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Despite these conceptual advances, class consciousness is considered difficult to study: It is hard to measure using common survey methods, and it is always changing because classes themselves are always in flux as people interact with one another.Class consciousness may change as people learn about their positions in society, about the status of others, and about social stratification in general.These elements help us to contrast class consciousness in different settings.
The Communist Manifesto states that because the dominant classes control major social institutions like education and religion, they can shape cultural norms and values so that members of the proletariat will blame themselves for their misfortunes.
An individual who blames him-or herself will fail to recognize that others have the same problems and will fail to see a collective solution for them.
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In contrast, Italian and French workers were more likely to participate in unions that directly oppose capitalism in favor of socialist or communist platforms.
Mann’s arguments can help explain why class organizing has been more prominent in some countries than in others, and why socialist or communist parties have been supported only in some societies.Thus, Marx and Engels thought that an awareness of the increasingly exploitative nature of capitalism would make class consciousness inevitable and that it would help workers around the world to overthrow the bourgeoisie.Marxists express concern about the lack of class consciousness among workers, particularly in the most developed nations, where Marx predicted that communist revolution would occur first.The concept of class consciousness originates in the work of Karl Marx, who emphasized that it is important for the working class (proletariat) to see itself as a group with shared interests in order for workers to come together and overthrow the dominant capitalist class (bourgeoisie) and to take control of the means of production in a revolution.Although Marx never actually used the term class consciousness, he distinguished between “class in itself,” where workers merely have a common relation to the means of production, and “class for itself,” where they organize to pursue common class interests.These states range from alertness to sleep and everything in between.Alertness is what most people think of when they think about being conscious.In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Friedrich Engels encouraged workers to unite by informing them of their exploitation by 19th-century capitalists who forced them to endure bad working conditions, long working hours, and wages so low that many families had to send their children to work to supplement the family income.Marx and Engels wrote that proletarians faced alienation—estrangement from both their work and the world in general.It enables individuals to come together in opposition to the interests of other classes and, therefore, can be important for people challenging inequality and exploitation.Although members of any class can have class consciousness, it is particularly important for those in the working class because they are at the bottom of the class hierarchy and have the most to gain from being unified.