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Rethinking False Consciousness


Is there an alternative way forward for revolutionaries that addresses the reality of false consciousness but that also avoids the dangers implicit in the Marxist-Leninist approach?

Question: if capitalist economics is based on class exploitation and oppression then why hasn’t the working class organised itself into a liberating revolutionary movement?

Answer: false consciousness!

The notion of false consciousness has been developed out of Marxist theory.  The basic idea can be broken down into the following components.  First, the dominant ideas in society are those of the ruling class or classes.  Second, the interests of the dominant class or classes are not the same as those of the subordinate class or classes.  Third, under such circumstances, the subordinate class(es) tend to adopt the interests of the dominant class and in-so-doing unknowingly takes on an ideological position that does not promote their own interests.

Perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of false consciousness, to play-out in the real world, would be that of war.  Here the use of nationalism, for example, as a means of getting the people of one country to fight against the people of another country, is employed by elites.  Put simply, this results in working class people killing each other to protect and promote the existing power and privilege of the capitalist class.

Understanding that we can be socialised into adopting an ideological position that is detrimental to our own interests is an important step towards the development of revolutionary consciousness.  The facilitation of such development also represents perhaps the greatest challenge to revolutionaries.  Unfortunately however, the ways in which Marxists have tried to address false consciousness have led to a number of very problematic and undesirable outcomes. Here I would like to highlight two specific, and perhaps related, examples of this problem and present possible alternative solutions.

The first problem with the Marxist approach to addressing false consciousness, that I would like to highlight here, has to do with logical inconsistency.  The idea of false consciousness – i.e. taking on beliefs that do not represent your interests – only really makes sense if the opposite exists.  That is to say, the solution to false consciousness has to be something like a consciousness that is, or can be, free from external distorting influences.  This idea of a consciousness – that can be free from external distorting influences – seems to imply some kind of innate properties or qualities of mind.  However, such an idea seem to run contrary to Marx’s own formulation:

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”(1)

Although not all Marxists would agree (2), this it seems to me, is a clear expression of what is sometimes referred to as the blank slate doctrine – the position which holds that all thoughts, feelings and behaviours can be explained with a few simple psychological mechanisms, and that all customs and social arrangements result from the socialisation process from infancy to adulthood.(3)  But if there are no intrinsic qualities of mind, other than those determined by society, then the idea of false consciousness is simply a non-starter.  The same holds, incidentally, for human rights.  As Chomsky, for one, has pointed out:

If in fact humans are infinitely malleable, completely plastic beings, with no innate structures of mind and no intrinsic needs of culture or social character, then they are fit subjects for the “shaping of behaviour” by state authorities, the corporate manager, the technocrat, or central committee.(4)

So, in the end, the notion of false consciousness only makes sense from the position that there are innate structures of mind with intrinsic needs that effectively constitute important aspects of human nature.  It is the social accommodation of these intrinsic needs that constitutes what we might think of astrue consciousness – without which there can be no meaningful notion of social justice.  This brings us nicely to the next problem I have with regards to how Marxists have attempted to address false consciousness, namely the way in which it is used to justify the vanguard party.

In Chapter Two of his – Marxism at the Millennium – Tony Cliff poses the question: Why do we need a revolutionary party?  In answering this question Cliff highlights a contradiction between the following two statements made by Marx:  “the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class” and “the prevailing ideas of every society are the ideas of the ruling class”.  For Cliff, of course, the contradiction is not in Marx’s head, but in reality.  In short, there is uneven consciousness within the working class and it is this unevenness that the vanguard party, in conjunction with state power, is established to address.

We can see from this that the Marxist notion of false consciousness is used to justify the argument for a Leninist style vanguard party.  As noted above, however, the Marxist notion of false consciousness is highly problematic in that it seems to deny innate structures of mind with intrinsic needs.  Combine this blank slate view of the human mind with state power and we have a recipe for disaster – a lesson that history seems keen to teach us.  The question is: is there an alternative way forward for revolutionaries that addresses the reality of false consciousness but that also avoids the dangers implicit in the Marxist-Leninist approach?

One possible way forward would be to start by rejecting the blank slate doctrine that, as I have argued, seems to underpin the Marxist notion of false consciousness.  Such a position would hold that innate structures of mind with intrinsic needs constitutes a central feature of human nature – a position that is supported by developments in the cognitive sciences.(5)  An investigation into what these innate structures and intrinsic needs could follow.  From this investigation a set of evidence based values could be identified that could then be used to inform a model of an idealised form of social organisation.(6)  In turn this set of values could be used to inform strategy for radical-progressive social transformation.(7)

Of course, Marxists (following Engels) typically reject such an approach as “utopian socialism”, which they dismiss as unscientific – even though the opposite is, in fact, the case.(8)  Understanding this issue from this position also opens-up the possibility that members of the vanguard party, themselves, could have false consciousness – using Marxist theory to rationalise oppressive state policy, all whilst claiming to be liberating the oppressed.(9)

That aside, the contradiction highlighted by Cliff (and other Marxists) remains a genuine problem.  The solution, however, is not a Leninist style vanguard party but a revolutionary organisation informed by an evidenced based model of a just society.  Such an organisation may take on a vanguardist role and may even attempt to capture state power.(10)  However, as I hope is clear from the above this kind of revolutionary organisation would, in important ways, be distinct from what has historically been referred to as Marxist-Leninist.

 

Notes:

  1. This quote appears in Marx’s – A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy – available online here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm
  2. For example, in his – Marx’s Concept of Man – Erich Fromm writes: “It is exactly the blindness of man’s conscious thought which prevents him from being aware of his true human needs, and ideals which are rooted in them.  Only if false consciousness is transformed into true consciousness, that is, only if we are aware of reality, rather than distorting it by rationalizations and fiction, can we also become aware of our real and true human needs.”
  3. See Steven Pinker’s – The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human nature.
  4. This quote is taken from “Language and Freedom” which appears in – The Chomsky Reader – but which is also available on-line here: http://www.chomsky.info/books/state02.pdf
  5. See, for example – Patterns in the Mind – by Ray Jackendoff.
  6. An example of this might be the value of social inclusion which has been shown to promote positive mental health.
  7. Chomsky sketches out a similar proposal towards the end of his 1970 essay “Language and Freedom” (see note 4, above, for details).
  8. I have written about this previously here: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Utopian-Socialism-More-Scientific-than-Scientific-Socialism-20150425-0008.html
  9. I have written about false consciousness within the Marxist-Leninist tradition here:http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/-A-Lazy-Way-of-Explaining-History–20150518-0042.html
  10. A recent, but as yet unsuccessful, attempt at setting-up an organisation along these kinds of lines is that of IOPS: http://www.iopsociety.org/

18 Comments

  1. Kelvin Yearwood June 19, 2015 8:23 am 

    Hi Mark, human consciousness is the product of the social relations of production in an evolutionary stream of such – the human environment and human consciousness. You could equally say, that at a less multi-articulated complex way, the consciousness of a baboon is a product of its social relations of exploiting the natural environment.

    Marxists are not saying that human consciousness is a blank slate, that it can become anything, that it is not determined by biology, that it would be possible to fly if only social relations could enable that.

    Marxists make the point that the essence of human beings is their labour (not a blank slate theory) because the collective labour effort of human beings greatly determines their possibilities of living. Production and reproduction of the human made environment using the wealth of the natural world is the essence of human existence as distinguished from other forces of nature which exploit their environment in far less reflexive and complex ways :

    “He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms and legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature. He develops the potentialities slumbering within nature, and subjects the play of its forces to his own sovereign power. [Capital I] ”

    Needless to say, if a force of nature has needs it is not a blank slate – human beings cannot eliminate the need for food, water, shelter and clothing through a political economy and its social relations of production, but they can eliminate the frustration of those needs. The latter awareness is the seed of a revolutionary consciousness rather than an existential false one one in a world of human-mediated and radically unequal opportunity.

    By the way, I am sure the cognitive sciences have a great deal to contribute, but generally I agree with James Wilson in the possibility of determining the essence of human need through cognitive science as regards grounding a well-articulated revolutionary theory on such – it’s currently looking like using a nut-cracker to break a boulder.

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 19, 2015 10:32 am 

      Thanks for your comment Kelvin.

      You seem to be arguing from a similar position to that of Erich Fromm, which is fine, except that this, it seems to me, just shifts the logical inconsistency over to another location within Marxism.

      So now the question seems to be, if Marxists are acknowledging innate human needs – as you and Fromm seem to be saying – then why are Marxists typically so dismissive of what they call “utopian socialism” as an approach to revolutionary organising? After all, the development of idealised forms of social organisation seems to follow quite naturally, it seems to me, from the acknowledgement of innate needs.

      So either way, I see major logical inconsistencies. Furthermore, I think that clearing up this conceptual mess would be of great benefit to all who are engaged in organising for social justice today.

      • avatar
        James June 19, 2015 1:51 pm 

        Hi Mark,

        Maybe they just think utopian socialism is quaint. Not robust enough. Doesn’t have the weight of Marxian capitalist analysis behind it. I don’t think , if Marxist believe in innate needs, it is logically inconsistenat to be dismissive of utopian socialism. It may just mean they reckon taking state power is the way to go and the troops will rally behind them. They probably look at utopian socialists and ask, “what have you got? Doesn’t look like much.”

        And considering the damage that Marxust Leninists have done to themselves and their reputation during the twentieth century, why hasn’t the utopian left taken up the slack and grown considerably stronger. Maybe the utopian left is weak because it lacks strong vision, something clear and coherent to present to the punters, and it lacks this strong coherent vision because of all sorts of inside bickering about what sort of vision is actually needed, if one is needed at all, and to what extent one should be developed. So the utopian left doesn’t have much other than vague dreams and so therefore strategy is pretty all over the joint.

        The utopian left usually waits (well it does stuff but usually very small stuff) until it sees things like Rojava and the Zapatistas and then gets stuck and doesn’t know how to proceed. There is no congruence between events on the ground like Rojava and in the Chiapas and greater vision. And vision is often seen as abstract and anarchists don’t like too much abstraction.

        • avatar
          Mark Evans June 19, 2015 4:31 pm 

          Well James, again, I would argue that key aspects of Marxian analysis – such as the theory of alienation – only really make sense if there are assumed or identified innate human needs (I think that this is what Fromm is getting at). Furthermore, once this is acknowledged, what Marxists typically refer to as “utopian socialism” makes perfect sense. However, following Engels, so called “utopian socialism” was dismissed as unscientific.

          You say that this may have been because they saw “utopian socialism” as “quaint” or “not robust enough”. But if this was the case, it seems to me, then the appropriate response would have been to make “utopian socialism” more robust – which is a reasonable thing to do – as oppose to dismiss it all together – which is what Marxists tend to do.

          P.S. I never understood IOPS to be a place to discuss political theory – as we are here. There are already plenty of places to discuss these things – ZNet being a very good example. The idea with IOPS was that people, who already have much in common, would come together to organise. Unfortunately, as you know, that has not happened.

          • avatar
            James June 19, 2015 10:54 pm 

            Mark, you are probably right. You got me thinking at least. Your argument, if I’ve even understood it, just doesn’t seen like it will go anywhere to me. Again, I’m probably wrong. This whole thing of utopian socialists vs scientific socialists just seems like supporters of opposing football teams. Even if what you argue is right it hasn’t had an impact on Marxists and the other lot adopting and holding firm to their respective and opposing positions for the last 160 years ( although there are many Marxists who lean towards the other side considerably, like Staughton Lynd) and I’m not sure you would be the first and only one to have noticed any logical inconsistencies if they exist/ed.

            (And speaking of Lynd, while he thinks we need Marxism but leans heavily in the anarchist direction, he would probably agree we need more structured vision but probably wouldn’t worry about whether utopian socialism or even scientific socialism for that matter is scientific or not. I don’t think he would spend much time trying to trip up Marxists on some technicality, he would probably just organise and try “standing in the rain” with those he is trying to help and start from there. From necessity, accompaniment and onwards. Just a thought.)

            That’s all I’m saying and probably saying it badly. It also seems I’m not getting what your really getting at because there’s something in your argument that is confusing or bugs me and I can’t get at it. All I see is that people do not always behave logically or rationally, and often emotions play a stronger part in their lives and no argument re logical inconsistencies will necessarily change that. Just because Marx, Engels and others held to what they saw as the scientific view, doesn’t mean it was and it certainly doesn’t mean they would behave scientifically, logically and rationally all the time either. Their view may or may not have been scientific but they were/are human. I’m sorry if my responses aren’t of much value but I enjoy trying to understand.

            Regarding IOPS, again you are no doubt probably right. But shit, there would he no harm in posting there and seeing whether others like me exist and getting some activity going. But you are right, it is probably dead and no point. Maybe IOPS succumbed to emotion because it’s scientific foundation just wasn’t strong enough. Who knows.

  2. avatar
    James Wilson June 16, 2015 11:51 am 

    Mark, the more I read and thought about this article the more confused I became. The truth is, I have never liked big claims regarding human nature or the nature of our minds. I mean, if Chomsky is going to point out that we struggle to know why even the simplest of organisms turns left or right, or how the navigation system of a bee, a much simpler organism than a human, actually works, it becomes quite ridiculous, it seems to me, to construct social organisation from investigations of innate structures of the mind and intrinsic needs. Given that Chomsky has also suggested that Newton, some time ago, blew any notion of the physical out of the water with his discovery of action at a distance, any theories based on the physical aren’t going to be much better.

    So it seems to me, all that is actually required, given also that most “humans” haven’t even heard of “false consciousness” and that they could be stricken by it, is for most or at least a large majority to be convinced that alternatives to the current system are possible. Let’s face it, it’s not as if they have been inundated with a plethora of clear and coherent visions over the last 160 or so years.

    How to convince them is the problem. If investigations into innate structures and intrinsic needs, via the cognitive sciences could be trusted to provide “a set of evidence based values [that] could be identified that could then be used to inform a model of an idealised form of social organisation”, then great, but really, what are the odds? And further, given that a large number of humans remain convinced of all kinds of dubious things for all sorts of reasons, and that false consciousness be a reality, which I don’t think has ever been proved, just merely claimed, why would anyone necessarily be swayed by a bunch of scientific claims made from within the cognitive sciences, which is a bit like groping in the dark compared to physics? Better the devil you know seems far more apt than false consciousness.

    This whole response, Mark, may be completely off skew for all I know. I could have missed and/or misunderstood completely the real point of your article and the real meaning of false consciousness, but the truth is your article prompted me to think and reply. So I did. I feel your third last paragraph to be the crux of your article. I get the sense you are attempting to outwit the Marxist by picking the word “scientific” from their back pocket without them noticing and pulling the rug out from under their feet. I could be wrong.

    False consciousness may be a reality, may be a rationalisation for creating some authoritarian vanguard party, may be a logical inconsistency (not sure about that one), but could just as easily be a load of meaningless codswallop. I’m not even sure how consciousness can be false! One could have thoughts, ideas, beliefs and such that are false, but not sure about consciousness. But now I think I’m just being pedantic.

    I wish you’d post your stuff at IOPS Mark. Could instigate some activity, at the very least.

    • avatar
      Ed Lytwak June 16, 2015 2:03 pm 

      I think you have cut to the chase in questioning whether consciousness can be false. Consciousness is what it is and unless you are approaching it from a Freudian perspective – consciousness and unconsciousness – “false” makes little sense. Evans is also right to question the idea of false consciousness but unfortunately, makes the same mistake as Marx in regarding consciousness as primarily a political phenomenon. For some people, i.e. politicians, activists, the media (including alternative left), oligarchs, seeing the world through a political framework is the most important aspect of consciousness. But, for most people it is a small, often insignificant aspect of consciousness – broad but shallow. It’s like the weather, people like to complain about it, but for the most part is just accept it for what it is.
      Activists especially, tend to fall into the trap of assuming that because the political framework is primary for them it is or should be for everyone. This leads to an almost religious obsession with proselytizing those whose consciousness is only superficially political. It can also leads to a quite counterproductive and demeaning attitude toward those lacking the proper political consciousness. For example, a whole class of people with false consciousness , who don’t know what is in their best interest. Or, dividing people into those who fight (political activists) and those apolitical stooges that don’t . Those that view consciousness as primarily political just don’t understand that people can fight and resist in many other non-political ways,. They just don’t seem to understand that you can change the world without taking power.

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 17, 2015 10:42 pm 

      Hi James –

      I drew attention to the cognitive sciences because they have been effective in discrediting the blank slate doctrine – in which the Marxist notion of false consciousness seems to be grounded. I am suggesting that the notion of false consciousness only really makes sense if people have innate needs, etc – which is why I argue that Marxism is logically inconsistent. As I noted in my piece, however, Fromm would argue otherwise.

      So the question is: how best to address the very real problem of false consciousness from a non-Marxist perspective? That, it seems to me, is an important question for contemporary revolutionaries to consider.

      I agree that currently the cognitive sciences don’t really tell us all that much about human nature but I don’t think that this is a good reason to abandon the approach that I sketch-out. After all, all that I am really saying is that our efforts to move towards a just society should be informed by our understanding of innate human needs.

      This, it seems to me, is the only way to formulate what you call “clear and coherent visions”. Furthermore, I think that this is a very good way of addressing what Marxists call false consciousness in a non-Marxist way.

      Towards the end of your comment you use the notion of consciousness in what seems like a much broader sense – as in pure awareness or something. I think that people typically use the term – false consciousness – in a much narrow way – as I suggested, as in “adopting an ideological position that is detrimental to our own interests”.

      • avatar
        Ed Lytwak June 18, 2015 4:17 pm 

        Personally, I wouldn’t downplay how much the “cognitive sciences” tell us about human nature. Particularly in the last 20 years, the cognitive sciences have confirmed much of what Kropotkin and others have said about human nature, e.g. that empathy and solidarity are hard-wired into human thought processes. In regard to ideological constructs, such as false consciousness, cognitive linguists such as George Lackey, have a lot to say about the importance of the importance of metaphors in shaping how we think – and act!

        • avatar
          James June 18, 2015 9:44 pm 

          I guess my position is a little different. I’m not suggesting abandoning using the cognitive sciences altogether to help with some sort of evidential base from which we can build a better society, just that I don’t think it necessary. In the same way I don’t think it necessary to include some sort of “spiritual” component into revolutionary politics, in the way some on the left sometimes suggest, like Mr Russell Brand.

          Whether Marxists arrived at the notion of false consciousness without noticing the logical inconsistency (if in fact Marx was a blank slater, of which I’m not totally convinced – but that could be just a lack of reading and knowledge of Marx and Marxism – somehow I just can’t think Marx or others would have missed it) or not, it seems it exists anyway. But all it points to is a willingness for many “under the pump” so to speak, to put up with a lot of shit. Like I said, humans believe lots of stuff that tseems bizarre to many others. To convince them that alternatives are in fact possible, ones that share the burdens of existence fairly, equitably anfd justly, still remains the major problem.

          That utopian socialism may be more scientific (I did read your previous article Mark, which would have been perfect for IOPS) than what is commonly refered to as scientific socialism could have benefits. But again, it seems to me that the job of convincing those under the spell of ideological constructs or behaviours that appear contrary to their self interests, that a better social organisation is possible, will not be greatly served by pointing out “logical inconsistencies” in reasoning based on what someone claims is Marx’s notion of consciousness or by what may be only very small inroads into discovering more about our nature, which I always feel Chomsky suggests is in fact much closer to the ‘know very little’ end rather than the other.

          No need to abandon the possibility of using the cognitive sciences but interpreting the results is always controversial. I’m just not sure things like Parecon, or any real vision, needs validation from science. And this seems to be at the heart of your essay here Mark and your earlier one. However the essays are thought provoking and would have been good for the IOPS blog even if only one or two ‘disfunctional’ and confused members like myself entered into the discussion.

  3. gary olson June 13, 2015 1:14 pm 

    Following on Ed’s response, some readers might be interested in my book on the subject:
    Gary Olson, Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (NY: Springer Publishing, 2013)

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 15, 2015 9:27 am 

      Hi Gary – I will take a look at your book, thanks!

  4. avatar
    Ed Lytwak June 12, 2015 3:06 pm 

    False consciousness may not be as “false” as its made out to be. Many in the so-called subordinate classes adopt ideologies, i.e. patriarchy, capitalism or white supremacy, because practically speaking, conformity to those ideologies IS in their best interest, however narrowly define. After all, half of those in the subordinate classes are men and in many societies, a majority are white. These people quite correctly perceive that conformity to the dominant ideologies makes for a better life, at least from a materialist perspective. Every politician and career oriented person understands that being a lackey, shill or stooge will generally provide a higher standard of living. The false narrative is that class is, or should be, a primary determinant of consciousness — except in the minds of some political activists.

    Regarding socialization and the blank slate doctrine, science has demonstrated that certain cognitive frameworks, e.g. empathy, are indeed hardwired into our brains. “Philosophy in the Flesh” by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson is a fascinating read in regard to cognitive science and how we think. The socialization process is used by the dominant classes to over-ride certain of these cognitive frameworks, i.e. empathy, cooperation, altruism, to serve their interests. Unfortunately, for many people serving the interests of the dominant class is perceived to be in their own best interest. Which just goes to show, that most people simply don’t like revolutionaries (and political activists) telling them what is in their best interest. Can you blame them?

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 15, 2015 9:33 am 

      Hi Ed –

      (1) why do you say “so-called” subordinate classes? Are you suggesting that this is imagined?

      (2) I agree that conforming makes sense – at least on some level. But ultimately it is dehumanising for all involved – right?

      P.S. thanks for the book recommendation – I will check it out.

      • avatar
        Ed Lytwak June 15, 2015 12:40 pm 

        No, I’m not at all suggesting the subordinate class is imagined. What I’m trying to get at is that the whole notion of “class” is a political framework – an ideological construct – that may no longer be as valuable a tool for analysis as it was in Marx’s day, (or even 50 years ago), I’m increasingly uncomfortable with using political ideologies from the past, such as Marxism and anarchism, to analyze present capitalist society. While there is a rich intellectual heritage that remains a valuable resource, I feel strongly that the left needs to look at things from new and fresh perspectives, with new concepts. And, yes hierarchical relationships of all kinds are essentially dehumanizing.

        • Kelvin Yearwood June 18, 2015 3:20 pm 

          Hi Ed, it seems strange for someone on a site trying to engender political consciousness and activism to reject political ideologies to such an extent. And the Marxist tradition still probably represents the most comprehensive critique of capitalism. And I would continue to recommend strongly recent Marxist thinkers such as David Harvey, Terry Eagleton and Ralph Miliband to this day.

          My criticism of this article is the association of Marxist thought with the “blank slate.” Broadly speaking the Marxist tradition sees human consciousness primarily as a product of the social relations of a productive economic and social system and of an evolution of such – they do not reject the force of the past and residual or waning systems on human consciousness. But, predominantly, the social relations of production determine human consciousness, and that is not a blank slate position because to be human is to have a socially produced consciousness and language. To Marxist thinking a blank slate cannot is not just inhuman; it can’t exist. False consciousness is the product of a socially produced consciousness in a class divided society. Understanding the position we inherit as subordinates in that class divided society is how we become political beings.

          And in your previous post you even accept the idea of a class divided society in which certain people embrace their subordinate position in the political economic system to make personal gains:

          “Every politician and career oriented person understands that being a lackey, shill or stooge will generally provide a higher standard of living. ”

          Actually there are many people in medicine, for example, who are career orientated but in the context of being a professional servant to society in general, without exclusion, as in the health systems of Western Europe.

          • avatar
            Ed Lytwak June 18, 2015 3:54 pm 

            I largely reject political ideologies not as a critique of capitalism but as a way forward. At this point, i’m not sure how much more of a critique of capitalism is really needed – most people know, even if subconsciously, that it sucks. As the left valiantly struggles to build a viable alternative, what we need is a vision, i.e. ideology, of the way forward. What we need is a new politics and I don’t think that continually looking to past ideologies is all that helpful. In that regard, I find both Gandhi and John Holloway valuable in elucidating this “new” politics (Murray Bookchin, too). The ideologies that interest me the most are “changing the world without taking power” and “crack capitalism” Even more than ideology, what excites me most are the people that are actually creating a new world, i.e. the Zapatistas and Rojava, and to a lesser extent the nation-states, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, that are creating 21st Century socialism. Pancho Ramos Stierle said it best: “I think that we need both now, and that we need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit. Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence. I believe that nine out of ten actions must be creating the community that we want to live in—we’re talking about permaculture, independent media, restorative justice, gift economies, free currencies, and preventive medicine. By doing all that, we make ourselves stronger. If you are creating true alternatives to the collapsing, rotten system then you will naturally come into conflict with the power structure. Then the political action becomes necessary. So I think one out of ten actions should be obstructive—that is boycotts and protests and marches and nonviolent civil disobedience. But when we cultivate inner awareness, it’s easy to see that what we need to do is spend most of our time creating the communities that we want to live in.”

            P.S. You are right, i shouldn’t have said “every” career oriented person – absolutes are a sign of false narratives – but I’ve got to wonder where all the doctors were when Congress considered health care reform – apologies to Margaret Flowers et al.

          • avatar
            Mark Evans June 18, 2015 5:23 pm 

            Hi Kelvin –

            It seems to me that your description of how the “Marxist tradition sees human consciousness” illustrates quite nicely the logical inconsistency of the typical Marxist position.

            You start off by saying that “the Marxist tradition sees human consciousness primarily as a product of the social relations” and finish by saying “False consciousness is the product of a socially produced consciousness in a class divided society.”

            This, it seems to me, fits quite nicely into the category of the blank slate doctrine, as defined in my piece.

            What I do not understand is how a consciousness that is understood as little or nothing more than a social construct can be deemed false. It seems to me that unless we appeal to innate human needs – which (Fromm aside) Marxists typically seem to reject – then the notion of false consciousness becomes a nonsense.

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