Occupy Wall Street: False Consciousness of the Subaltern

False Consciousness: Marx’s idea that “everybody in capitalist society has the same ideology.” Thus, the ideas of the ruling class rule. We broke this idea down and applied it the ideas of superstructure and base whereby the ideas in the superstructure reflect the ideas from the base. We related these ideas to poverty in America. For example, the ideology of the poor is left beneath the ground as dominant groups rule (illustrating their hegemonic power), hence the idea that Marx discusses that the ruling ideas comes from the ruling class—who’s in control of material forces controls ideas. We also brought up Cornel West’s discussion on poverty last semester at Clarkson University whereby he talked about the lack of discussion and mention of poverty in the 2012 electoral campaigns. West stated: “Out of site, out of mind.” We felt like this idea related to Marx’s concept of false consciousness whereby subliminally, groups do not recognize that they are under some sort of ideological control or that they are disregarded as the dominant groups impose their ideology and hegemony.

We also related these ideas to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We asked: How does one group take over power? This question relates to Gramsci’s discussion of the subaltern and that society can change when one group becomes the more hegemonic power—more importantly, how these groups become conscious of their ability to change society. Who is the subaltern and how do you change hegemony among the subaltern? In the Occupy Movement, it is clear the 99% would be considered the subaltern. Yet, would there be specific groups within the 99% that realize their ability to bring about change that would ultimately affect the large group in general? We agreed that the people taking part in this protest also assume false consciousness. First, although they protest against the 1% and the capitalist/consumer lifestyle the 99% used social media (i.e. Facebook) and toted their North Face tents thus making them support the dominant ideology that encompasses capitalism and consumerism. With the 99% relying on social media, we said that this notion relates to the superstructure while the system of capitalism remains the base. Then, we discussed WikiLeaks and how this access to information would bridge the gap between the super structure and the base, thus supporting the idea of the  Ideological State Apparatus as being regenerative—there is a constant interaction between the base and superstructure.

As a result, some argue that the protest just made noise, not change (http://nyulocal.com/national/2011/10/06/occupy-wall-street-is-making-noise-not-change/). Why didn’t the movement succeed? We discussed the lack of leadership and lack of unification. However, this creates a paradox: If there was a leader, then hegemony would ensue. Yet, would a leader bring about unification or give the movement some sort of institutional power that it is lacking? Marx discusses the need for a rise up and revolution, but as we can see with the 99% and the Occupy Movement, how can the subaltern actually assume hegemony to bring about change?

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