- Category: Theory
- Created on Friday, 30 July 2010 06:12
- Written by Vivid Visionary
Kasama received the following contribution.
By Vivid Visionary
I'm currently reading The Philosophy of Marx, by Etienne Balibar, and it got me thinking on this question of false consciousness and working class self activity, which is used a lot amongst Marxists, and which I think is very problematic and mechanical. I hope folks can take a look at it, give me their thoughts, and critique it. We're all in the process of learning.
In the chapter titled "Ideology or Fetishism," Balibar attempts to break down Marx's thought on the concept of ideology, both as it emerged from previous philosophy and how Marx attempted to move beyond it.
It explains Marx's view on the dominant ideology, how the 'ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force', and how Marx has to confront the problematic of this division between the 'ideal expression' of dominant social relations and the fact that the material and intellectual means of production are in the hands of those same rulers.
In other words, Balibar explains that Marx wants to move beyond the schematic division of ideology into either the theoretical (the opposite of science,as illusions and manipulation) and the practical (the concept that all thought expresses the identity of a group or movement and legitimates its established power).
And the last part of this explains why I think the idea of false consciousness is still stuck within that instrumentalist division which Marx was attempting to move beyond, a very long time ago. Because just like ideology is neither simply the manipulation of our worldview by the ruling class, it is also not the direct expression of an identity, or being. 'False consciousness' assumes that (in this case) working people have a 'real consciousness' which corresponds to their identity as a worker, but is simply mystified by bourgeois ideology. It creates a linear connection between being and consciousness, and I disagree that there is an inherent radicalism or communism in the identity of a worker. I think it is a formulation that gives into spontaneity and which downplays the necessity of an organized and revolutionary communist core to bring insights and exposures which cant simply be obtained through immediate experiences or circumstances.
'Working class self-activity' ties into this.
Like 'false consciousness', it assumes there's an innate political vision within the identity of a group of people, and that the self activity of working people in struggle equates to communist theory and struggle.
But, let's take a look at our current realities.
What are the 'politics of workers', or what does the 'self-activity of the working class' look like today, if it isn't voting for the Democratic Party, racism against competitors in the labor market, or tea parties, etc., all examples of how 'working class ideology' is in fact BOURGEOIS ideology?
Just as the mechanisms of the capitalist system (take for example, the labor market) contain the potential for elementary unity amongst the oppressed, it also contains the potential for disunity and competition.
The development of a revolutionary movement requires a deep break with 'the narrow horizon of bourgeois right', beyond a 'what's in it for me' mentality, which is at the core of how capitalism functions, from its most basic relations of exchange, whether it be between workers,between capitalists, or between both, which is why I'm opposed to the concept that revolution and communism arise spontaneously through basic economic struggle.
I'm still working through this book and through my own thinking, but I believe the beginning of an answer to these two problematics lies in viewing communist revolution not as the unity of a sociological identity (whether that be of workers, black people, latinos, gay people, etc), but as a unity based on a communist political vision to overcome ALL oppressive divisions, which cant be achieved spontaneously or mediated through a particular identity (race, class, or sex), but through intense struggle and study in the service of complete human liberation.