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Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Discussed on October 19

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Joanna’s short notes:

Althusser begins within classical Marxist theory (base-superstructure) of the reproduction of relations of production and
the Marxist theory of the State, and moves from this mostly “descriptive theory” into his thesis on ideology and ideological state apparatuses. Within classical Marxism, reproduction of relations or production produce competent workers, with a diversity needed for production.

Althusser then distinguishes between Repressive State Apparatuses and Ideological State Apparatuses. RSAs come from a singular source, they are the product of the State, they are public, and exert force through violence. ISAs are plural, they exist within the private domain. Althusser defines ideology, the function of Ideological State Apparatuses, and then the function of ideology in constituting the subject.

To paraphrase: Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence. Ideology has no history, it is eternal, like the unconscious. ISAs are secured by ruling ideology, each contribute to a single result in the way proper to it. Ideology has a material existence, it always exists in practice. From a bourgeois conception of the subject,
where one chooses ones actions according to beliefs, ideas disappear: for the subject, there is no practice except by ideology, no ideology except by and for the subject. From here, Althusser can move into the concept of interpellation.

Ideology functions to constitute concrete individuals as subjects. The obviousness of the category of the subject is an ideological recognition. We are always already subjects, through ideological recognition. Ideology hails, or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete Subjects. This recognition, or rather, interpellation, is a mirror-structure. Ideology is centered on the Absolute Subject, from which each Subject can contemplate its own image. So, this mirror-structure ensures: I) the interpolation of , individuals’ as subjects; 2) the subjection to the Subject; 3) mutual recognition of subjects ad Subject; 4) the absolute guarantee that everything is really so. We are interpellated as a free subject in order to submit freely to subjection.

A better summary:

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