The political unconscious is a term coined by Neo-Marxist American thinker Fredric Jameson which holds that the cultural text is tied to an ideological-political "unconscious" which underlies it. This political hidden background expresses a class conflict which is expressed in the text in a complex manner. The function of the cultural text, according to Jameson, is to aesthetically reconcile to conflict which cannot be bridged in the material-historical level. A thorough analysis of a text can uncover its political unconscious and discover "symptoms" of the historical condition. The analysis Jameson offers for uncovering the political unconscious combines Marxist, semiotic and psychoanalytic analysis.
In his 1981 "The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act" Jameson suggests reading the text as an allegory, an ideological signifying method which functions in the gap between signifier and signified. Tracing back the function of the allegory an lay bare the hidden social content which function at the basis of the text like the Freudian unconscious functions at the base of the individual. Jameson is after the collective-unconscious and he therefore adds in semiotics and Marxism to his analysis of the political unconscious.
The way the texts manifest the political unconscious for Jameson is similar to some extent to the "Aestheticizing" function of art described by Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". The text or art product try to symbolically resolve tensions and conflicts and thus contain them.