What is the role of class consciousness in Marx’s thoughts and does the concept contain any present day relevance? Marx developed a key theory called Marxism which is designed to promote the good in society. It is a response to modernity which is modern belief that societies can be transformed for the better. He argues for the working class and witnesses their exploitation. He defined the working class as individuals who sell their labour for wages. These people also do not own the means of production he believed that they were the reason for the wealth in society.
He declared that the working class physically build buildings and bridges, craft furniture, grow food, and nurse children, but do not own land, or factories. According to Marx, only the overthrow of false consciousness will make the dominated, exploited class aware of their true, collective circumstances. Only then will they become conscious of their class identity and the need to take action as a class if they become too free.
While Marx predicted the growing of class consciousness, evidence indeed shows the opposite happening.
Goldthorpe et Als 1960’s study of wealthy workers in Luton showed the working-class traditionalists were already in decline. Roberts (2001) puts forward the idea that most workers believe they are still working class but they are disorganised, devalued and disempowered. A few sociologists believe that the seeds of the working class are still here. Devine (1992) found that 1980’s Luton workers, of who were conscious of inequality and injustice, still looked to unions and the labour party to tackle such issues, but did not expect anything to be achieved.
Blackburn and Mann (1975) argue that the mass media and ideology of the dominant class undermine class consciousness. The working class experience exploitation and subordination at work which can encourage class consciousness. Blackburn and Mann also state that working class show inconsistencies and contradictions in their view. There were also contradictory beliefs, many of the working class in their sample were aware of injustice and inequality but were ambivalent about taking steps to reduce inequality.
Marshal et al found that the potential was less for class consciousness, in terms of individuals seeing society as unfair. They would then blame the labour party for recognising the faults but failing to assemble and harness this sense of dissatisfaction. Continuing on from this, another main reason for the working class not being able to develop class consciousness is due to increased identities. Many aspects such as religion, race, gender and even traditions can cause conflict within a working class society.
For example certain traditions and cultures may state disciplining a child via physical action, yet in the UK many people would be strongly against this. Another key factor is the the development of the middle class which has been a major attraction to sociologists. Williams suggests that Britain is in fact evolving to post modernity from modernity which up to date can make up the majority of Britain which is also increasing. Class consciousness has not been successful because of capitalist exploitation, things such media, education, entertainment (mass media), religion and culture.
An example of this could be seen with former rapper Sean Colmes (Jay-Z) who, through his music, is supporting capitalists by encouraging the working class to work hard and gain financial income to then spend it via capitalistic advertisement, endorsing materialistic goods over needs. Jay-z is a great example for capitalists to invest in because he started in a very low working class family but through hard work is now a contender in the top twenty richest men in the world.
But a minority of rappers tend to exploit the system and are fully aware of class consciousness, an excellent example would be rapper Kareem Dennis (Lowkey) who states ‘Capitalism means weak devoured by the hungry, that’s what happens when companies are more powerful than countries’. As a result, capitalists do use entertainment to try and keep the working class unconscious of their class, through music and other sources of media, and although some working class do realise and tend to stand correct with their points, the majority of submissions fall in favour of capitalists.
The media oppresses the working class as well by using folk devils and moral panic to their advantage. The theory that moral panics are elite engineered argues that a small and powerful group or a set of groups deliberately and consciously undertakes a campaign to generate and sustain fear, concern, and panic on the part of the public over an issue they recognise not to be terribly harmful to the society as a whole (Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 1994 pg164).
By using events and specific time critiques, the media is able to create conflict within the working class. One example could be the recent riots in Summer 2011, although five civilian casualties had been brought forward and under twenty injuries, the media had shown the riots as almost an apocalypse. This could be seen as a result of class consciousness. After some time groups of people started to form which charged out onto the streets trying to end the rioters destruction of the cities, these groups of people were mostly made up of working class.
So as a result of the moral panic, people decided since the police can’t contain the situation the only thing left to do is to do something themselves. So rather than realising the oppression of the working class is due to capitalism and the total control which they have, the media instead diverts there attention towards each other and subduing the situation. Marx states capitalists are the seeds of its own destruction.
The more it evolves as a system, the more that they create the conditions that will enable workers to see the truth about their lives. For Marxists this is an internal contradiction of capitalism, it is a system which is trapped into ceaseless profit and at the same time brings a disadvantage to wage earners whose preparedness to accept their lot is essential to capitalisms survival. This can then arm them with new insight into taking action to overturn the system that they can now see oppressed them.
This replacement of false consciousness with class consciousness can only come about when a change is going to take place at a structural level, but when this occurs creative action to overthrow the system will be taken by subjects working collectively. Marx and Engels (1968, p. 96) stated ‘Men make their own history, but not under circumstances of their own choosing. In conclusion, evidence suggests that Marx had predicted the conflicts between
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Class Conciousness and Marx. (2016, Oct 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/class-conciousness-and-marx/