People do not always behave the way we think they ought to behave. We often perceive others as behaving in ways we think is contrary to their self-interest. This seems crazy or foolish. We then accuse these persons of “false consciousness.”The term itself was invented by Friedrich Engels in the late nineteenth century to explain why workers (or at least some workers) didn’t support workers’ parties at the polls or didn’t support strikes called by a union. The answer for Engels was that, for some reason, these workers misperceived their self-interest, suffering from “false consciousness.”The remedy was twofold: Those with the approved level of “class consciousness” should seek to educate those whose “class consciousness” was deficient. At the same time, they should pursue as far as possible the political actions that are dictated by class-conscious individuals and organizations.
The Falsity of False Consciousness