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False consciousness

Parents: false - need

Related: authenticity - commodity fetishism - consumerism - cultural hegemony - culture industry - cultural Marxism - cultural pessimism

"False consciousness" is the Marxist concept that the proletariat are misguided as to their own desires and wants, and will not properly understand their true beliefs and desires until they are enlightened. False consciousness is theoretically linked with the concepts of the dominant ideology and cultural hegemony.[Jun 2006]

False needs and true needs

Adorno saw this mass-produced culture as a danger to the more difficult high arts. Culture industries cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity or genuine happiness. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Adorno#Theory [Jun 2005]

Max Horkheimer's theories stand in stark contrast to much of Postmodernism, denying that modern commercial culture is as valid as that which preceded it, as it creates an atmosphere which serves to reinforce the status quo through creating false needs and a "fetish character" to culture rather than one which actually tries to question beliefs and ideologies.

Critics of the theory say that the products of mass culture would not be popular if people did not enjoy it, and that culture is self-determining in its administration. However, the concept heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_industry [May 2005]

False consciousness

False consciousness is the Marxist hypothesis that material and institutional processes in capitalist society mislead the proletariat — and perhaps the other classes — over the nature of capitalism.

The concept flows from the theory of commodity fetishism — that people experience social relationships as value relations between things, e.g. between the cash in their wage packet and the shirt they want. The cash and the shirt appear to conduct social relations independently of the humans involved, determining who gets what by their in-built values. This leaves the person who earned the cash and the people who made the shirt ignorant of and alienated from their social relationship with each other.

Although 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. (See Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso, 1991), p. 89.)

Engels wrote in 1893 that:

"Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces." False consciousness is theoretically linked with the concepts of the dominant ideology and cultural hegemony. The doctrine of false consciousness has also been used by Marxist feminists in regard to other women.

The notion of false consciousness has been a focus for some of the strongest critiques of Marxism, since in this instance high Marxist theory can appear to be implicated in the worst excesses of the Soviet experiment. Within the USSR, the state deployed the concept of false consciousness to justify authoritarian measures against the working class. Marxist critics of Stalinism, such as Trotsky and his followers, provide an account by which the theory is excused, on the basis that a corrupt regime is capable of perverting any theory.

The concept of ideology as false consciousness, even where it is accepted that Marx did not use the term, has tended to dominate interpretations of Marx's statements on ideology, although arguably this in fact involves a misunderstanding of Marx (see, for example Joseph McCarney's essay "Ideology and False Consciousness"). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_consciousness [Jul 2005]

see also: false - hegemony - Marxism - conscious - need - commodity

Jettisoning the Marxist equation: "ideology=false consciousness"

Žižek follows Louis Althusser (among others) in jettisoning the Marxist equation: "ideology=false consciousness." Ideology, to all intents and purposes, is consciousness. Ideology does not "mask" the real—one cannot achieve true consciousness. This being the case, post-ideological postmodern "knowingness"—the wink wink nudge nudge cynicism and irony of postmodern cultural production—does not reveal the truth, the real, the hard kernel. Knowing that we are being "lied" to is hardly the stuff of revolution when ideology isn't, and never has been, simply a matter of consciousness (cynicism, irony, and so on), of subject positions, but is the very stuff of everyday praxis itself. The cynics and ironists, not to mention the deconstructionists et. al., may KNOW that reality is an "ideological construction"—some have even read their Lacan and Derrida—but in their daily practice, caught up in an apparently unalterable world of exchange-values (capital), they do their part to sustain that construction in any case. As Marx would say, it is their very life process that is ideological, what they know, or what they think they know, being neither here nor there. The postmodern cultural artifact—the "critique," the "incredulity"—is itself merely a symptom/commodity/fetish. Thus has capital commodified even the cynicism that purports to unmask its "reality," to "emancipate." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavoj_Zizek#Postmodernism [Jun 2006]

See also: continental philosophy - false consciousness - cultural marxism - postmodernism

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