Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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False consciousness

core definition

False consciousness refers to the mistaken or self-deluding consciousness of a social group.

explanatory context

This concept has been developed in Marxist analysis. However, it is mistaken to assume that the notion of false consciousness encapsulates Marx's or Marxist's notion of ideology. False consciousness is but one aspect of some Marxist accounts of ideology.


False consciousness was a term popularised by Lukács. He relates it to class consciousness. Social classes (in non-revolutionary moments) have a false awareness (a distorting veil) of the relationship of their class to the economic relations of production.


In effect this view of false consciousness embodies a Weltanschauung approach to class consciousness. Some commentators tend to equate false consciousness with this 'positive view' of ideology.


The limitation of the false consciousness view of ideology is that it tends to deny the dialectical relationship between economic base (infrastructure) and the cultural superstructure. It implies that class consciousness alone can instigate a revolutionary moment and that ideology is grounded in consciousness.

analytical review

Raynet Sociology Glossary (undated) refers to false consciousness as follows:

Any belief, idea, ideology, etc., that interferes with an exploited and oppressed person or group being able to perceive the objective nature and source of their oppression

associated issues


related areas

See also



Researching the Real World Section

Critical Social Research Section 2.2 Addendum


Raynet Sociology Glossary, undated, available at, no longer available 20 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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