When, during the eighteenth century, the ‘rising class’, the bourgeoisie, developed a humanist ideology of equality, freedom, and reason, it gave its own demands the form of universality, since it hoped thereby to enroll at its side, by their education to this end, the very men it would liberate only for their exploitation. This is the Rousseauan myth of the origins of inequality: the rich holding forth to the poor in ‘the most deliberate discourse’ ever conceived, so as to persuade them to live their slavery as their freedom. In reality, the bourgeoisie has to believe in its own myth before it can convince others, and not only so as to convince others, since what it lives in its ideology is the very relation between it and its real conditions of existence which allows it simultaneously to act on itself (provide itself with a legal and ethical consciousness, and the legal and ethical conditions of economic liberalism) and on others (those it exploits and is going to exploit in the future: the ‘free labourers’) so as to take up, occupy, and maintain its historical role as a ruling class. Thus, in a very exact sense, the bourgeoisie lives in the ideology of freedom the relation between it and its conditions of existence: that is, its real relation (the law of a liberal capitalist economy) but invested in an imaginary relation (all men are free, including the free labourers). Its ideology consists of this play on the word freedom, which betrays the bourgeois wish to mystify those (‘free men’!) it exploits, blackmailing them with freedom so as to keep them in harness, as much as the bourgeoisie’s need to live its own class rule as the freedom of those it is exploiting. Just as a people that exploits another cannot be free, so a class that uses an ideology is its captive too. So when we speak of the class function of an ideology it must be understood that the ruling ideology is indeed the ideology of the ruling class and that the former serves the latter not only in its rule over the exploited class, but in its own constitution of itself as the ruling class, by making it accept the lived relation between itself and the world as real and justified.