The History Of All Hitherto Society Is The History Of Class Consciousness

1201 words - 5 pages

Because capitalism is the foundation upon which the rest of society sits, looking at any sociological data with a capitalist/Marxist lens is difficult. Because capitalism is at the root of modern society, all social things have small traces of capitalism. Though, Karl Marx may have said: “the history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggles,” the history of all hitherto society is the history of class consciousness (1848). Class consciousness, class, class struggle, and capitalism are all showcased in the film “They Live.”
The film and the rest of society show that there are classes within a class system. Though, classes have changed over the years, there is conservation in the system: haves and have nots, workers and non-workers (Marx 1844). They Live shows the different classes, through employment, appearance, consumption, and dialogue. This film, though regarded as an underappreciated masterpiece, presents an opportunity for the average movie-goer (I say average regarding the catch-phrases and fight scenes, commonplace in many mainstream movies) to critically analyze the capitalistic system at play. This film introduces the audience to Marxist theory in the same gradual way a formal class would. There exist different classes (squatters, construction workers, television executives, and the city elite) and that each class has different struggles. The struggles of the working class are not the struggles of the non-working class. The non-working class does not worry about “hot food” and “showers.” Once one understands that classes exist, class consciousness is able to occur. As shown in the film, class consciousness is the “rate determining step” of social change and revolution. The five minute 24 second fight sequence shows this, putting on the glasses to liberate one’s mind from propaganda shows this, the entire film is about class consciousness. The process to liberate peoples’ minds is painful and slow going. Perhaps one will become aware of the system working against them and their place within that system; Nada tries to beat sense into Frank.
When one is cognizant of their place and role in society and not merely falsely conscious, then the struggle begins. Yet before reaching enlightenment, each individual complicitly participates in and supports capitalism. Noxious ideas of “meritocracy,” and “if I work hard, I am rewarded,” are commonplace and allow capitalist economy to carry on without criticism or analysis. Those narratives place all blame on the individual and not the environment that gives rise to such circumstances. When individuals fail in the capitalist system without having reached enlightenment, society blames the individual and the individual blames themself: they should have worked harder, you earn what you have, and thus capitalism remains untouched and undamaged when individuals fail. The plot of They Live is centered around cognizance of one’s status and role in a system that encourages and...

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