Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
False consciousness is a complex cognitive-epistemological and socioeconomic political concept. First explored by the philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, notably Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, its most common association is with the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Although false consciousness is one of the most central Marxian terms, Marx and Engels use it only once each in their published works to refer to distorted knowledge or inadequate expression of reality. Marx used the term in his 1854 essay, “ Der Ritter vom edelmutigen Bewußsein ” (The Knight of Noble-Minded Consciousness). However, he uses it not in a conceptual way to categorize a certain phenomenon but to refute a slanderous article by August Willich, claiming the latter attempted to detect “a false consciousness behind a correct fact.” The connotation of Engels's usage of the term is something more substantial. In a letter to Franz Mehring dated July 14, 1893, ...