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Working Paper

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Law | Law and Philosophy | Law and Society


Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought


In his essay “In Defense of ‘False Consciousness’” and book, Power: A Radical View, Steven Lukes mounts a forceful defense of the idea of false consciousness; however, Lukes presents false consciousness and the notion of truth regimes as mutually exclusive. In this essay, I suggest that there are important family resemblances between the theory of ideology in the Marxian tradition, especially as developed by the Frankfurt School, and the critique of truth regimes rooted in the Nietzschean tradition of genealogy, especially as developed by Foucault – family resemblances that make it counter-productive to argue that one theory would make us reject the other. The task is not to defend one theory at the expense of the other, but to explore the intricate relationship between the two in order to sharpen our own critical interventions. That is the goal of this essay, drawing on the radical thought of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Foucault. In addition, I go further and call for resistance, not simply to this or that way of being governed, but resistance to truth. The task, as I see it, is to unmask and enlighten, but then to shed the tools we have used before those very beliefs become oppressive themselves.