Freudian and Marxist Consciousness Differences

Words: 664
Topic: Sociology


Freudian and Marxist philosophies are the defining attributes of the social and ideological life of Europe in the XXth century. However, in spite of the fact that both branches were developed during one period, they are based on totally different conceptions, which is obvious from the comparative analysis of the philosophies.

Different approaches

The main thing that is different between the two philosophies is the field of their studies. Freud and his followers focused on introspection and the analysis of the deep processes of human consciousness that are far from its surface. At the same time, Marx, who also studied human consciousness, had a more general approach to it.

For Marxism, the main term is not “individual,” but “society,” which defines a direction for this philosophy. Deriving from the different approaches that were mentioned, the Freudian and the Marxist philosophies have different visions of consciousness itself. For instance, Freud studied consciousness as a complex structure with several levels: consciousness, preconsciousness, and unconsciousness (Berg, 4).

The first level is a location where all the mental processes of a person occur. The second level is the one where the hidden or restrained feelings, emotions, wishes, fears, etc. are being stored. And the last level is the one that cannot be controlled by the human and is affected by several factors.

Freudism defends the idea that the stem of one’s life is their unconsciousness, which determines the person’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and all the other spheres of life. On the other hand, Marx and his followers believed that the process went in a different order: the social, economical, and political life of individual shapes his or her consciousness (Soeteman, 66).

Thus, an individual is not the one to choose an ideology, way of perceiving life and other conscious processes: it is the society that influences one’s beliefs and behavior.

Studying dreams

The same approach was used by Marxists in the study of dreaming. To be specific, they treated dreams not as an individual phenomenon with specific characteristics for every person, but as an indication of the whole of humanity’s consciousness (Domhoff, 112). In other words, what a person sees in his or her dreams is predetermined by the experiences of the global community.

The most influential, according to philosophy, is the consciousness of the nation. In contrast, the Freudian perception of dreams is based on one’s personal experience. Also, Freud and other representatives of the philosophy used the terms like “condensation,” “displacement,” “symbolization” as the determiners of the dreams’ content (Norton, 16).

All the processes were usually connected to the sexual sphere (Berger, 85). Another feature that makes the Freudian and the Marxist philosophies unlike each other is that Freud used to relate most of the subconscious processes of a person to his or her sexual experience, fantasies, and feelings. Sex played a leading role in forming one’s motives for life for Freudians.

Unlike this position, Marxists saw the economical and political conditions of society’s development as the primary factors that determine the way people live. Deriving from this, the two philosophies had different views on human history development.

For instance, for Freud, the history was moved by the wishes and ambitions that some individuals did not manage to satisfy and therefore realized in other spheres (so-called “displacement”) (Norton, 113). To compare, Marxism is tightly connected with the term “historical materialism,” invented by Karl Marx, and which expresses the view that the historical process is moved by people, who can define the mechanisms of progress and destruction.

Therefore, according to Marxism, people can plan the course of history and use all their powers, such as science and technological progress to reach the higher and higher levels of development (Lorimer, 89).


To conclude, it has to be said that the Freudian and the Marxist consciousnesses differ in several aspects, such as their fields of research, attitudes towards consciousness and its structure, and the aims of their philosophies. Both conceptions influenced the history of human philosophy considerably.

Works Cited

Berg Henk. Freud’s Theory and Its Use in Literary and Cultural Studies: An Introduction. From: <,+preconsciousness,+and+unconsciousness&hl=uk&ei=46bQTuuvB4rG-QaroIzXDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=freud%20consciousness%2C%20preconsciousness%2C%20and%20unconsciousness&f=false >

Berger Arthur Asa. Cultural Criticism. In: Foundations of Popular Culture, Vol. 4. London: SAGE Publications, 1995.

Domhoff, William. The Mystique of Dreams: A Search for Utopia Through Senoi Dream Theory. From: <>

Lorimer Dough. Fundamentals of historical materialism: the Maxist view of history and politics. From: <>

Norton: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch et al. New York, London: Norton, 2001.

Soeteman, Arend. Pluralism and law: proceedings of the 20th IVR World Congress, Amsterdam, 2001. From: < >