false consciousness


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false consciousness

any form of CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS, IDEOLOGY or social imagery which is held to be inappropriate to the ‘real’ or ‘objective’ class situation or CLASS INTERESTS of the actor. The concept, although not used as such by MARX, is developed from his theory. In particular, it derives from the argument that ideologies and consciousness, generally, are products of social structure and represent real relationships of domination and oppression. It followed that, in time, the PROLETARIAT would come to realize its position as an oppressed and exploited class and put that realization to political use through revolutionary struggle.

A major problem facing Marxists has been that a widespread revolutionary consciousness has never emerged among the proletariat. Thus, after the extension of the vote to nearly all adult males, Engels wrote to Marx complaining about how the working class had ‘disgraced itself’ by giving political support to the Liberal Party at election time. In the period up to the 1950s the concept of ‘false consciousness’ was frequently referred to in accounting for the failure of a revolutionary working class to develop.

One persistent theme, established by LENIN, was that, unaided, the proletariat would develop only a ‘reformist’, ‘economistic’ or trade union consciousness. It required the organization of a revolutionary VANGUARD PARTY to transform the working class's limited awareness into a truly progressive ‘political’ consciousness based on the reality of the working-class situation. Other explanations included the idea that the formation of a revolutionary proletariat was impeded by factors such as NATIONALISM or IMPERIALISM, or even that sport and non-political diversions, in effect, sublimated the revolutionary impulse (see also LEISURE, INCORPORATION).

Theoretically, the concept has also been important in revising central perspectives within MARXISM. Georg LUKACS (1971), for example, writing in the 1920s, argued for the need for much more attention to be paid to the issue of consciousness than had been paid by the ‘vulgar’ Marxists who assumed an inevitable move to worldwide revolution. These themes have continued an interest in the study of MASS CULTURE, in the work of the FRANKFURT SCHOOL OF CRITICAL THEORY, and, more recently, in the work of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (see CULTURAL STUDIES).

For sociologists generally, the idea of ‘false consciousness’ has posed a number of problems. It has been criticized for the ‘élitist’ implication that ‘we know what the working class needs better than the working class does’. More pertinently, it may be seen to divert attention away from the need to research the actual ideas and consciousness of working-class groups and their social sources. It also requires that one accepts the Marxist theory of CLASS and embraces the idea that revolution is a logical necessity and inevitable consequence of social class relations. Although in recent times the notion of ‘false consciousness’ has tended to fall into disuse, in both Marxism and Marxist sociology the idea of HEGEMONY has replaced it as a popular conceptual tool in the discussion of working-class consciousness (for example in the work of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies). However, it can be argued that ‘hegemony’ has at least some of the same drawbacks of the earlier concept. See also IDEOLOGY.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
This false consciousness has also permeated the psyche of the Kurdish movement in Turkey.
Regarding interests, Lukes states that "conceiving power in this way [a three-dimensional view] cannot dispense with a defensible understanding of the notions of 'real interests' and 'false consciousness'" (Lukes 109) Importantly, Lukes is not making a quasi-Marxian claim as to what are (or should be) the actual interests of each individual, but rather maintains that every human being has an interest in being autonomous.
Commenting on her journey, Wally says, ""Field research was a major challenge; it is the part where [I] collected information on the most prominent social, political and economic issues that people in Egypt have been dealing with, and how they have been exposed to information related to them and how they have come across false information." It is worth mentioning that the field research dealt with the measurement of the role of television channels, radio, newspapers and social media outlets in forming a system of awareness about fake news and the phenomenon of collective ignorance or false consciousness, explains Wally.
By contrast, Thus Saith the Lord suggests that the era of Facebook is also the era of Saith Holdings, when incompatible worldviews coexist in ways that cannot be simply dismissed as false consciousness or fake news.
The failure of a proletariat revolution can be accounted to the state of false consciousness which disables the proletariat from seeing the 'deep structures of exploitation'.
Nawwara's false consciousness about the exploitation she experiences because of the presence of the villa is the main reason of her victimhood.
Is it a question of "false consciousness," or have many contemporaries failed to recognize the important changes that have occurred in our time?
First, insofar as it relies on a sociopsychological claim--that most investors perceive insider trading as economically harmful or morally wrong--it is subject to the problem of false consciousness (i.e., the psychological claim could be true though the shared belief is demonstrably false).
I tentatively considered as title for this review, "The Recovery of False Consciousness"--for reasons that will become clear.
It should be remarked that the most influential Western philosophies incorporating this distinction, Platonism and Marxism, posited theories of distraction: the former's notion (in The Republic) of our beholdenness to the images on the cave wall, and the latter's formulation of ideology and false consciousness. To be sure the grounding assumptions and binary forms of Western metaphysics have been challenged; in any case, the internet reverses the distinction, revealing another dimension to Heidegger's critique of "vorstellen.an unprecedented modern mode of viewing that approaches its object in terms of calculated possession" (110).
We accept these roles as explanatory of our lives, as guarantors of its meaning, only at the price of false consciousness. For Sartre, we simply are cut adrift in the tidal surge of the present and our projects for the future; no tradition can meaningfully anchor us.