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Reference to Marx has become in philosophy a form of comprehension

of a theory and of critical self-reflection of the researcher. This is no
accident. Marx counts among those few thinkers -- perhaps a handful
-- in the history of humanity who have opened to thought whole planes
of reality and who have detected masses of new objective relationships
and connections. Uncovering these new "geological layers", these
thinkers mark for centuries to come how one defines thought, what is
the path of its development, and even what it means for thought to be
rational. People like Galileo, Einstein and Marx have put in the hands
of researchers a whole mass of new objects crying out for elucidation -a new objective continent that was not there for previous thought and
which subsequent thought cannot afford to ignore.
Among the many objects in the Marxian reconstruction we find
thought, both intuitive and reflective, as needing thoroughly social
analysis. From this reconstruction arise what we call "contemporary"
approaches to consciousness -- i.e., the problems and approaches that
could not be conceived prior to Marx. We see these consequences -sometimes in strange and masked forms -- in our inability to explain,
from a traditional enlightenment rationalist viewpoint, movements like
existentialism, phenomenology, Wissenssoziologie, psychoanalysis, and
structuralism in the study of culture (which, by the way, also explains
why our excursions into the thbught of Marx are so necessary). For, it
was precisely Marx who introduced a series of heuristic devices that
sprang the confines of traditional philosophy -- including the fallacy of
speaking of "pure consciousness" as self-activating and creative within
the confines of an agent that turns out to be the human individual. The
objects of the investigation of consciousness are elsewhere, with new
dependencies and parameters, which are all unavailable to internal
* Translated from Voprosyfilosofii 6 (1968), pp. 13--25.

Studies in Soviet Thought 32 (1986), 101--120.

1986 by D. ReidelPublishing Company.



observation and introspection. These methods, which had dominated

epistemology for so long, are now to be shunted to the side.
Marx effected this revolution above all in his economic investigations
of a certain social formation -- capitalism; investigations which concretized (and developed in unforeseeable directions) the elements
concerning consciousness in the materialist conception of history, which
had hitherto been -- to use an expression of Lenin -- only hypothetical.
We have to make a few preliminary remarks (because in Marx we do
not find a distinct epistemology, or account of method, or of dialectic,
etc.). 1
In economics, Marx carried on mainly methodological and philosophic work, although he used the terms and problem areas of economics
itself. This philosophic work was both condition and content of the
reconstruction he carried out in political economy. It was also condition
and content of that form (or "paradigm", as one likes to say today) of
philosophically conscious thought essential for (political-economic)
discoveries that revolutionized whole branches of this science and
elaborated new sorts of theory. Objectively, we find in this sort of
thought a whole series of philosophic hypotheses and heuristic devices.
These are developed in the language of economics but could also be
refined as generally useful philosophic categories. Among them, for
example, is the thesis on the nature of "things sensible-suprasensible, or
social" (Marx), problems of objectivation, and of relations of objectifiable, socially objective forms to the subjectively active capacities of
man; the relations of rational knowledge to economic activity; and the
question as to how this reality can present itself to the direct observer
and why it can be misrepresented, etc. 2
We have specified those propositions because they presuppose a
certain theory of consciousness. Such a theory could be found in Marx
in a quite profound form, although it was fully understood only later,
and meanwhile many aspects were reinvented and falsely attributed to
others (e.g. to phenomenologists, existentialists, psychoanalysts et al.) 3
Of course, what is highlighted in the Marxian works is that it
carries out objective and system-structural investigation of its object -economic relations of a certain social formation, which are not explained by the anthropological constitution of the subjects carrying
them. Excluded also are all references to the subjects' understanding, to



economic processes, to their volitions, motivations, etc. What is investigated is the entire, self-developing organic whole. The contribution of
Marx can be seen precisely in the fact that he was able to open up such
a path to science, that he revealed the hidden anthropological constitution of the subjects carrying them. Excluded also are all references to
the subjects' understanding, to economic processes, to their volitions,
motivations, etc. What is investigated is the entire, self-developing
organic whole. The contribution of Marx can be seen precisely in the
fact that he was able to open up such a path to science, that he revealed
the hidden anthropologism of previous political economy which consisted in abstract and unexamined anti-historical assumptions about
man, about his needs and interests, and so on. Marx' method of
investigation of economic phenomena is objective and does not use the
psychic processes and consciousness of individuals as a point of
departure (although all the various processes and content of consciousness do appear in the investigations).
However, in what form do we find here consciousness, its phenomena and its relations? It exists and something is assumed about it.
There is the interesting fact that it is an' objective, materialistic method
of analysis of social phenomena that contained the key to understanding consciousness as a special modality. This approach also made
possible distinctions among its various functions, and among basic
conceptions of its nature, its functions and the diversity of its form.
The fact is that Marx had his own way of describing social systems:
in each case, he would construct his investigation in such a way that
from the beginning he had to do with systems actualizing and functioning through consciousness; i.e. such that they contained reflection as
a necessary element (or, again, such that they contained the researcher's
consciousness as an element intrinsic to the act of researching). Systems
of this kind were for him, by definition, social-economic systems;
whence it was possible to consider consciousness as a function or
attribute of social systems of activity, drawing its content and structures
(or forms)from the differentiated systemic links, and not restricted
simply to the reflection of an object in the perception of a subject. The
consequence of this type of analysis of consciousness is that socialobjective forms and social things turn out to be applicable to it as the
extension thereof to the level of human subjectivity. Here is the pivotal



point, that in the investigation of consciousness it be seen as independent of the psychologically conscious expressions of the spiritual life of
the individual, of his various forms of self-assessment and self-understanding, of motivational language, etc.
The consciousness that exists in subjects can in principle be studied
completely objectively, according to its "objectivities", and according to
the meaningful objects that are seen as generated by the self-development and differentiation of the system of social activity as a whole. As
we have seen, it is just here that Marx wants to do his reconstruction.
He wants to find the determinants and formative mechanisms of the
objects of knowledge that are "representatives" (or "replacements") for
something else. He wants to know their objective content and the role
they play in the behavior of the individual. He wants also to find the
social fabric of these mechanisms -- the real interplay between people
(even though the mechanisms of the formation of consciousness are not
directly given).
Thus, while for classical philosophy -- which was a "philosophy of
self-consciousness" -- consciousness had a teleological structure and
was measured uniquely by perception and representation as actualized
in the reflexive knowledge of the individual, Marx was the first to place
consciousness into the domain of scientific determinism, and to reveal
its social transformation and social mechanisms.4
Instead of being monochromatic and "flat", consciousness reveals its
archeological depths; it turns out to be polychromatic, and penetrated
with determinants from simultaneously active levels -- the level of
social mechanisms, of the unconscious, of cultural systems of signs, etc.
What is more, there is the genetic side, with various causes acting at
various times according to various laws. Of course, consciousness of
these depths and diverse parameters could not be found in the selfconscious work of the individual thinking about himself and about the
world; and the products of consciousness could not be traced back to
this individual activity. Consciousness is only one of the metamorphoses
of the extensive and diverse whole -- only the tip of the iceberg. It has
to be studied along with its hidden parts and in dependence on them.
From the structure of the Marxian analysis of consciousness flow
the elements of a whole series of theories: (1) the theoretical model of
the social conditioning of consciousness; (2) the theory of fetishism and



symbolization of the social in consciousness; (3) the theory of ideology

(we note that Marx anticipated here what later became Wissenssoziologie); (4) the theory of science and of free spiritual production as
special forms of the activity of consciousness; (5) the theory of consciousness as instrument of the individual development of man and of
his responsibility in the spheres of culture and of historical activity.
Here we will limit ourselves to some parameters of the course of
Marxian thought that generated the rich branches, heuristic abstractions
and "schemata", which mark the specificity of the Marxian analysis of
Even in the treatment of consciousness that Marx provides when
dealing with the "commodity" model in Capital, we see the above traits
of the generally Marxian method, which can be called the impersonal
(or reductive-objective) analysis of consciousness and culture. Let us
Marx characterizes the commodity as a thing that is "sensible-suprasensible or social"; i.e. it is such that, alongside its natural and sensible
properties, it expresses to sensuous intuition what is not directly given
(what only perception can encompass), because of the social properties
and relations that belong to its natural body.
In the present instance it is value that is expressed in the commodity.
The material forms of the products of human activity always have the
property of being signs of social significance and as such regulate the
conscious activity of individuals as well as their intercourse. But in
consciousness the property of having, e.g., value and, therefore, of being
the sign of social significance, belongs precisely to things, i.e. to their
concrete bodily nature. It conceals from individuals the social character
of their labor in the form of a supra-sensible property (in the understanding of it), anchored in it as in a fetish. This is the fetishism
uncovered by Marx in the products of labor, present "as soon as they
are produced as commodities . . . " (So6. iz.2, t.23, str.82). This is
precisely a form of consciousness -- its symbolizing and connotational
activity -- that Marx reveals and from which follow a whole series of
traits that belong to the "social being-consciousness" pairing and to the
method of analyzing it.
Why does the object occur in consciousness just in this form rather



than in another? Marx' constant answer to this question (not only in

economics but also in his social research and political works) invokes
distantiation from the mechanisms of individual consciousness and
from the correctness or incorrectness of the individual's understanding.
In order to penetrate into the processes going on in consciousness,
Marx performs the following abstraction: in the space between the two
members of the relation "object (physical body, sign of social significances) -- human subjectivity", which are only superficially given, he
inserts a special link, the whole system of contentful (soderiatel'nye)
social links -- the links of exchange of activities among people, formed
into a differentiated and hierarchical structure. Then he studies the
processes and mechanisms that flow from the fact of the polyvalent
intertwining and layering of relations in this system, according to the
levels and stages into which human activity "blooms", increasing in
social force.
The introduction of this mediating link transforms all the relations, in
the framework of which consciousness is studied. The forms acquired
by separate objects (and perceived by subjectivity) are crystallizations
of the system (or subsystem) of the relations, drawing their life from
their interconnections. The movement of the consciousness and perception of the subject occurs in the spaces created by or, if you like,
restricted by these relations. It is across these relations that the study of
consciousness must fray its actual path; i.e. one must find the types of
motives, interests and meanings that are set in motion by a given social
Pushing the analysis of the commodity and of economic forms in
general along this path, Marx radically changes the whole system of the
causality of consciousness. Mechanical causality -- anthropologically
imported by the previous rationalism into the social experience of
consciousness -- simply will not work since it is based on the presupposition that the individual is actually capable in every instance of
knowing his real interests and his real status, and that the objects he
perceives "cause" his subjective images (according to the law of association, understood by the thinking individual). Dropping this presupposition, Marx derives the formation of consciousness not from the
immediate content ~ of separate objects, brought from sensation into
consciousness, but from the relations arising among the objects in the



system, and from their place and differentiation among these relations.
Separate objects now appear as deposits or "sedimentations" of the
system, in which wider links and relations "peek out", as it were. Their
form can be detected via analysis as soon as they arise from the
relations in this structure. Perception thereof in consciousness -- which
we will examine more carefully below -- is marked by the fact that the
relations and bonds are voided of their primitive content. The form
serves to represent (or replace) them in consciousness and individual
thought is not able to grasp this representativity. Whence it is understandable that relative to consciousness one can find only "causation"
induced in the isolated members of the system by the system in general;
it is a matter of "systems causality" and of no other sort. Marx' contention that social consciousness is conditioned by social being and that
the contents of ideological, legal and other superstructural phenomena
and directly influenced by economic relations, etc. have to be seen in
the light of these abstractions and idealizations which underlie the
Marxian schemata of the causal link between social being and social
consciousness. It suffices to cleanse them and to bend this schema in an
anthropological direction to make it senseless (as happens, e.g., among
"economic materialists"). Precisely in conjunction with the revelation of
systemic causality and of the first forms of the structural analysis of
consciousness, appear in Marx the first elements of his materialist
approach -- namely, the extension to the life of consciousness of the
principles of social determinism -- which makes it possible to understand more complex and relatively autonomous forms and branches of
Using the schema of systemic causality Marx actually detects the
effects of the action of the system simultaneously on subject and on
object, and makes an interesting discovery -- relative to these simultaneously seized (or grasped) effects it is senseless to distinguish object
from consciousness or real from perceived. It is difficult not to draw
attention to the fact that Marx always goes to those points, where
relations "involve exactly what they in fact represent" (Sog., t.23, str.83).
This is particularly the case when Marx turns to analyze the "miracles"
and "ghosts" of the commodity world which cannot at all be derived
from the acts of the thinking individual. It is interesting to note the
phenomena Marx treats as consciousness: "commodity form", "value



form", "labor value", "price of capital, "percentage", "value of land".

These are just fully real and objective relations! On the other hand,
relative to the objects which are analyzed as properly economic (e.g.,
the money-form of value), it is difficult to say whether they are objects
or consciousness, and this leads many commentators on Capital astray:
is what is going on objective or subjective for Marx? 5
The simple fact of the matter is that Marx reveals the phenomenological nature of consciousness (its quasi-objective character) and
introduces an abstraction that makes it possible to analyze consciousness objectively as a transformation of objects into quasi-objective
forms, derived from processes occurring in the internal world of the
subject, It is the tremendous contribution of Marx to have first given to
the word "phenomenon" its contemporary significance. Before all
subsequent phenomenologists, he clearly distinguished that to "go
beyond the phenomenon" means to explain the social system of communication that supplies the phenomena to consciousness. 6 The search
for and establishment of the identity of the apparent and the actual (of
consciousness and object) in fact solves other, non-phenomenological
problems: first, the whole world of the self-conscious, reflexive social
experience of consciousness and its ideological formulation are systematically reduced; and, secondly, what remains after the reduction
exposes the objectivity of consciousness, as well as the identities of
special objects to the forms generated by systematic relations, and can,
therefore, on the basis of analysis of the former establish analysis of the
latter as they are given'in the system and generated by it. 7 Whether one
is talking about people's belief in the supernatural properties of objects,
in gods, or in the "yellow algorithms" about the value of labor -- Marx'
great principle is to judge processes in consciousness according to the
specific transformation which real relations undergo, in order to take
on certain objective forms (e.g. the sensible-suprasensible value of the
commodity). As a result, Marx calls for judging of consciousness
through what it posits as distinct from itself, in its taking on the role of
perception, when it simply notes what goes on, etc. He then calls for
seeing consciousness or introducing it as condition of the movement
and functioning of these transformed objects.
Let us go back to the commodity, that "sensible-suprasens!ble
thing". What is the case? The course of the Marxian investigation shows



that between the real relation or thing as they are and how they are
present in consciousness there is a field not covered by individual
perception and completed by the social mechanism which provides the
individual with some sort of perception of reality, either external or
internal. Therefore, to answer the question as to the objective forms
that are not different from consciousness and whence they come, is the
same as answering the question as to which "agent" presents (or
subjects) things to consciousness (the movement occurring outside of
consciousness itself). Marx assumes that reality is perceived in a certain
form -- in the form of constant and irreducible objects of knowledge,
properties, objective meanings, intentions, just as the eye perceives not
the subjective impressions on the retina, but the "objective form of
things that are outside the eye" (Sod. t.23, str.82). The character of
people's activity is re-reflected in their consciousness in the form of a
certain set of significant objects. Precisely this revolution in consciousness sets the stage for the representativity of real structures. In the case
of the commodity, for example, the proper social relationship of people
of common labor (value) is presented by consciousness as occuring
outside the social relations of things, as consciousness of the suprasensible properties of these things (or, in other cases, of the social
relations of gods, relations of physical symbols of need, of symbols of
social "statuses" and "roles", and so on).
We l~now the importance that Marx attributed to the phenomena of
projection and objectivation. We should recall, however, that the
projection he had in mind is not the product of consciousness; but consciousness is the reverse adaptation of the projection and objectivation
that are going on independent of the individual, they are "elaborated" in
the social system (as its objective attachment to the social form of the
exchange of activity, mediated by things), and that are now cited by
individuals who thereby develop in themselves the internal measure of
consciousness. It is here not assumed that consciousness is at all
objectified. Something else is objectified. Marx very definitely "strikes"
the model of consciousness that prevailed during the enlightenment and
traditional rationalism, according to which man establishes external,
objectified products, modelled on one or another of his psychological
properties or states. Marx eliminates such argumentation from the
explanation of the incarnate products of consciousness, and from the



explanation of the translation and projection of the properties of human

activity. He is clear enough about the basic difference between his and
the traditional understanding of the problem of how consciousness and
language that exist "for other people" are primary in relationship to
consciousness "for me" (Sor., t.3, str.29). It is also clear to him that man
is not born as a Fichtean philosopher: "I am I", and that it is only
through the human being Paul "that the human being Peter begins to
relate to himself as a human being" (So6., t.23, str.62).
Very important in this context is what occurs before this transformation and serves as its mainspring, because precisely here is constituted
the structure that is the "discourse of the other" in the megaphone of
consciousness; i.e. its social determinism and mechanism talking
through consciousness. Of course, the activity of people is reflected
within the subject but only after it undergoes a whole series of specific
transformations. We have already noted that the objective form draws
its primary content and life from the complex of real relations and their
differentiation in a definite system of interaction. But, in their counterposition to consciousness, it is given as already present and formed
(limited and further undifferentiatable). As figures of consciousness and
as conscious content, the objective form is called forth by the fact that
real relations are objectively omitted and substituted by certain transformations (prior to and independent of consciousness). Here is what
happens: the knitting of the isolated objective form with human activity
which as such is finite and not further reducible; the confusion of the
social meanings with physical properties of the body leads to a naturalization of meaningful signs (fetishism and symbolization of the social);
the inversion where the movement from production relations in the
exchange of activity for the thing meant turns around in such a way that
the meant thing becomes a generator of activity and the form of
communication, which ha practice is exactly the case; 8 the condensation,
where consciousness' ultimate object is endowed with undifferentiated
unity and with all links of all relations of the whole, with all its actually
different definitions (whither comes the one and the other, causing what
psychology knows as the ambivalence of many forms of knowledge,
All this is easy to follow in Marx' analysis of the commodity. Only at
the outcome do we have the bond "reality-consciousness", where some



conceptual forms represent reality, putting aside the actual structure of

their relations. They also are consciousness as actualized by individuals
in their social activity. Marx defines such forms as "socially meaningful
and, therefore, objective conceptual forms for productive relations of a
given historically defined social mode of production . . . " (Sod., t.23,
str.86). They are generated by these relations as means and as forms of
specific realization and movement in the activity of masses of individuals. Here occurs the analysis of a special abstraction: "social consciousness". The linkage of this consciousness with being is a systemic,
or representational, causal bond. 9 Because it is only through structured
links, formed in the transformations mentioned above, that reality
defines consciousness, it is presented in consciousness in one form or
another as content, sense, and meaning, and hides at the same time
both itself and the transformatory mechanism. This something eliminated by the transformations cannot be the cause (in the mechanistic
sense of action or givenness), but it is exactly this something that
defines the figures of consciousness. The definition is of a stage on
which this something defines the figures of consciousness by proxy,
through well-trained puppets which recite the condensed text. On the
stage is "independent" reality, seen and heard -- but these are just
theatrical effects, because the puppeteer is behind the screen.
In the same sense in which Marx spoke about "characteristic economic masks" (ibid. str.95), he explained "masks of consciousness",
represented by figures and actualized by them in their activity. The text
is written by society but it is encoded in the individuals. The products
of the transformation, the new relations (even those among products,
relations of consciousness, i.e. "stage relations" and not real relations)
are also a language that expresses the social in consciousness, i.e. the
actual social reality. This is what has to be deciphered. Marx actually
regards the formation of consciousness as a social phenomenon that is
impressed on subjects, i.e. "inscribed" into the individuals. This is how
he understood the social conditioning of consciousness, and not otherwise. Consciousness codes and in its own material realizes "re-presentation" of its object which itself is generated by operation of the social
mechanism. Analysis of this "re-presentation" requires no reference to
the psychic nature of the subject or to previous associations of the
subject, or to his habits, inclinations, or the thousands of details



whereby consciousness passes and is transformed. None of this is able

to explain what is going on in the transformation of relations. Before a
man became conscious of, e.g., value as a suprasensible property of a
physical body, of the product of labor, those transformations -knitting, mixing, inversion, reduction, etc., which constitute the transformatory play of the social mechanism putting in the place of reality
the quasi-objective forms -- already took place. Because all of this
happens a man knowns value as such a property.
If, as Marx shows, we find in the individual "objective conceptual
forms", expressed and described in social consciousness (ideas, objective meanings, symbols, etc.), then these are the very same forms in
which the subject fixes and experiences his social life, being oblivious to
their real path and genesis. These forms, with which a man records that
which impells and moves him, do not go further than the objectively
apparent motives and sense of his conscious motivations and spiritual
acts (similar things happen when consciousness records its psychic
All that the individual thinks, expresses, wishes and-experiences -the whole psychological (and, in other systems, animistic, mythological,
cosmological, etc) language of motivations, formulating his social needs
and desires, remains at the level of this abstraction only to the extent
and in the form allowed by the processes and mechanisms of the system
of social activity. Its forms are regarded as crystallizations of products
of the play of the latter. Linkages and dependencies acting in the
structure and really "speaking", have to be understood before the forms
can be understood. In short, the more obvious and closer the structure,
the harder it is to detect it, and this is one more reason for the
fruitlessness of various "direct forms of knowledge" found in the idealist
philosophy of culture.
However, the forms in which something is present to consciousness,
and which are experienced and recorded by it in terms of motives,
meaning, conceptual interest, etc. -- although they are not forms of
reality or of the mechanism, the conceptual reduction of which is
imprinted in consciousness -- could not be called merely unclear,
arbitrary or subjective. These are riot mysterious delusions, occuring on
the path toward truth, shrouded in mystery and therefore opposed to
science, but they lie along the same vector (as if the development of



knowledge is a "clearing up of meaning", and as if truth is the

teleological sense and driving force behind this unclear movement of
thought). This counterposition of forms and science proves to be
impossible since in total independence from it certain forms play a fully
defined genetic and functional role, and are constantly reproduced by
the social relations themselves. As such, they possess a certain stability,
structured-ness, and exist as irreducible to any knowledge and as
unavoidable. Marx said, e.g., that the discovery of the real nature of the
products as of commodities "never dissipates the physical appearance
of the social character of labor" (Soc., t.23, str.84), that "for people
involved in the relations of commodity production, the peculiarities of
the latter -- before as well as after the discovery in question -- seem to
have universal significance, just as the properties of air -- its physical
form -- continue to exist even after science has broken it down into its
component elements" (ibid, str.84, my italics, M.M.).
In epistemological terms this means that no "pure consciousness",
such as proposed by classical philosophy, can really be established, that
a whole series of objective cognitive forms cannot be perceived as a
consciously controlled constitution of the object by man. Suggesting
certain "excentricities" of consciousness and analyzing it in a roundabout way, through objective activity (so that consciousness becomes
visible in its aspects and as one of its metamorphoses), Marx broke with
the teleological matrix which was commonly used in his time and had a
certain usefulness for the analysis of cognitive phenomena (mainly
those of science). Certain cognitive forms turn out to be invariant
relative to any other (say, the more developed) forms of knowledge and
could not be superceded by the latter. Marx clearly formulated the
principle of the irreducibility of being (including the being of knowledge) to knowledge. In this sense, knowledge was, if we can speak this
way, "existentialized" in Marxism long before the appearance of any
forms of existentialism or phenomenology. The peculiarity in the
understanding of consciousness is very important to Marxism. Both
Marx and Lenin, in opposition to the enlightenment prejudices in the
propaganda and ideological work of the Party, constantly called attention to the fact that socially caused ideas, representations and illusions,
must be subjected not only to theoretical critique (i.e., replaced with
knowledge) but also to practical experience in changing reality, to the



experience of the classes and social movements, and to changes of the

relations and structures of social systems.
However, this is only one of the practical extensions of a more
general Marxian procedure. Marx attends not to perceptive consciousness which develops in the framework of abstraction by the epistemological subject (according to the teleology of self-consciousness, etc.),
but to consciousness involved in social structures, the really active link
of their development and functioning, and therefore seen according
their role and place within them. Marx parts company at this point with
the traditional "object-subject" relationship, showing that the relationship of social ideas and relations to social being is not a relation of the
thought of the subject to the object he is investigating and that,
consequently, the counterposition of "material" and "spiritual" at that
level offers little to the understanding of the development and change of
cultures and of systems of human spiritual-practical mastery of the
world around them. It is in the works of Marx that for the first time
consciousness and cultural forms enter new, non-classical co-ordinates
of analysis.
In Marx, in whom science found the way of searching out and
discovering the social determinants of consciousness and culture, these
new schemata of analysis provide very interesting access to much more
complex forms, e.g. the rationalizations of indirectly fetishized forms of
consciousness which, during ideological confrontation, penetrate ideology, science, philosophy and culture in general -- even taking on
independent form and supporting the interests of the exploiters.
Of all of the forms of consciousness, Marx paid most attention to the
transformations that seemed logically consistent but proved to be
totally other. He principally showed that man as a reflective and
intentionally oriented being is not master of his own ideological house.
This is not in the sense that an individual is constrained by the
pre-given content of his thought, but in the sense that relative to the
very mechanisms of this thought, an active and independent agent is a
person who manages to avoid idealizing his situation, motives and
The decisive dependency of such conceptual processes (as separated
from real life and existing alongside it), as Marx identifies it, is its




dependence on immediate consciousness that is spontaneously accumulating in social structures. He has various names for it: consciousness
"intertwined in the immediate language of real life"; "spiritual-practical
mastery of reality"; "conceptual forms of practical approaches"; "ordinary consciousness". But the linkage of externally autonomous rationalizations of the life of ideas with this type of consciousness always
occurs in the same way -- it is analyzed by Marx along the lines of the
linkage of what is said and what is not said (expressed) as a special
form of causalilty. He characterizes transformed consciousness by
introducing what can be called the "indirect pragmatic objects of
On the whole, the structure of this consciousness corresponds to the
structure of the distorted forms, which as special forms of linkage were
revealed and elaborated by Marx, and which contain in general the
structure of a whole series of indirect, symbolic-illusory expressions,
found in the most diverse realms of the life of human consciousness
and activity. But, this is not the place to analyze the structure of this
form; we will assume that it is known (it occurs frequently in Capital).
Let us now look at some indirect objects.
What is an "indirect pragmatic object of thought"? It is a simple
object which indirectly or "textually" supposes an idea but which in fact
indirectly asserts another object, another objectivity of consciousness,
which is not directly expressed as an analytic object of thought. The
first replaces the second and moves according to its own logic. For
example, when Hegel speaks of the "reign of reason in history", this can
be seen as indirect affirmation of another basic Hegelian thought, the
rupture of the links of spirit and reality, as well as the idea that
perception independent of consciousness is inimical to consciousness
and evades its rational control. Marx sees these second types of
conceptual objectivations as flowing from social structures and reality
itself. They are born there in the form of "direct language of consciousness" and indirectly express them at this level, without going beyond the
sense they contain. Whence, a rationalization is a consciousness which
reflects a definite objective, socially necessary appearance but, at the
same time, views itself as something independent and unconditioned
relative to reality.
This link with reali~ can be the object of special scientific analysis,



as happens in the Marxian critique of "German ideology", but it does

not appear in rationalized consciousness itself. What is more, rationalized consciousness bars man from a clear consciousness of his real
status and diminishes his ability to see the content that is present but
not recognized. Whence, in the analysis of distorted forms that have lost
the signs of their origins, Marx starts from what seems self-sufficient
and independent, and arrives at reconstructed consciousness, these
reconstructions being undertaken with the help of objectivities of
consciousness, which are generated by the mechanisms of social relations in the system.
Marx, who sees consciousness as a real element of existing social
systems, does not take the path of the teleologizing of consciousness,
and refuses to see it as a purification of "real meaning", supplied by
praxis and existing in the depths of the individual. What is present but
not recognized, for Marx, is not "truth" or the "form of reality", but a
correlate of the objective appearance, hidden in consciousness' autonomy. As Marx constantly indicates, the basic dependency and "growth
point" of rationalized indirect forms in the culture consists in the fact
that distorted consciousness which is spontaneously generated by social
structures, is aposteriori and intentionally developed by ideologists of
the ruling class. Distorted consciousness is the conceptual material and
spiritual horizon of a separate ideological estate that is official and
dominates a society as the class ideology. It is in this sense that Marx
speaks about the "ideological cadres of the ruling class", distinguishing
them from the "free spiritual producers" (K. Marx, Teorii pribavo(noj
stoimosti (Theories of Surplus Value) Q.I, M. 1954, str.261). The
course of the Marxian analysis assumes that the production of indirect
forms of fetishist-pragmatic consciousness is the rationalization of
ready-made spiritual products of social relations (i.e., products that are
outside of, prior to, and independent of the action of rational scientific
thought) through external means of "knowledge". It uses rational
procedures as means of recognition and acquisition of these products
by individuals who are integrated in this way into the social system.
But, if these means are "rational" in bourgeois society (i.e. adequate
to the judgemental capabilities of atomized individuals), in other eras
they might be those of animist, mythological, religious, etc. character.
The basic relationship remains the same. As Marx de facto shows, this




is the relationship between the primary and secondary forms of consciousness. He generally considers the appearance of such indirect
forms of ideology a secondary phenomenon, concealing in its systematizations the primary objectivities of consciousness, combining them in
a certain form and turning them into seemingly autonomous and
independent entities (this schema can be used to view, e.g., the relationship between objective appearance, on the one hand, and the systems of
mythology, religion, etc., on the other). Marx' analysis has before it,
therefore, the task of (1) establishing the primary forms of consciousness according to their objects and not according to the relationships
where they appear in ideological systematizations (representing a
reduction of the latter), and (2) understanding the internal course of the
rationalizing judgements, evolving it from the clear dependence of
logical thought on the properties of objective appearance and of the
quasi-objects which are formed in the structures of the mechanisms of
social systems.
It thus appears that the rationalization that penetrates ideology is derived from just a single principle. This principle systematically explains
and makes theoretically possible and intelligible for man that which already exists as intentional object of consciousness, what this object "dissimulates", and what is already affirmed by it (but it remains unknown
just as the causes and origins of taboos in primitive societies remain unknown). The introduction into ideology of such a systematization makes
logically available and intelligible that which exists, but exists unknown
as to why and whence. This is its task and "apologetic" role, to which it
is limited. Thus, for example, such a "yellow algorithm" as the "value of
labor" which is an element of everyday life became in practice fundamental to bourgeois, vulgar political economy. It became the link for a
theoretical derivation out of some systematic principles (just as, let us
say, a baseless taboo can acquire a base in a given mythological system).
But, in fact, the content of the quasi-object is a form of movement in
the system, but it is not an active, autonomous thought.
Marx very clearly says in this regard:
It is clear what importance accrues to the conversion of value and the price of labor
power into the form of wage labor, i.e. the value and price of work itself. In this form of
appearance, hiding the true relation and establishing an apparently directly opposite
relation, reside all of the legal representations both of the worker and of the capitalist,



all the mystificationsof the capitalist mode of production, all the illusions of freedom it
generates, and all the apologetic evasions of vulgar political economy. (Sog. t.23,
We will add only that when Marx shows, for example, that the thought
of the classics of bourgeois political economy, occupied in analysis of
its internal links, nevertheless adopts its own concepts like "labor price"
(cf. also str.547--549), what he explains and describes are not the laws
of knowledge but the mechanism of consciousness that depends on the
correlation of its primary and secondary forms. The first encircles and
circumscribes the second; they include and outline the whole range of
secondary forms (mythology, religion, pragmatic rationalizations) which
form the field of their possibilities, combined anew on a new level -that of the secondary (mythological, "rational", etc.) elaboration of the
content of consciousness. This constitutes the dependence of the
secondary on the primary forms. But the secondary forms of consciousness can distort and mask the primary. In any case, the former
hide the latter. On this plane, Marx' objective-reductive analysis of
consciousness -- i.e. analysis of it as effect of the play of relations in
real social systems -- is a way of detecting primary objectivities and of
the "meanings" of consciousness, as well as the classification of all
secondary forms. These latter, in subsequent systematizations and
clarifications, are merely developing what is already inherent in the
properties of these special objects of consciousness.
This schema of Marx also serves to expose the apologetic stance that
bourgeois political economy takes relative to the bases of capitalist
production; i.e., that vulgar form of ideological consciousness which has
penetrated and become constant in economics. Marx does not at all
reduce this position to the expression of naked self-interest of evil
persons who construct festishized forms of consciousness. He does,
however, picture them as "ideologists" who are mediating social relations that are typical of mass society, r
Marx' approach leads to another important and interesting problem
that of the role of consciousness in the personal (and not socially
mediated) development of individuals, social groups, etc. This theme
beeomes very important when it is a matter of the violation of the
normal functioning of social-economic systems, or of a social-historical




s i t u a t i o n , w h e r e it is c l e a r l y felt t h a t c h a n g e is n e e d e d . H e r e , t o o , t h e
w o r k o f M a r x o f f e r s g r e a t h e l p to t h e r e s e a r c h e r .

"While Marx did not do a 'Logic' (in capitals), he did do the logic of Capital ..."
(V. I. Lenin, So6. t.29, str.301)
2 It is interesting and important to note that Marx simultaneously constructs both a
theory of the objective (economic) process and a theory of its reflection in the heads of
its direct agents. He studies and criticizes not so much the individual errors and
mistakes of consciousness (although he certainly does do that), but exposes the
objective-conceptual expressions of the real process. He derives and defines the
conditions of the necessary appearance of the "distorted forms" (verwandelte Formen).
3 Unfortunately, the philosophic public is acquainted with them mostly in this false
4 For our subsequent exposition, it is necessary to clarify what we mean by the
"philosophy of self-consciousness" that was typical of the classics. Beginning with
Descartes, it was assumed that philosophy defines the conditions of thought, revealing
how the content of consciousness (whether it has to do with thought, conduct, interests,
or feelings) can be reproduced and fixed so that, controlled by consciousness, it can be
used as a teleological reconstruction of the object, beginning with some naturally
existing coincidence of thought and object. It thus begins with some sort of "true state
of affairs", already existing prior to the reconstruction in the spontaneous process of
consciousness (e.g., the Cartesian cogito, the "I am I" of classical German philosophy,
etc.). Whether it is question of what really exists or of what affects the investigation
thereof, the whole process appears as teleologically organized and occurring within the
confines of "pure consciousness" (i.e., non-empirical consciousness, cleansed and
exfoliated self-consciousness). For the classics, any form of consciousness is a comparison of this trend toward coincidence with reality with consciousness and, therefore,
is viewed in analogy with it, as an approximation to it, etc.
5 We find among Soviet philosophic writings a striking example of an objective Marxist
analysis of the subjective forms through a study of purely objective appearances of the
economic system. We have in mind E. V. II'enkov's analysis of the nature of the ideal
(el. 'Ideal' in the Filosofskafa enciklopedifa, t.II)
6 Here "to go beyond the phenomenon" does not mean to grasp, in the epistemological
sense, an external measure lying beyond the phenomenon, and as independent of the
social activity that generates the phenomenon. On the contrary, the point is to explain
the mechanism that generates in it phenomena as essential "forms of reality or, more
exactly, f o r m s . . , of actual existence" (K. Marks, Teoriyapribavo6noj stoimosti, 6.1II, M.
1961, str.460).
7 Consequently, the contents of consciousness are simultaneously given in another
place, in another form than in the consciousness of the psychological, cognitive, relating
unity of the 'T' -- the conscious phenomena of the individual; namely, in the social
system of action. The possibility of measuring consciousness at the same time as one
measures something other than consciousness is the essential demand of the Marxian



8 Marxian analysis constantly deals with such practical appearances. For example, in
examining the definitions of capital when correlated with other capital, Marx shows
that the theoretical view holding that profit follows equally from all forms of capital
expresses a practical fact; to depart from it, one would have to take capital as a whole
-- a mystery for the capitalist. In this sense coming to consciousness (osoznanie) is the
emergence of objective appearances (it is interesting that from the viewpoint of the
practical fact consciousness as actual internal bond is a mystery).
9 Cause and effect are heterogeneous here; one is not contained in the other as content
in form.
10 Here we find a relation that is analogous to that which Marx notes in the real economic acts of individuals. We should recall Marx' words in the preface to Capitalwhich
were designed to avoid any confusion: "The persons of capitalists and landowners are
not, in my book, depicted in rose-tinted colours; but if I speak of individuals, it is only
in so far as they are personifications of economic categories, representatives of special
class relations and class interests. Inasmuch as I conceive the development of the
economic structure of society to be a natural process, I should be the last to hold the
individual responsible for conditions whose creature he himself is, socially considered,
however much he may raise himself above them subjectively." (So(. T.23, str.550)

Institute of Philosophy,
Tbilisi, Georgia,

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