Talk:False consciousness

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Intro Paragraph needs cleaning[edit]

The opening sentence is unnecessarily verbose and borderline illegible.

"False consciousness is the Marxist thesis that material and institutional processes in capitalist society are misleading to the proletariat, 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)."

I think the problem with it is the use of the word "betray" which could mean reveal, which then contradicts the first statement. The processes can not be misleading and revealing of the true relations at the same time. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:46, 10 February 2012 (UTC)

The opening and the rest are written in language that seems designed to impress someone with how smart it is. Well, I ain't impressed. Let's try this, "False consciousness" is an idea that comes from Marxist theory. The basic idea is this: people are workers, but when they aren't working they tend to identify with large abstract entities like countries, churches or corporations. Those large entities often have agendas that go against the workers' best interests (in the opinion of Marxists), but workers still go on identifying with them. For example, a classic Marxist view of the purpose of World War I was that it was fought to defend coporate interests. These were the same corporations that were paying workers poor wages or firing them for unionizing. But workers heard the call of patriotism and rushed off to defend their countries. If they had not had false consciousness, each German soldier would have recognized that each French soldier was a fellow worker, not an enemy. I don't know fancy wiki editing, but if anyone wants to make use of this or similar phrasing, I think it would help. Marxist theory is thick enough without us coating it any thicker here. -- BeholdMan

Early untitled thread[edit]

"Objections to the concept of 'false consciousness'" -- a note (not saying that I oppose the idea of "false consciousness": this parallels a very strong reason to oppose involuntary commitment laws. The person who is supposedly in need of "treatment" cannot oppose his "need for treatment" because such opposition merely shows how "crazy" he is. Involuntary commitment laws set up a no-win situation in which if one were to admit one "needed treatment" one would be voluntarily committed or, possibly, one would not have a leg to stand on while opposing involuntary commitment (it is somewhat difficult to imagine the second scenario); if one denies one's need for treatment, it is just further proof of how "sick" one is. --Daniel C. Boyer

False class consicousness is just part of the entire area of false consciousness. False consciousness should not be a redirect. --Daniel C. Boyer 18:05, 28 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The above conflates the Marxist conception of consciousness with that in general psychology or psychiatry. An objection or criticism section is of course valid but of course it needs to be on-topic.

Adorno, Horkheimer et al.[edit]

There should be something in this article on false consciousness in Critical Theory. -- 18:20, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Sorry, I'm not sure the best way to edit, but the article says that Marx never used the phrase "false consciousness," and I will look further into it to provide the reference, but I do remember one of his writing's using the term "falsely conscious." - Larry York, University of Kentucky,

I removed the reference to deformed worker's states because it was veiled trotskyist criticism, and not a commonly accepted historical interpretation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:35, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Constructed Consciousness[edit]

I believe the term "constructed consciousness" has been used as a synonym or variant. In particular, this comes up in Finding Freedom in the Classroom: A Practical Introduction to Critical Theory, by Patricia H. Hinchey (1998). In particular, on page 34 of the 2004 paperback edition, the author states in an end-of-chapter note that "Earlier writing often referred to this concept as false conciousness." She defines the term on page 19 as the "passive acceptance of value judgments that privilege others" that is "operating whenever one group adopts a set of values or ideas that places it at a disadvantage." (talk) 18:32, 12 January 2008 (UTC)


Weiß jemand, wie dieser Begriff im Original heißt? -- (talk)

This is somewhat interesting in its own right, not the matter of fact, (it is almost certainly Falsches Bewusstsein) but the fact that you can't find the German original. The German MEW, etc. don't have it and I have to conclude that it's not publicly online right now. There are however copious references to it and several English translations. The Franz Mehring archive also doesn't have it online. Doubtless it's relatively easy to get a hardcopy of the original German text from some ME archive, but I don't think that appropriate, at some future date I imagine it will be online. (talk) 16:57, 27 September 2009 (UTC)
BTW, that's probably why there's no German article. (talk) 20:00, 27 September 2009 (UTC)


After reading this page I have no idea what "false consciousness" is! Amazing given that I knew what it meant before I read it. Bhyde (talk) 12:13, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

'world view' not found in standard definitions[edit]

I propose removing the 1st part of the paragraph immediately following the Engels quote, which says: “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 equivocated with World View or Philosophy.”

Reason for proposed removal: I electronically accessed 41 dictionary definitions of Ideology and took a random sample of 11 entries for detailed examination. A search for the word “worldview” or the phrase “world view” did not appear, and searching for the word “philosophy” found that it was inevitably paired with adjectives like “political”or defined in particular ways such as epistemological or philological study of the nature and origin of ideas, or studies of ideas and sensation, or theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature. In general, the repetition of adjectives in these definitions was replete with qualifiers such as “beliefs”, “values”, “social class” and like terms suggesting multiple points of view in the context of competing and subjective renderings. I suggest that “world view” is not adequate, being a catch-all term that removes from the term Ideology its necessary connotation of biased views in support of an agenda, usually political, the necessity for such an inclusion (and deletion of the entry in question) being the result of content analysis of the sample dictionary entries.

[1] and [2] There is some overlap, but a total of 41 dictionaries were found. vicjoe (talk) 23:17, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

See World view, de:Weltanschauung, and wikt:Weltanschauung. Note also the german wiktionary entry gives a french translation as "ideologie". Lycurgus (talk) 02:10, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Removed Goldberg, Frank line[edit]

I removed a line mentioning that Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism" argued that Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter with Kansas" was an example of Marxist false consciousness. Whatever the intent of the author it seemed far more of a personal/partisan dig on Goldberg's part than something of encyclopedic relevance. I can see how Frank's book - being momentarily quite well known - might seem relevant, but Goldberg's own book and critique of Frank were hardly well known even in the United States, much less a global context. (talk) 18:05, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Not contesting the action, however familiar with the book and the phenomenon it relates is precisely what the subject of the article is about, i.e. classes holding positions which are diametrically opposed to their self-interest. (talk) 12:05, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

POV tagging of section[edit]

Probably spurious, but following thru on the process. (talk) 13:52, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

So it's been a few months, any further comments? If not I will make a considered decision. (talk) 01:20, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
Moved in its entirety here, the reference added as a new §


The notion of false consciousness has been a focus for some critics of Marxism, because in this instance simplistic interpretations of Marxist theory can appear to be implicated in the worst cases of states such as the DPRK or former Soviet Union. Within the USSR, the state deployed the concept of false consciousness to justify authoritarian measures against the working class.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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").

Rank POV in lead, deleted[edit]

"Under Marxist theorizing..." --> In [some forms of] Marxist theory...

Rank POV. Intellectuals in a given tradition, be it Ayn Rand libertarianism, Weberian sociology, or 1920's East European Marxian philosophy, are not "under" "theorizing", they utilize a theoretical framework.

This should be no-brainer. Note I am in the Conservative Project. But let's save the propaganda level down...the many forms of Marxist theory are, in fact, theories. "Theorizing" is use of passive voice in a way that George Orwell denounced as, well, totalitarian it. Stalinistically bad Marxism. Cf bias,NPOV,propaganda,Animal Farm.22:36, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

False article[edit]

This article about false consciousness expresses a false consciousness about false consciousness, except for the useful quote by Engels. What Engels meant by falsch Bewusstsein was not false consciousness, but "false awareness". That is, the thinker imagines himself to doing something, while, in actual social reality, his activity has quite a different meaning. The thinker signifies something quite different from what he believes is being signified. This has nothing to do with the latter-day Marxist-Leninist crap about false consciousness. User:Jurriaan 20 April 2012 23:06 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

How does this relate to Bad Faith?[edit]

There is a note at the top that says "see also Existentialist view of Bad Faith". What does this even mean? I can't see a relationship between the two ideas, at least in this Wikipedia article. Shaded0 (talk) 23:16, 15 May 2012 (UTC) explanation[edit]

False Consciousness

“False Consciousness” refers to ideology dominating the consciousness of exploited groups and classes which at the same time justifies and perpetuates their exploitation.

The phrase was never used by Marx, and was used only once by Engels in a private letter to Franz Mehring in 1893. The context in which Engels used the term was to explain how Marx and Engels had not given sufficient emphasis in their writing to the role played by thought in determining social action, having spent their main effort in explaining how social life determines how people think. “False Consciousness” is meant in contrast to an understanding which a subject is in a position to have, but through lack of reflection or sufficient information, has not attained.

So long as one does not make too much of this term, it does no great harm. However, the term is problematic and it is for good reason that Marx and Engels did not make “false consciousness” a category of their analysis of capitalism. It could be taken as implicit that if you describe someone as having “false consciousness,” then they do not know what is in their own best interest,– but you do. This standpoint presumes that social interest can be determined “objectively,” from outside the whole system of social life of which social interests are a part. Further, it seems to presume that it is rational only to pursue one’s “own” interests; so any form of self-sacrifice or action determined by ethical considerations would seem to be deemed “false consciousness;” and who other than the subject itself can determine the aim of its activity? Thus, the idea of “false consciousness,” so understood, combines the standpoint of political economy, in which economic agents all pursue self-interest, and the view described in Theses on Feuerbach as “dividing society into two parts, one of which is superior to society,” – a bureaucratic or sectarian view of socialism and the working class.

In 1920, Lukács introduced the notion of “false consciousness” as a necessary concept in order to understand how it is that all working class people are not ipso facto, socialist revolutionaries. He defined “false consciousness” in contrast to an “imputed consciousness,” a juridical term meaning what people themselves would think if they were to have sufficient information and time to reflect, what they “ought to know,” so to speak. In his famous essay on Class Consciousness, Georg Lukács commented as follows:

“It might look as though ... we were denying consciousness any decisive role in the process of history. It is true that the conscious reflexes of the different stages of economic growth remain historical facts of great importance; it is true that while dialectical materialism is itself the product of this process, it does not deny that men perform their historical deeds themselves and that they do so consciously. But as Engels emphasises in a letter to Mehring, this consciousness is false. However, the dialectical method does not permit us simply to proclaim the ‘falseness’ of this consciousness and to persist in an inflexible confrontation of true and false. On the contrary, it requires us to investigate this ‘false consciousness’ concretely as an aspect of the historical totality and as a stage in the historical process.”

and Lukács continued always to use the inverted commas whenever he used the term ‘false consciousness’.

It was Herbert Marcuse who revived the use of the term ‘false consciousness’ in the early 1960s, as part of his analysis of the stability of capitalism after the post-WW2 settlement.

“To the degree to which they correspond to the given reality, thought and behavior express a false consciousness, responding to and contributing to the preservation of a false order of facts. And this false consciousness has become embodied in the prevailing technical apparatus which in turn reproduces it.” [One-Dimensional Man].

Writers such as C. Wright Mills and Ernest Mandel still frequently used inverted commas around the phrase. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:02, 5 April 2013 (UTC)

Should Something Be Done About the "Frankfurt School" Section?[edit]

There's nothing written there, so I believe that it should either be removed or something should be added there- but if it were removed I feel as though there was a reason for it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bug2266 (talkcontribs) 20:08, 27 January 2019 (UTC)

@Bug2266: looking at the page history, it looks like there was some copyright-violating content that was removed, which was likely in the Frankfurt School section. It's pretty common for editors cleaning up WP:COPYVIO to leave behind section headings and citation templates so that the content can be reintroduced in a non-copyright-violating way. signed, Rosguill talk 22:27, 27 January 2019 (UTC)
ah go figure, thanks puggo 03:14, 29 January 2019 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bug2266 (talkcontribs)