False consciousness
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False consciousness is the Marxist thesis
A dissertation or thesis is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings...

 that material
Material is anything made of matter, constituted of one or more substances. Wood, cement, hydrogen, air and water are all examples of materials. Sometimes the term "material" is used more narrowly to refer to substances or components with certain physical properties that are used as inputs to...

 and institutional processes in capitalist
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 society are misleading to the proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

, and to other classes. These processes betray the true relations of forces between those classes, and the real state of affairs regarding the development of pre-socialist society (relative to the secular development of human society in general).

In Marxist theory, false consciousness is essentially a result of ideological control which the proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 either do not know they are under or which they disregard with a view to their own POUM (probability/possibility of upward mobility). POUM or something like it is required in economics with its presumption of rational agency; otherwise wage laborers
Wage slavery
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a negatively connoted term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning and employing a person...

 would be the conscious supporters of social relations antithetical to their own interests, violating that presumption.


The concept flows from the theory of commodity fetishism
Commodity fetishism
In Marx's critique of political economy, commodity fetishism denotes the mystification of human relations said to arise out of the growth of market trade, when social relationships between people are expressed as, mediated by and transformed into, objectified relationships between things .The...

 — that people experience social relationships as value relations between things, e.g., between the cash in their wage packet and the shirts they want. The cash and the shirt appear to conduct social relations independently of the humans involved, determining who gets what by their inherent values
Use value
Use value or value in use is the utility of consuming a good; the want-satisfying power of a good or service in classical political economy. In Marx's critique of political economy, any labor-product has a value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an...

. This leaves the person who earned the cash and the people who made the shirt ignorant of and alienated
Marx's theory of alienation
Marx's theory of alienation , as expressed in the writings of the young Karl Marx , refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to put antagonism between things that are properly in harmony...

 from their social relationship with each other. So the individual "resolves" the experiences of alienation and oppression through a false conception based on a "natural law
Natural law (disambiguation)
Natural law is law that exists independently of the positive law of a given political order, society or nation-state.Natural law may also refer to:* Physical law, a scientific generalization based on empirical observations of physical behavior....

" argument that there is a fundamental need to compete with others for commodities
In economics, a commodity is the generic term for any marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs. Economic commodities comprise goods and services....


In Marxist terms, not only is there no such objective need separate from the formulation of the general problem
Economic problem
The economic problem, sometimes called the basic, central or fundamental economic problem, is one of the fundamental economic theories in the operation of any economy. It asserts that there is scarcity, or that the finite resources available are insufficient to satisfy all human wants and needs...

 of production
Mode of production
In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production is a specific combination of:...

 and distribution
To each according to his contribution
To each according to his contribution is considered by socialists and Marxist socialists as a characteristic of society directly following the transition to socialism, but preceding the final step to communism...

 for a given society, moreover, Marx said each-against-all competition is antithetical to the very concept of society, and therefore sets up a contradiction or historical dynamic which over time is resolved in favour of the class with the greatest ability to act in its own rational self interest. Ruling elites, traditional or otherwise, suffer from false consciousness to the extent that they see the social orders they command as predetermined or inevitable.


Although Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 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
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...


Engels wrote:
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
Hegelianism is a collective term for schools of thought following or referring to G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy which can be summed up by the dictum that "the rational alone is real", which means that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories...

). This has somewhat substantially been lost over the nearly two centuries since then as Ideology has come to be equated with World View
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

or Philosophy. False consciousness is theoretically linked with the concepts of the dominant ideology
Dominant ideology
The dominant ideology, in Marxist theory, is the set of common values and beliefs shared by most people in a given society, framing how the majority think about a range of topics...

 and cultural hegemony
Cultural hegemony
Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological theory, by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally diverse society can be dominated by one social class, by manipulating the societal culture so that its ruling-class worldview is imposed as the societal norm, which then is...

, and to a lesser extent with cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying,...

. The idea of false consciousness has also been used by Marxist feminists
Marxist feminism
Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way of liberating women. Marxist feminism states that private property, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion, and ultimately unhealthy social relations between...

 and radical feminists in regard to women's studies
Women's studies
Women's studies, also known as feminist studies, is an interdisciplinary academic field which explores politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective...


See also

  • Class consciousness
    Class consciousness
    Class consciousness is consciousness of one's social class or economic rank in society. From the perspective of Marxist theory, it refers to the self-awareness, or lack thereof, of a particular class; its capacity to act in its own rational interests; or its awareness of the historical tasks...

  • Character mask
    Character mask
    A character mask in the Marxian sense is a character masked or disguised with a different character. The term was used by Karl Marx in various published writings from the 1840s to the 1860s, and also by Friedrich Engels...

  • Consciousness raising
    Consciousness raising
    Consciousness raising is a form of political activism, pioneered by United States feminists in the late 1960s...

  • Critical Ethnography
    Critical Ethnography
    Critical ethnography applies a critical theory based approach to ethnography. It focuses on the implicit values expressed within ethnographic studies and, therefore, on the unacknowledged biases that may result from such implicit values. It has been called critical theory in practice...

  • Introspection illusion
    Introspection illusion
    The introspection illusion is a cognitive illusion in which people wrongly think they have direct insight into the origins of their mental states, while treating others' introspections as unreliable...

  • Political consciousness
    Political consciousness
    Following the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx outlined the workings of a political consciousness.-The politics of consciousness:...

  • Subconscious
    The term subconscious is used in many different contexts and has no single or precise definition. This greatly limits its significance as a definition-bearing concept, and in consequence the word tends to be avoided in academic and scientific settings....

     (the primary quote and Freud's work were contemporary).
  • System justification
    System justification
    System justification theory is a scientific theory within social psychology that proposes people have a motivation to defend and bolster the status quo, that is, to see it as good, legitimate, and desirable....

  • External links

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