Social consciousness is consciousness shared within a society. It can also be defined as social awareness; to be aware of the problems that different societies and communities face on a day-to-day basis; to be conscious of the difficulties and hardships of society.
Many studies have been done to examine the roots of social consciousness. It is believed to arise as a response to social injustice experienced by the individual or in the lives of others around the individual. There are three levels of social consciousness: acquired, awakened, and expanded.
A subject with an acquired social consciousness derives his or her viewpoint from the mainstream culture. This individual avoids identifying himself or herself with a marginalized culture. This individual generally is either not aware of or does not acknowledge the way differences among people affect the treatment they receive within a society. This individual is not fully active in society. The person with an acquired social consciousness does not question mainstream viewpoints, and acts accordingly, without confrontation.
A subject with an awakened social consciousness explores alternatives to the dominant cultural viewpoint. This person might identify with a marginalized group, but the mainstream culture is central to his or her questioning or exploration. The subject recognizes and challenges social injustice. The person actively resists power and authority. The focus of discontent and action is often over the right to be visible, to have choice, or to be self-determining.
A subject with an expanded social consciousness strongly identifies with their marginalized group. This person views status as a continuously changing social construct, thus viewing responses as a lifelong process. This individual has an understanding of the complexity of the social hierarchy, and acts carefully after weighing both sides.
Social consciousness brings moral implications. Often, people with an awakened social consciousness become socially active. A socially conscious person tends to be empathetic towards others regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity.