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.
References in periodicals archive ?
And yet the question of class-consciousness would remain open to the various possibilities of history?
It was precisely in the assumed gap between class-experience and class-consciousness that Thompson made room for "culture" (such as the tradition of the "free-born Englishman") that processed class-experience in different ways in different historical contexts.
Still, it is rather telling that the persistent rebellions, radical consciousness, and organizational initiatives of Irish common labour that he documents, for example, barely figure in his expansive concluding chapter on class-consciousness.
Despite her racism and class-consciousness, Clara Appleton consents to her daughter's marriage to the son of a black fisherwoman and the East Indian man who worked for her husband in order to keep her own indiscretions from being revealed.
Gilje is anxious to avoid the "standard ideological boxes that historians like to use" and thus he presents sailors as sharing a common occupational identity but not a class-consciousness (151).
Gilje describes a perfect environment for class-consciousness to emerge yet firmly rejects it.
Citing both Thompson and Gutman, the latter of whom the author acknowledges as an inspiration for this study, Kosak attributes class-consciousness among the immigrant Russian Jews to the interplay between their cultural heritage and the material and social realities of New World industrial capitalism, which manifested itself in diverse forms of collective behaviours, associations, and rhetoric.
In his courageous battle to express the truth of his revolt against cultural determinism, he identified first with the promise of a colorblind proletarian internationalism and then, disenchanted with the shallow psychology of class-consciousness, he embraced a difficult faith in a desperate, transcendental humanism.
One might also say that Hart treats the decline of class-consciousness as a given: class may not, however, have disappeared, but simply been felt and expressed differ ently.
He did more to increase class-consciousness than any other writer of his time.
After abandoning the march, a 30 day jail sentence for vagrancy reinforced these lessons and awakened London's class-consciousness.
It invites disagreement both by emphasizing the importance of previously-obscure films and film-makers to movie history, and even more, by arguing for the importance of movies for the formation of class-consciousness.

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