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Class consciousness

From Academic Kids

Class consciousness is a category of Marxist theory, referring to the self-awareness of a social class, its capacity to act in its own rational interests, or measuring the extent to which an individual is conscious of the historical tasks their class (or class allegiance) sets for them. The precise definition is contested.

An exhaustive exposition is made by Georg Lukács in his influential work History and Class Consciousness.

One of the curious results of certain class societies (or societies that are generally perceived to be based on class distinctions) is that people belonging to different social classes have different views on the class system as a whole, thus different forms of class consciousness. Typically, in English society, the results would be:

  • Upper class people, e.g. aristocrats, traditionally refer merely to The Lower Classes, without making any distinction between people who are not aristocrats, i.e. they operate in a two-class model
  • Working class people, similarly, traditionally refer merely to 'toffs', i.e. anyone who isn't working class, and also operate in a two-class system, but a different one from Upper Class people
  • Middle Class people, in contrast, see themselves as separate from the Upper Class and Working Class, perhaps on the same bases as people who claim to belong to each, but in addition, draw distinctions between the Upper Middle and Lower Middle classes (or even introduce the notion of Middle Middle Class, for anyone they feel doesn't fall into any of the other categories), i.e. they operate from a 4- or 5-class perspective.

From this observation one can argue that class consciousness in modern English society is quite blurred, a situation which exists in other modern societies as well.

A classical fictional portrayal of a rigid class system and indoctrinated class consciousness is Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World.

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