dual consciousness

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Antonio Gramsci (1891—1937) Italian political theorist and activist, co-founder and leader of the Italian Communist Party


working class


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A term used to describe the world-view of people who simultaneously hold two apparently inconsistent sets of beliefs. It is particularly associated with the ideas of Gramsci. This is usually ascribed to the fact that people receive a set of beliefs through general socialization into a dominant culture but have another set of beliefs based on their own practical experiences of life. It is often said that the working class is most prone to dual consciousness because the everyday experience of working-class life runs counter to many received beliefs about society. Thus, for example, it is possible for workers to agree that strikes are usually caused by malcontents, extremists, and agitators (received beliefs), but to relate their own experiences of strikes to genuine grievances (practical experience). In Frank Parkin's Class Inequality and Political Order (1972) the terms ‘dominant value system’ and ‘subordinate value system’ serve to make this same distinction. The former refers to the fact that ‘the social and political definitions of those in dominant positions tend to become objectified and enshrined in the macro institutional orders, so providing the moral framework of the entire social system’. The generating milieu of the latter is the local working-class community. Parkin describes the subordinate value system as ‘essentially accommodative; that is to say its representation of the class structure and inequality emphasizes various modes of adaptation, rather than full endorsement of, or opposition to, the status quo’. See also dominant ideology thesis.

Subjects: Sociology.

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