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Författare: Ludwig Geiger.
As a psychological term, „character“ is traditionally used more in continental Europe, while in Britain and North America the term „personality“ is used in approximately the same contexts. A sophisticated academic language for talking about the sociology of roles did not exist in the mid-19th century. Marx therefore borrowed from theatre and literature to express his idea. The nearest equivalent term in modern English for Marx’s „character masks“ is social masks. Marx’s character masks are a specific kind of social masks, i. The category of „social masks“ is much more general and inclusive.
With Marx’s character masks, it is understood that they are bound up with a specific type of society at a specific historical time, and with a specific theory of how the social relations in that society function. There is a link between character masks and the concept of deliberate misrepresentation and hypocrisy. People can also mask their behavior, or mask a situation, without being aware that they are doing so. What distinguishes false-consciousness from error or falsehood, and what motivates a particular kind of critique, of denunciation, is the possibility of signifying another thing than one believes was signified, that is, the possibility of the masked consciousness. Friedrich Engels does not necessarily refer to „errors“ in the content of awareness.
It refers rather to an absence of awareness of what is really behind the ideas being worked with, how they have originated, or what the real role or effect of the ideas is. Buyers and sellers compete with other buyers and sellers. Businesses cannot practically do so without confidentiality and secrecy. Workers compete for job opportunities and access to resources. The effect in this case is, that the theory of „how the economy works“ masks how it actually works, by conflating its surface appearance with its real nature. Its generalities seem to explain it, but in reality they do not.
The bourgeoisiehas pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his „natural superiors“, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous „cash payment“. This „naked self-interest“ seems to contradict the idea of „masking“ in bourgeois society. Supposedly market trade creates transparency and an „open society“ of free citizens. In reality, Marx and Engels claim, it does not. Even in „naked commerce“, the possible methods of „masking“ what one is, what one represents or what one does, are extremely diverse.