consciousness. The set of attitudes, ideas and values characterizing the state of awareness and thus self-identity of an individual, group, or social class.
The term is used sometimes in association with idelogy (defined as 'false consciousness') or in a more positive association, originally in Marxism, with determining 'social being'. Class consciousness in Marx describes the conscious identity of either of the two major classes (bourgeoisie and proletariat) where the class's knowledge of its own conditions in relation to the overall structure of society is developed to the point where it can act in its own interest. The class has not only an objective identity as a class 'in itself' but becomes a class 'for itself'. The idea of class consciousnes was developed particularly within the philosophy and criticism of Georg Lukacs, in relation notably to the historical novel and European realism (1963, 1969). Following Lukacs, the Marxist philosopher and literary critic, Lucien Goldmann drew a distinction between 'actual' and 'potential' consciousness to mark the distinction between types or stages of consciousness. Goldmann used this distinction to confirm the value of a literary text which developed the less formed 'actual' consciousness of the social group it represented to its most articulate maximum potential (Goldmann 1975 and see Williams 1980b). Clearly, as employed by Goldmann, this distinction is an evaluative one. As such, it might be used to confirm the value of serious art works as against the symptomatic and mediocre status of popopular culture texts, or, presumably, to reverse this distinction or mark distinctions within a form or genre. It might also be extended beyond social class. Did the Rolling Stones express the potential consciousness of a generation? Do Oasis? Did cyberpunk novels reflect the subcultural attitudes of a generation of predominantly male readers ('hackers' or 'nerds') in the 1980s or articulate this average mentality to a point of transformative self-awareness (MacCaffery [ed.] 1991)?
The expression 'consciousness raising' was used to refer to the discussions of usually women-only groups in the early years of the Women's Liberation Movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. It implies a process of coming to awareness in the formation of consciousness and thus suggests degrees of coherent and articulated consciousness as well as ways of producing this other than those associated with traditionally defined social classes.
The term 'stream of consciousness' has been used to describe attempts within modernist fiction (in James Joyce's Ulysses and the novels of Virginia Woolf, for example) to transcribe the content and rhythm of inner states of mind in the form of unedited interior monologue. This is sometimes likened to 'free association', employed by the artistic avant-garde and within psychoanalysis, though in both these cases its purpose is to trigger the expression of unconscious and not conscious thoughts and feelings.
The 'consciousness industry' is a term coined by the German writer and cultural critic, Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1970) to point up the ideological role of the culture industries or mass media. See also common sense. [from: Brooker, 1999]