our culture, less class-conscious and more egalitarian in our outlook than our English cousins.
Once Becky becomes Rebecca the novel also transforms, and readers are treated to Rudnick's considerable talents as a satirist as he uproariously eviscerates our celebrity-mad, class-conscious, appearance-obsessed, reality-TV-vapid culture with puckish delight." LIBBA BRAY
Instead, he may be building by example a case against the arrogance and self-satisfaction that provides the foundation for a multi-tiered, class-conscious society of those who make the decisions and those who don't, those who have given up earthly rewards in favor of honorific titles, fancy liturgical attire and, above all, power.

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