Steven Lukes offers a precise, succinct, and forceful defense of the idea of "false consciousness" in his provocative essay by that name, In Defense of "False Consciousness" People can be systematically mistaken about their own best interest, Lukes contends – or, in his words, "they can have systematically distorted beliefs about the social order and their own place in it that work systematically against their interests." It is not just that sometimes people knowingly but regretfully make compromises, nor simply that they face no alternative choices; people are at times factually mistaken about what will promote their best interest. "There is truth to be attained," Lukes declares, a correct view about where their interests lie, a view that is not itself "imposed by power." This argument, Lukes suggests, is not vulnerable to the retort that there are multiple, socially constructed "regimes of truth," which are neither true nor false, because people are at times wrong about the factual premises of their beliefs. On these occasions, they "hold factual beliefs that are susceptible of truth and falsity (thus meeting the ['regimes of truth'] objection) [and s]ome of these key beliefs can be shown to be false." Lukes's defense of false consciousness could not be articulated with greater precision or, for that matter, erudition and elegance.
Law | Law and Philosophy | Law and Society
Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought
Bernard E. Harcourt,
Radical Thought from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, Through Foucault, to the Present: Comments on Steven Lukes’s In Defense of "False Consciousness",
U. Chi. Legal F.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/1698