I am a Gaius Bolin Fellow in Philosophy for 2022-2024 at Williams College. Before that, I completed my PhD in philosophy at Columbia. Before that I did a BPhil in Philosophy at Oxford, and before that I did a BA at Princeton.
Why do we defend the social conditions responsible for our injustice and exploitation? We are confused when disadvantaged women of color cite personal shortcomings rather than the social system as the source of their precarity. Yet, when social philosophers take up these questions by appealing to the concept of ideology, they turn to structural accounts and dismiss theories of false consciousness outright. Accounts of false consciousness, often understood as an epistemic failing to recognize some features of our inadequate social world, meet with a host of objections. Some argue that ascriptions of false consciousness involve authoritarianism, while others criticize the concept for commitments to an implausible correspondence picture of truth. Meanwhile, dismissal of false consciousness accounts of ideology have led to the neglect of an important feature of how ideology works: in and through our own subjecthood and in our collective consent. Without an account of false consciousness, critics fail to account for the fact that social structures are the result of our collective acceptance. They also fail to address how social structures are not analyzable without turning to the self-understandings of the participants in these very institutions.
My research addresses issues in ideology critique that account for our agency. By preserving what is still alive in a theory of false consciousness while addressing the long-standing concerns about authoritarianism and correspondence, this project reconstructs the notion of false consciousness. My work closely engages with figures in critical social theory such as Marx, Lukacs, Habermas, Haslanger, Honneth, and Jaeggi, while widening the terms of the debate to consider the relevance, for instance, of Africana philosophers like WEB Du Bois and Saidiya Hartman as well as object relations psychoanalysis for social philosophers. The contribution of this disssertation is two-fold: in showing that false consciousness is a damaged way of relating to ourselves, to each other, and to the social world that is characterized by affective investment. And secondly, in suggesting that standard understandings of ideology and false consciousness do not adequately account for racially specific forms of distortion. In my work, I clarify both the phenomenology of false consciousness and what a viable form of critique could look like.