HOME

TheInfoList




In
political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, gove ...
and particularly
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Economic materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as well ...
, class consciousness is the set of beliefs that a person holds regarding their
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, genera ...
or economic rank in society, the structure of their class, and their class interests. According to
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wis ...

Karl Marx
, it is an
awareness Awareness is the state of being conscious of something. More specifically, it is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events. Another definition describes it as a state wherein a subject is aware of some infor ...

awareness
that is key to sparking a revolution that would "create a
dictatorship of the proletariat In Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly ...
, transforming it from a wage-earning, property-less mass into the ruling class".


Marxist theory

While German theorist
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wis ...

Karl Marx
rarely used the term "class consciousness", he did make the distinction between "class in itself", which is defined as a category of people having a common relation to the
means of production The means of production is a concept that encompasses the social use and ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be any asset, including an object, land or real estate, intellectual prope ...
; and a "class for itself", which is defined as a stratum organized in active pursuit of its own interests. Defining a person's social class can be a determinant for their awareness of it. Marxists define classes on the basis of their relation to the means of production, especially on whether they own
capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...
. Non-Marxist social scientists distinguish various
social strata Social stratification refers to a society's categorization of its people into groups based on Socioeconomic status, socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, Race (human categorization), race, education, ethnicity, gender, Job, occupation, social ...
on the basis of income, occupation, or status. Early in the 19th century, the labels "
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar colorCo ...
es" and "
middle class The middle class is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an ana ...
es" were already coming into common usage: "The old hereditary aristocracy, reinforced by the new gentry who owed their success to commerce, industry, and the professions, evolved into an "
upper class Upper class in modern societies is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or gr ...
". Its consciousness was formed in part by public schools (in the British sense where it refers to a form of private school) and Universities. The upper class tenaciously maintained control over the political system, depriving not only the working classes but the middle classes of a voice in the political process".


Georg Lukács' ''History and Class Consciousness'' (1923)

Class
consciousness , an English Paracelsian Paracelsianism (also Paracelsism; German: ') was an early modern History of medicine, medical movement based on the theories and therapies of Paracelsus. It developed in the second half of the 16th century, during the ...

consciousness
, as described by
Georg Lukács Georg may refer to: * ''Georg'' (film), 1997 *Georg (musical) Georg may refer to: * Georg (film), ''Georg'' (film), 1997 *Georg (musical), Estonian musical * Georg (given name) * Georg (surname) * , a Kriegsmarine coastal tanker See also * Geor ...
's famous '' History and Class Consciousness'' (1923), is opposed to any
psychological Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...

psychological
conception of consciousness, which forms the basis of individual or mass psychology (see
Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine Me ...

Freud
or, before him,
Gustave Le Bon Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon (; 7 May 1841 – 13 December 1931) was a leading French polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, ', "having learned much"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, ...

Gustave Le Bon
). According to Lukács, each social class has a determined class consciousness which it can achieve. In effect, as opposed to the
liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...

liberal
conception of consciousness as the basis of
individual freedom Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships betwe ...
and of the
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
, Marxist class consciousness is not an origin, but an achievement (i.e. it must be "earned" or won). Hence, it is never assured: the
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of pe ...

proletariat
's class consciousness is the result of a permanent struggle to understand the "
concrete Concrete is a composed of fine and coarse bonded together with a fluid (cement paste) that hardens (cures) over time. Concrete is the second-most-used substance in the world after water, and is the most widely used building material. Its ...
totality" of the historical process. According to Lukács, the proletariat was the first class in history that may achieve true class consciousness because of its specific position highlighted in ''
The Communist Manifesto ''The Communist Manifesto'', originally the ''Manifesto of the Communist Party'' (german: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), is an 1848 pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was ...
'' as the "living negation" of
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), distribution of goods and services within ...

capitalism
. All other classes, including the
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
, are limited to a "
false consciousness False consciousness is a term used by some to describe ways in which material, ideological An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world ...
" which impedes them from understanding the totality of history: instead of understanding each specific moment as a portion of a supposedly deterministic historical process, they universalize it and believe it is everlasting. Hence, capitalism is not thought as a specific phase of history, but is naturalized and thought of as an eternal solidified part of history. Says Lukács, this "false consciousness", which forms
ideology An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes abo ...
itself, is not a simple
error An error (from the Latin ''error'', meaning "wandering") is an action which is inaccurate or incorrect. In some usages, an error is synonymous with a mistake. In , "error" refers to the difference between the value which has been computed and t ...

error
as in classical philosophy, but an
illusion An illusion is a distortion of the sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, t ...
which cannot be dispelled. Marx described it in his theory of
commodity fetishism In Karl Marx's critique of political economy, commodity fetishism is the perception of certain relationships (especially production and exchange) not as relationships among people, but as social relationships among things (the money and commodit ...
, which Lukács completed with his concept of
reification Reification may refer to: Science and technology * Reification (computer science), the creation of a data model * Reification (knowledge representation), the representation of facts and/or assertions * Reification (statistics), the use of an ideali ...
in which alienation is what follows the worker's estrangement to the world following the new life acquired by the product of his work. The dominant bourgeois ideology thus leads the individual to see the achievement of his
labour Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is the ending of pregnancy where one or more babies leaves the uterus by passing through the vagina or by Caesarean section. In 2015, there were about 13 ...
take a life of its own. Furthermore, specialization is also seen as a characteristic of the ideology of modern
rationalism In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, ...
, which creates specific and independent domains (art, politics, science and the like). Only a global perspective can point out how all these different domains interact, argues Lukács. He also points out how
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German Philosophy, philosopher and one of the central Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers. Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethi ...

Immanuel Kant
brought to its limit the classical opposition between the abstract form and the concrete, historical content, which is abstractly conceived as irrational and
contingent In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, langu ...
. Thus, with Kant's rational system history becomes totally contingent and is thus ignored. Only with
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German people, German philosopher. He is considered one of the most important figures in German idealism and one of the founding figures of Western philosophy, with hi ...
's
dialectic Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
can a mediation be found between the abstract form and the abstract notion of a concrete content. Even if the bourgeois loses his individual point of view in an attempt to grasp the reality of the totality of society and of the historical process, he is condemned to a form of false consciousness. As an individual, he will always see the collective result of individual actions as a form of "
objective Objective may refer to: * Objective (optics), an element in a camera or microscope * ''The Objective'', a 2008 science fiction horror film * Objective pronoun, a personal pronoun that is used as a grammatical object * Objective Productions, a Briti ...
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
" to which he must submit himself (liberalism has gone so far as seeing an
invisible hand The invisible hand is an economic concept that describes the unintended greater social benefits and public good brought about by individuals acting in their own self-interests. The concept was first introduced by Adam Smith Adam Smith ( ...

invisible hand
in this collective results, making capitalism the best of all possible worlds). By contrast, the proletariat would be, according to Lukács, the first class in history with the possibility to achieve a true form of class consciousness, granting it
knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to e ...
of the totality of the historical process. The proletariat takes the place of Hegel's ''
Weltgeist ''Geist'' () is a German noun with a degree of importance in German philosophy German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about rea ...
'' ("World Spirit"), which achieves history through ''
Volksgeist ''Geist'' () is a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German la ...
'' ("the spirit of the people"): the
idealist In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, l ...
conception of an abstract Spirit making history, which ends in the realm of Reason, is replaced by a
materialist Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimatel ...
conception based not on
mythical Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, p ...

mythical
Spirits, but on a concrete "identical subject-object of history": the proletariat. The proletariat is both the "object" of history, created by the capitalist social formation; but it is also the "subject" of history, as it is its labour that shapes the world, and thus, knowledge of itself is also, necessarily, knowledge of the reality and of the totality of the historical process. The proletariat's class consciousness is not immediate; class consciousness must not be mistaken either with the consciousness of one's future and collective interests, opposed to personal immediate interests. The possibility of class consciousness is given by the objective process of history, which transforms the proletariat into a
commodity In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods ...
, hence objectifying it. Class consciousness is thus not a simple subjective act: "as consciousness here is not the consciousness of an object opposed to itself, but the object's consciousness, the act of being conscious of oneself disrupts the objectivity form of its object" (in "Reification and the Proletariat's Consciousness" §3, III "The proletariat's point of view"). In other words, instead of the bourgeois subject and its corresponding ideological concept of individual
free will Free will is the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action ACTION is a bus operator in Canberra Canberra ( ) is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the Federation of Australia, federation ...

free will
, the proletariat has been transformed into an object (a commodity) which, when it takes consciousness of itself, transforms the very structure of objectivity, that is of reality. This specific role of the proletariat is a consequence of its specific position; thus, for the first time, consciousness of itself (class consciousness) is also consciousness of the totality (knowledge of the entire social and historical process). Through
dialectical materialism Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science, philosophy of history, history, and Nature (philosophy), nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Dialectic#Marxist dialectic, Marxist dialectics, ...
, the proletariat understands that what the individual bourgeois conceived as "laws" akin to the laws of nature, which may be only manipulated as in
René Descartes René Descartes ( or ; ; Latinisation of names, Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, Mathematics, mathematician, and scientist who invented analytic geometry, linking the previously sep ...

René Descartes
's dream, but not changed, is in fact the result of a social and historical process, which can be controlled. Furthermore, only dialectical materialism links together all specialized domains, which modern rationalism can only think as separate instead of as forming a totality. Only the proletariat can understand that the so-called "eternal laws of economics" are in fact nothing more than the historical form taken by the social and economical process in a capitalist society. Since these "laws" are the result of the collective actions of individuals, and are thus created by society, Marx and Lukács reasoned that this necessarily meant that they could be ''changed''. Any attempt in transforming the so-called "laws" governing capitalism into universal principles, valid in all times and places, are criticized by Lukács as a form of false consciousness. As the "expression of the revolutionary process itself", dialectical materialism, which is the only theory with an understanding of the totality of the historical process, is the theory which may help the proletariat in its "struggle for class consciousness". Although Lukács does not contest the Marxist primacy of the economic
base Base or BASE may refer to: Brands and enterprises * Base (mobile telephony provider), a Belgian mobile telecommunications operator *Base CRM Base CRM (originally Future Simple or PipeJump) is an enterprise software company based in Mountain Vie ...
on the ideological
superstructure A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied to various kinds of physical structures such as buildings, bridges, or ships having the Degrees of freedom (mechanics), degree of freedom ze ...
(not to be mistaken with vulgar
economic determinism Economic determinism is a socioeconomic theory that economic relationships (such as being an owner or capitalist, or being a worker or proletarian) are the foundation upon which all other societal and political arrangements in society are based ...
), he considers that there is a place for autonomous struggle for class consciousness. In order to achieve a unity of
theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with such processes as observational study or research ...

theory
and
praxis Praxis may refer to: Philosophy and religion *Praxis (process), the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, practiced, embodied, or realized *Praxis model, a way of doing theology * Praxis (Byzantine Rite), the practice of faith, ...
, theory must not only tend toward reality in an attempt to change it; reality must also tend towards theory. Otherwise, the historical process leads a life of its own, while theorists make their own little theories, desperately waiting for some kind of possible influence over the historical process. Henceforth, reality itself must tend toward the theory, making it the "expression of the revolutionary process itself". In turn, a theory which has as its goal helping the proletariat achieve class consciousness must first be an "objective theory of class consciousness". However, theory in itself is insufficient, and ultimately relies on the struggle of humankind and of the proletariat for consciousness: the "objective theory of class consciousness is only the theory of its objective possibility".


Criticism

Economist
Ludwig von Mises Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian School The Austrian School is a heterodox In religion, heterodoxy (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek languag ...

Ludwig von Mises
argued that "Marx confusthe notions of caste and class". Mises allowed that class consciousness and the associated class struggle were valid concepts in some circumstances where rigid social
caste Caste is a form of social stratification Social stratification refers to a society's categorization of its people into groups based on Socioeconomic status, socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, Race (human categorization), race, educati ...
s exist, e.g. when
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved per ...
is legal and slaves thus share a common motive for ending their disadvantaged status relative to other castes, but according to Mises "no such conflicts are present in a society in which all citizens are equal before the law. ..No logical objection can be advanced against distinguishing various classes among the members of such a society. Any classification is logically permissible, however arbitrarily the mark of distinction may be chosen. But it is nonsensical to classify the members of a capitalistic society according to their position in the framework of the social division of labor and then to identify these classes with the castes of a status society".
Murray Rothbard Murray Newton Rothbard (; March 2, 1926 – January 7, 1995) was an American heterodox economist Heterodox economics is any economic thought or theory that contrasts with orthodox schools of economic thought, or that may be beyond neoclas ...

Murray Rothbard
argued that Marx's efforts to portray the workers and capitalists as two monolithic groups was false as workers and capitalists would routinely compete within themselves, such as capitalists entrepreneurs competing amongst themselves or native workers competing with immigrant workers. Rothbard argues that if there is constant conflict between different members of the same class, then it is absurd to argue that these members have objective interests with one another against another class.Murray Rothabrd (1995), ''An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought'', Volume 2, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, Chapter 12, pp.382-384,


See also

*
False consciousness False consciousness is a term used by some to describe ways in which material, ideological An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world ...
* Psychology of social class


References


External links

{{Communism Marxist theory Social concepts Consciousness Identity politics Social classes