Political Consciousness in Marxist Theory

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1989)

This study establishes that there is, in Marxist theory, a concept of political consciousness distinct from class consciousness, and that the Marxist concern with human liberation would benefit from a shift of emphasis from class to political consciousness. The study, in effect, provides a philosophical underpinning for the practice of the development of emancipatory consciousness, a practice in which a plurality of subjects can participate without fear of domination. ;The argument begins with a rethinking of the emphasis, in mainstream Marxist political discourse, on class, on class struggle, and on class consciousness, and a rethinking of the attempt to construe politics in terms of class struggle. These concepts do not adequately illuminate the dynamics of history and social change. A plurality of subjects are actively engaged in the struggle for human emancipation, but the identity of these subjects cannot always be defined in terms of class. The focus on class and class consciousness marginalizes these non-class subjects and reduces the consciousness characteristic of these to a "second fiddle." ;Against this background, a broad concept of politics and political consciousness presents itself as a more choice-worthy alternative to class and class consciousness. Marx and Engels drew attention to this broad concept when they upheld "true democracy" as the optimum expression of the political dimension of the human being as a political animal. ;In this broad sense, the political is understood as having to do with ways in which people resolve all sorts of conflicts in their community of shared social lives. It is a permanent element of the human condition in society because conflict is a function of the ontological constitution of the human being as a being-in-need. Political consciousness itself is seen as condition of the possibility of the emergence of all collective actors, and as an indispensable element in the constitution of all human societies. The development of this consciousness, in a way that conduces to human emancipation, is best within that space governed by radical democracy
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