False consciousness

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

False consciousness is a term used by sociologists and expounded by some Marxists for the way in which material, ideological, and institutional processes in capitalist society mislead members of the proletariat and other class actors. These processes are thought to hide the true relations between classes and the real state of affairs regarding the exploitation suffered by the proletariat.


Although Karl Marx frequently denounced ideology in general, there is no evidence that he ever actually used the phrase "false consciousness". It appears to have been used—at least in print—only by Friedrich Engels.[1]

Engels wrote:[2]

Here Engels expresses semantic baggage associated with the term ideology, i.e. that it implies a lack of objectivity, which the term had at the time of its introduction from German (due in no small part to a reaction to Hegelianism). This has somewhat substantially been lost over the nearly two centuries since then as "ideology" has come to be equated with "world view" or "philosophy". False consciousness is theoretically linked with the concepts of the dominant ideology and cultural hegemony, and to a lesser extent with cognitive dissonance. The idea of false consciousness has also been used by Marxist feminists and radical feminists with regard to women's studies.[3][4]

Later development

Some Marxist academics have argued that members of the proletariat disregard the true nature of class relations because of their belief in the probability or possibility of upward mobility.[5] Such a belief or something like it is said to be required in economics with its presumption of rational agency; otherwise wage laborers would be the conscious supporters of social relations antithetical to their own interests, violating that presumption.[6]

See also


  1. Eagleton, Terry (1991). Ideology: An Introduction. London: Verso. p. 89. ISBN 84-493-1797-5. 
  2. "Letter to Mehring". 1893. 
  3. Female Chauvinist Pigs
  4. Stanley, Liz; Wise, Sue (1993) [1st. Pub. 1983]. "Chapter 5: Feminist consciousness". Breaking out again (PDF) (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge. pp. 119–149. ISBN 0-415-07270-0. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  5. Marshall I. Pomer (October 1984). "Upward Mobility of Low-Paid Workers: A Multivariate Model for Occupational Changers". Sociological Perspectives. 27 (4): 427–442. ISSN 0731-1214. JSTOR 1389035. 
  6. This phenomenon is most accentuated in the United States, and has given rise to what some European Marxists[who?] refer to as "class transference"[1].

External links