From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
“If the worker and his boss enjoy the same television program and visit the same resort places, if the typist is as attractively made up as the daughter of her employer, if the Negro owns a Cadillac, if they all read the same newspaper, then this assimilation indicates not the disappearance of classes, but the extent to which the needs and satisfactions that serve the preservation of the Establishment are shared by the underlying population.” -― Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man
False consciousness or false needs is the Marxist thesis that the Culture industries cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, or genuine happiness. Herbert Marcuse was the first to demarcate true needs from false needs.
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.
- 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 apparent motives. ...
It is above all this appearance of an independent history of state constitutions, of systems of law, of ideological conceptions in every separate domain, which dazzles most people. If Luther and Calvin "overcome" the official Catholic religion, or Hegel “overcomes” Fichte and Kant or if the constitutional Montesquieu is indirectly “overcome” by Rousseau with his “Social Contract,” each of these events remains within the sphere of theology, philosophy or political science, represents a stage in the history of these particular spheres of thought and never passes outside the sphere of thought. And since the bourgeois illusion of the eternity and the finality of capitalist production has been added as well, even the victory of the physiocrats and Adam Smith over the mercantilists is accounted as a sheer victory of thought; not as the reflection in thought of changed economic facts but as the finally achieved correct understanding of actual conditions subsisting always and everywhere ...
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 equated with World View or Philosophy. False consciousness is theoretically linked with the concepts of the dominant ideology and cultural hegemony, and to a lesser extent with cognitive dissonance. The idea of false consciousness has also been used by Marxist feminists and radical feminists in regard to women's studies.
Some Marxist academics have argued that members of the proletariat disregard the true nature of class relations because of their belief in the probability or possibility of upward mobility. Such a belief or something like it is said to be required in economics with its presumption of rational agency; otherwise wage laborers would be the conscious supporters of social relations antithetical to their own interests, violating that presumption.
- Class consciousness
- Character mask
- Commodity fetishism
- Critical theory
- Culture industry
- Introspection illusion
- One-Dimensional Man
- Political consciousness
- Subconscious (the primary quote and Freud's work were contemporary).
- System justification