False Consciousness Legal Definition

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Mine must be of pure steel; I have commanded them with my conscience at the head of the bayonet in recent weeks. false consciousness in philosophy, especially in critical theory and other Marxist schools and movements, the idea that members of the proletariat unconsciously misperceive their real position in society and systematically misunderstand their true interests in the social relations of production under capitalism. False consciousness refers to people`s inability to recognize inequality, oppression and exploitation in a capitalist society because it is dominated by viewpoints that naturalize and legitimize the existence of social classes. According to Marxist theory, class consciousness is a consciousness of one`s own social and/or economic class in relation to others, as well as an understanding of the economic rank of the class to which one belongs in the context of the wider society. Moreover, class consciousness implies an understanding of the defining social and economic characteristics and collective interests of one`s own class in constructing the given socio-economic and political order. As a concept, false consciousness has been criticized as elitist, authoritarian and unverifiable. Gaventa, for example, believes that consciousness cannot be false, because «if consciousness exists, it is real to its holders» (Starks, 2007). Despite its close connection to Marxism, the term false consciousness was never used by Karl Marx. The first treatment of false consciousness as a theoretical concept was in History and Class Consciousness (1923) by the Hungarian philosopher and literary critic György Lukács. The concept was developed in the 20th century by Marxist scholars such as German-born American philosopher Herbert Marcuse and French sociologist Henri Lefebvre. Since the end of the 20th century, the concept has been used outside of explicitly Marxist theorization in studies of oppression based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and race. See also Ideology: Hegel and Marx.

The idea of false consciousness has its origins in Marxist philosophy – with which it is most associated, although Marx himself never used the term and Marxists tend to use the concept to incite caution – and has played a role in almost all currents of thought that have contributed to the current theory of critical social justice. It appears throughout Marxist thought, plays a prominent role in another form in the neo-Marxist (or culturally Marxist) critical theory of the Frankfurt School (see also Hegemony, Ideology and New Left), appears in other forms in post-Marxist perspectives such as postmodernism and critical pedagogy, and forms (thus) a kind of backbone for contemporary intersectional theory. In this modern incarnation, it is rarely called «false consciousness,» probably because contemporary intersectional theory tends to distance itself from Marxism (not least because it is not Marxism and stems specifically from the critique of Marxism). Marx claimed that there were distortions in the consciousness of the lower class; And if these distortions did not exist, the lower class of the majority would quickly overthrow its leaders. At the time Marx wrote about class consciousness, he saw class as the relationship of people to the means of production – the owners against the workers. While the model is still useful, we can also think about the economic stratification of our society into different classes based on income, occupation, and social status. Decades of demographics show that the American dream and its promise of upward mobility is largely a myth. In truth, the economic class in which a person is born is the main determinant of how economically equitable they become in adulthood. However, as long as a person believes in the myth, he will continue to live and function with a false consciousness. Without class consciousness, they will not realize that the stratified economic system in which they operate is designed to provide workers with only the bare minimum of money, while huge profits are funneled to the owners, rulers and financiers at the top. This transformation of the negative into positive opposition highlights the problem: the «bad» organization, which becomes totalitarian for internal reasons, refutes the alternatives.

Admittedly, it is natural and does not seem to require a detailed explanation that the tangible benefits of the system are considered worthy of defense – especially given the repugnant power of communism today, which seems to be the historical alternative. But it is natural that a way of thinking and behaving is unwilling and perhaps even unable to understand what is happening and why it is happening, a way of thinking and behaving that is immune to any rationality other than established rationality.