The pre-requisites for a social revolutions are the transformation of relation of production and change in prevalent ideas and institutions which support a particular economic system. For example, in the capitalism, the prevalent ideas, norms, customs etc. make us believe in the just nature of the economic system and blind us towards the exploitative nature of the capitalistic system. Marx termed these ideas as Ideology.
In a capitalist system, two types of related ideologies work together to blind people towards true nature of a capitalist system.
- First, the ideas which make us blind in our day to day life. For example, commodity fetishism we saw in previous post when the whole reality has been inverted and we start to believe that commodities have the real worth and not our labour.
- Second type of ideology emerges when we start appreciating the underlying nature of the commodfied world, and may want a social change to happen, but, are again blinded by the system of ruling ideas like religion, literature and legal system. The masses in a capitalist system have a false sense of material, ideological and institutional processes, also known as False consciousness.
False consciousness is structurally connected to Religion.
Religion is based on reification of God. Marx drew upon Feuerbach’s idea of reification of the God by humans which causes the alienation from species being. Marx goes a step further and delves into the economic and social reasons behind existence of religion as an ideology.
Rectification of material world makes us see the reality in an inverted manner. Ideology makes us blind towards exploitative nature of the class system in a capitalistic society. According to Marx, religion as an ideology is promoted by the elite to further their own interests. For example, the caste system in India makes people believe in the natural order of the class structure. People believe in after life fruits based on their karma in present life. So, the social positions are accepted as the result of one’s karma in previous life. They help elite keep their positions intact without any resistance from people at lower strata.
Religion, for Marx, is the ultimate limit of the reification and the false class consciousness. They are blinded towards underlying class structure which is the real cause of suffering in their lives and not their past life karma. Religion is sigh of oppressed as it acts as vent to their suffering. Marx is not against religion but the system which uses religion to prevent people see the real cause of their suffering.
Freedom and Equality in a Capitalist system
Freedom and equality are the bed rock of a modern capitalist society. Marx states that freedom and equality ultimately benefits the capitalists. A capitalist system requires equality so that people who are engaged in buying and selling are able to exchange commodities irrespective of the differences among them. Similarly, freedom is needed for hassle free trade of commodities. But who really enjoys the freedom and equality?
According to Marx, it is the capital which is free and not humans. They are not even free to own their own labour and creation. It is the capital which is accepted without any bias based on social or economic identity.
In older economic structures workers were aware that they are unequal and are enslaved by their masters. In capitalism, ideologies are used to make people believe that they have got freedom and enjoy equality.
Marx does not state that Capitalism is entirely bad. For example, the ideas of freedom or equality were inconceivable in a traditional society. It is the capitalism which introduced these ideas to the people. But, when the capitalism would reach its zenith, people will start appreciating the real cause of their suffering; it is after this realization that people would strive to bring about a social change in order to introduce a just economic system. For Marx, this next stage is going to be the communism.