Literary Criticism II
6 Mar. 2000
Louis Althusser "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus"
In his "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus," Louis Althusser summarizes his main concepts on the issues such as conditions of production, structures of society, the theory of the state, the role of individual, and the definitions and functions of ISA and RSA, ideology, education, etc.. Althusser proposes discussion on the relationship of the State and the subjects. His view on ideology assumes that the ideology is the greatest material power, and thus expands the traditional Marxist view that sees economy as the ultimate power of the capitalist society.
I. "On the Reproduction of the Conditions of Production"
The ultimate condition of production is the reproduction of conditions of production (127). In order to exist, every social formation must reproduce: 1.) The productive forces, and 2.) The existing relations of production
A. The Forms of Reproduction:
1. The reproduction of the means of production
2. The reproduction of labor power--The reproduction of labor power requires "a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers"(133).
B. The Reproduction of the Relations of Production
1. The reproduction of the relations of production is secured by the exercise of State power in the RSA and the ISA.
2. The educational apparatus (school) is the dominant ideological State apparatus in capitalist formations that secures the reigning ideology.
II. Relations of Production
A. The basic Marxist mode of society is divided into an economic infrastructure and a superstructure.
B. The relation between the superstructure and infrastructure is "in the last instance" determined by the economic base (136).
C. Overdeterminism-an effect arise from a variety of causes which acting together rather than from a single (economic) factor.
1. Relative autonomy-a view asserts that the superstructure has a degree of independence from economic forces.
2. Reciprocal action of the superstructure on the base (135).
III. Marxist Theory of the State-State power and State Apparatus
A. The State is a "machine" of repression, which enables the ruling classes to ensure their domination over the working class (137).
B. State power-State power is maintained by "repressive structure," the external force. However, the state power might also maintain more subtly by State Apparatus.
C. State Apparatus: RSA (Repressive State Apparatus) and ISA (Ideological State Apparatus)
1. The basic difference between RSA and ISA is that RSA functions by violence whereas ISA functions by ideology. Nevertheless, every State Apparatus-whether repressive or ideological functions both by violence and by ideology (145).
2. RSA functions first by repression then by ideology whereas ISA functions first by ideology then by repression.
3. A plurality of ISA must exist before the existence of one RSA.
4. The ruling class who hold RSAs can also easily decree ISAs. In order to hold State power for a long period, the ruling class should at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the ISA (146).
5. RSA belongs to the public domain whereas the ISA belongs to the private.
6. It is easier to lay down the laws in RSA than in ISA.
7. RSA is secured by its unified and centralized organization under the leadership of classes in power whereas ISA is secured in contradictory forms by the ruling ideology, the ideology of the ruling class (149).
IV. Ideology-"a system of the ideas and representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, according to the case) which dominate the mind of a man or a social group"(158).
A. Ideology has no history (of its own). Ideology is conceived as pure illusion, and all its reality is external to it. Ideology is a structural and must be studied synchronically.
B. Ideology is eternal since it omnipresent in its immutable form (161).
C. "Ideology is a 'Representation' of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence"(162)
D. Ideology has a material existence"(165).
E. There is no practice except in ideology, and there is no ideology except by subject and for subjects (170).
F. Interpellation-the trick that makes humans to see themselves as entity free.
1. "Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects"(170).
2. Ideology has the function of constituting individual as subjects.
3. There is an ideological effect that make human recognize themselves as subjects.
Althusser, Louis. "Lenin and Philosophy" and Other Essays. London: New Left Books,