Difference Between Class Consciousness and False Consciousness

Key Difference – Class Consciousness vs False Consciousness
 

The concepts of class consciousness and false consciousness are two concepts that have been introduced by Karl Marx, although there is a clear difference between these two words. Before gaining an understanding of the concepts, it is necessary to highlight that Karl Marx is one of the founding classical theorists of sociology although he was much more than a mere sociologist. He was also an economist who laid the foundation for the conflict perspective sociology. Karl Marx mainly spoke of the capitalism and the issues it created. He understood the society through social classes. According to him, there are mainly two classes in the capitalist society. They are the capitalists and the proletariats. This awareness of Marx’s perspective allows us to gain a clear idea of the two concepts and the difference. The key difference between them is that class consciousness refers to the awareness that a group has about their social, economic and political position in the society while false consciousness is the distorted awareness that an individual has of his position in the society. This disallows the individual to see things clearly. This is the key difference between class consciousness and false consciousness. As you can observe in this article, class consciousness and false consciousness, stand in opposition of one another.

What is Class Consciousness?

Let us gain a broader understanding of class consciousness. As mentioned above, class consciousness refers to the awareness that a group has about their social, economic and political position in the society. Along the lines of Marx’s thoughts, this concept can be clearly understood using the working class.

In the capitalist society, the workers or else the proletariats have to work very hard under dire circumstances. Although they may suffer from health issues, mental problems due to the pressure of work, the working class has no choice. Unfortunately even after the completion of a heavy workload, the individual was paid a very little amount, while the capitalists or else the owners enjoyed the profits of the workers’ hard labour. Marx pointed out that these can be referred to as the various forms of exploitation of labour that took place.

Class consciousness emerges when the working class realizes their position in the society. They realize that they are being oppressed and exploited by the capitalists. This bonds the working class together as they comprehend that it is vital to take political action such as revolutions to topple the prevailing social structure.

Difference Between Class Consciousness and False Consciousness

Class Conflict

What is False Consciousness?

Now let us pay attention to false consciousness. False consciousness refers to the distorted forms of awareness that the individuals have of his position in the society. Marx believed that this would be one of the strongest obstacles against a revolution because the working class fails to comprehend themselves as a single unit. This can also prevent them from seeing the reality of capitalism. For instance, the working class can be blind to the forms of oppression and exploitation that take place in the society. This idea of false consciousness can be established in the society through ideology, welfare state systems, etc. as they create an illusion in the minds of the working class.

Key Difference - Class Consciousness vs False Consciousness

Karl Marx

What is the Difference Between Class Consciousness and False Consciousness?

Definitions of Class Consciousness and False Consciousness:

Class Consciousness: Class consciousness refers to the awareness that a group has about their social, economic and political position in the society.

False Consciousness: False consciousness refers to the distorted forms of awareness that the individuals have of his position in the society.

Characteristics of Class Consciousness and False Consciousness:

Reality:

Class Consciousness: This allows the individual to see the oppression, subordination and exploitation in the society.

False Consciousness: This distorts the reality.

Political Action:

Class Consciousness: Class consciousness leads to political action.

False Consciousness: False consciousness prevents this.

Social Unit:

Class Consciousness: Class consciousness binds the people of a single class together as they become aware of the position.

False Consciousness: False consciousness fails to bind people together.

Image Courtesy:
1. “Battle strike 1934”  [Public Domain] via Commons
2. “Karl Marx” by John Jabez Edwin Mayall – International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, Netherlands. [Public Domain] via Commons