Marx’s Concept of Ideology as False Consciousness

  • H. M. Drucker


After the failure of de Tracy’s attempts to reform France, ideology was little heard of. The Idéologues’ attempt at putting the ideas of the Enlightenment into practice might have been covered by the obscurity it almost deserves had it not been for Marx’s poignant use of de Tracy’s ‘ideology’. Between de Tracy and Marx the word ‘ideology’ is used, without any great attention being paid to it, by a small number of writers. Talleyrand, writing in defence of Roman Catholicism, attacks de Tracy’s school. Sir Walter Scott notices Napoleon’s brush with the Idéologues. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson speak of de Tracy’s work in their correspondence. And Jeremy Bentham mentions the new school in his correspondence. None of these references seems to point to any great interest: even Jefferson gave up on the Idéologues after showing some interest. Indeed, had Marx not used it, ‘ideology’ would almost certainly have become an anachronism.


False Consciousness German Ideology Communist Manifesto Holy Family Bourgeois Ideology 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    G. Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology and Other Essays (New York, 1967) pp. 4–11Google Scholar
  2. J. Plamenatz, Ideology (London, 1970) pp. 15–16.Google Scholar
  3. See, however, A. Naess, Democracy, Ideology and Objectivity (Oslo, 1956)Google Scholar
  4. R. H. Cox, ‘On the Origins of Ideology: The Problem of Theory and Practice’, Papers of the Southern Political Science Association. Atlanta (Nov 1970) p. 1.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    K. Marx, The Holy Family (London, 1957) p. 164, cited in Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology, p. 6.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    L. Feuerbach, Essence of Christianity (London, 1854) pp. 20–1.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    See T. Bottomore (ed.), Karl Marx: Early Writings (London, 1953) p. 145.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    K. Marx, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, ibid., p. 43.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Ibid., p. 44.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
  11. 34.
    K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology (Moscow, 1965) pp. 43 ff; 53, 61, 101, 183, 194, 254–5, 414, 461, 473, 490, 587.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    K. Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, ibid., p. 645 (originally published 1844).Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Marx, The Holy Family, p. 46.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Ibid., p. 11.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Marx, The German Ideology, p. 37.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Ibid., p. 28.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
  19. 16.
    ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, in Bottomore, Karl Marx: Early Writings, p. 44.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    K. Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (London, 1936) p. 37.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    Ibid., pp. 244 ff.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Ibid., p. 23.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
  24. 21.
    Ibid., pp. 77–8.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    Ibid., pp. 139–42.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© H. M. Drucker 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. M. Drucker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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