In Marx’s social theory, the character mask personifies the economic, social, cultural, political or official function which a person or group (or a thing) performs in a particular role, usually in a way which obscures the real relationships involved. When commercial relationships invade every sphere of life in bourgeois society, he argues, people are necessarily forced to act in ways other than they really are. They may not physically bear any masks or veils, but nevertheless they constantly “act out” roles. If they were unwilling to do so with the appropriate attitude, transactions or functional obligations would fail, and they would not succeed.
Specifically, they must adapt their own behavioural expressions to the behaviour and relationships of things traded in markets, and to abstract legal rules. Keeping personal motivations out of the business or official situation indeed becomes regarded as “normal”, “cultured”, “businesslike” and “civilized”. Indeed, people are admired when they can “naturally” fulfill a role. In that case, it appears that they have made life-choices which placed them in a role in which they can fully express who they are. Incongruence between authentic behaviour and an “act” may then become difficult to detect.