The assumption of intelligence sensitivity open-mindedness sophistication and enlightenment guarantees that campaigns focused on raising awareness give their participants access to a significant cultural resource. Anyone who uses these resources has every reason to emphasize the behavioral and cultural differences between themselves and the rest of society. Because of this those who raise awareness are preoccupied with creating lifestyles that stand in stark contrast to those whom they perceive as inferior.
Public health activists parenting experts sex educators therapists trainers and identity politics educators are just a few of the awareness-raisers who believe they are in a position of moral authority. They even have distinctive or knowledgeable perspectives on the techniques of life’s art. Elites mobilize awareness as a resource to support the justification of their superior status in its politicized form.
They are permitted by their status to think they are acting in the unaware’s best interests. They constantly emphasize how unaware people frequently miss out on what is best for them because they do not understand their true interests. They frequently make the assumption that their target audience holds outmoded traditional beliefs and prejudices that pose a threat to the uninformed and the larger community.
Even though spreading awareness frequently appears to be a charitable effort to educate people it also acts as a vehicle for political dominance. Increasing awareness was a more or less overt ideological project in the 19th century. Its goal was to combat what was referred to as false consciousness and more specifically working-class false consciousness. Marxists socialists and progressives all held that dispelling people’s false perceptions required overcoming their illusions and mystifications. Marx and Engels stated the following in their German Ideology (1846):
“Hitherto men have constantly made up for themselves false conceptions about themselves about what they are and what they ought to be…Let us liberate them from the chimeras the ideas the dogmas imaginary beings under the yoke of which they are pining away.”
The goal of the emerging field of psychology was to make people aware of their misconceptions and illusions. In his book Ideology and Utopia(1936) sociologist Karl Mannheim discussed how the discovery of the unconscious is used as a weapon to indicate a superior. He wrote that “at first those parties which possessed the new “intellectual weapons” the unmasking of the unconscious had a terrific advantage over their adversaries.” It provided the unmasker with a “weapon of marvellous superiority”. The Aware who rely on the ideology of scientism to justify their activity have grabbed hold of this weapon of marvellous superiority with both hands.
Understanding the ideological role of awareness raising requires understanding Mannheim’s insight into how psychology is used to give those uncovering the unconscious a sense of superiority. Some have used the term “treatment ideology” to describe this pattern. Schneid explains:
“treatment ideology as the complex set of beliefs health care providers hold about mental health illness and treatment.”
Others refer to what they characterise as the ‘medical model’ as the ‘ideology of the Therapeutic State’.
The ideological shift is inextricably linked to the 20th century’s four major political ideologies — liberalism conservatism socialism and communism — becoming exhausted. Major portions of the legitimacy of the dominant narratives that were used to explain political and socioeconomic developments were lost. More and more issues that were once seen as primarily social were presented as cultural and psychological issues. In its psychological form Scientism easily converged with the cultural ambition of identity politics making it possible for Awareness Raisers’ activities to challenge both cultural practices and personal beliefs.
The relative ease with which so many facets of contemporary life were medicalized underlines the power of this school of thought.