Louis Althusser Ideology And Ideological State Apparatuses Summary Pdf

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Marxist criticism. Louis Althusser — French philosopher. The Repressive State Apparatus consists of the army, the police, the judiciary, and the prison system.

Outline: Louis Althusser- Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Louis Pierre Althusser — was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20 th Century. As they seemed to offer a renewal of Marxist thought as well as to render Marxism philosophically respectable, the claims he advanced in the s about Marxist philosophy were discussed and debated worldwide. In addition, his autobiography has been subject to much critical attention over the last decade.

His concepts are also being increasingly employed by philosophers, political theorists, and activists who have returned to Marx and to Marxian analyses in order to explain and to envision alternatives to our present socio-economic conjuncture. Louis Althusser was born on October 16 th , in Birmandreis, a suburb of Algiers. After this service was up, his father returned to Algiers and to his work as a banker. There he enjoyed the comforts of the Mediterranean environment as well as those provided by an extended and stable petit-bourgeois family.

Always a good pupil, Althusser excelled in his studies and became active in the Scouts. In , the family moved again, this time to Lyon. Raised in an observant family, Althusser was particularly influenced by professors of a distinctly Catholic tendency. This interest in Catholicism and his participation in Catholic organizations would continue even after Althusser joined the Communist Party in The simultaneous enthusiasm that Althusser showed in Lyon for Royalist politics did not last the war.

However, before the school year began, he was mobilized into the army. Soon thereafter, he was captured in Vannes along with the rest of his artillery regiment. He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of war at a camp in Northern Germany. In his autobiographical writings, Althusser credits the experiences of solidarity, political action, and community that he found in the camp as opening him up to the idea of communism.

They also provide evidence of the cycles of deep depression that began for Althusser in and that would mark him for the rest of his life. At the end of the war and following his release from the P. Though still involved in Catholic groups and still seeing himself as a Christian, the movements that Althusser associated with after the war were leftist in their politics and, intellectually, he made a move to embrace and synthesize Christian and Marxist thought.

In this capacity, he began offering courses and tutorials on particular topics in philosophy and on particular figures from the history of philosophy. As he retained this responsibility for more than thirty years and worked with some of the brightest thinkers that France produced during this time including Alain Badiou, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Foucault , through his teaching Althusser left a deep and lasting impression on a generation of French philosophers and on French philosophy.

In addition to inaugurating his extended association with the ENS, the first few years spent in Paris after the war saw Althusser begin three other long-lasting relationships.

Begun to treat recurrent bouts of depression, this last affiliation continued for the rest of his life and included frequent hospitalization as well as the most aggressive treatments post-war French psychiatry had to offer such as electroconvulsive therapy, narco-analysis, and psychoanalysis.

The second relationship begun by Althusser was little happier and no less dependent than the first. It was also made difficult by the vast differences in their experience of the world and by her relationship with the Communist Party. Whereas Althusser had known only home, school, and P.

At the time the two met, she was also embroiled in a dispute with the Party over her role in the resistance during World War II. Though Althusser was not yet a Party member, like many of his generation, he emerged from the War deeply sympathetic to its moral aims. His interest in Party politics and involvement with Party members grew during his time as a student at the ENS. For the next few years, Althusser tried to advance the aims of the Communist Party as well as the goal of getting Rytman accepted back into it.

Nonetheless, his relationship with the Party and with Rytman deepened during this period. During the s, Althusser lived two lives that were only somewhat inter-related: one was that of a successful, if somewhat obscure academic philosopher and pedagogue and the other that of a loyal Communist Party Member.

This is not to say that Althusser was politically inactive at the school or that his communism did not influence his philosophical work. On the contrary, Althusser recruited colleagues and students to the Party and worked closely with the communist cell based at the ENS. In addition, at mid-decade, he published a few introductions to Marxist philosophy.

However, in his teaching and advising, he mostly avoided bringing in Marxist philosophy and Communist politics. Further, the bulk of his scholarship was on 18 th Century political philosophy. Indeed, the only book-length study Althusser published during his lifetime was a work on Montesquieu, which appeared at the end of the decade. It would have surprised no one if Althusser had continued to influence French political and philosophical life subtly, through the students that he mentored, through his scholarship on the history of political philosophy, through the colloquia among philosophers, scientists, and historians that he organized, and through his routine work as a Party member.

Invigorated by this recognition and by the possibility that theoretical work might actually change Communist Party practice, Althusser began to publish regularly on Marxist philosophy. These essays occasioned much public discussion and philosophical activity both in France and abroad. In , the fruit of one of these seminars was published as Reading Capital. That same year, the essays on Marxist theory that had made such a sensation were collected and published in the volume For Marx.

This gambit to have the Party directed by theorists rather than by a Central Committee whose Stalinism remained entrenched and who believed in the organic wisdom of the worker met with little success. At the most, he succeeded in carving out some autonomy for theoretical reflection within the Party.

Even though it is his most well known intervention, this was not the first attempt by Althusser to try and influence the Party he had tried once before during the mid s from his position as cell leader at the ENS and it would not be his last. During the decades in which he became internationally known for his re-thinking of Marxist philosophy, Althusser continued in his post at the ENS. In , Althusser acquired the right to direct research on the basis of his previously published work.

In November , after a painful surgery and another bout of mental illness, which saw him hospitalized for most of the summer and whose symptoms continued after his return to the ENS in the fall, Althusser strangled his wife. Before he could be arrested for the murder, he was sent to a mental hospital. Later, when an examining magistrate came to inform him of the crime of which he was accused, Althusser was in so fragile a mental state that he could not understand the charges or the process to which he was to be submitted and he was left at the hospital.

After an examination, a panel of psychiatrists concluded that Althusser was suffering at the time of the murder from severe depression and iatrogenic hallucinations. During this period, he was visited by a few loyal friends and kept up some correspondences. Given his mental state, his frequent institutionalizations, his anomie, and the drugs he was prescribed, these were not very productive years. However, at mid-decade, he did find the energy to re-visit some of his old work and to attempt to construct from it an explicit metaphysics.

He also managed to write an autobiography, a text he averred was intended to provide the explanation for the murder of his wife that he was never able to provide in court. Both texts only appeared posthumously. There, on the 22 nd of October, , he died of a heart attack.

Certainly, in terms of method, style, and inspiration, the Althusser found in these works differs significantly from the Althusser of For Marx and Reading Capital. In his writings from the s, for instance, his method and conclusions resemble those of the Marxist Humanists of whom he would later be so critical, while texts from the s deploy without irony the Stalinist shibboleths he would later subject to such castigation.

The first category includes those essays, mostly written between and , where Althusser explores possible rapports between Christianity and Marxism. For him, this existentialist diagnosis is a type of idolatry: it replaces recognition of our equality before God with our equality before the fear of death.

In that it does so, it is twice anti-Christian. For, in addition to the sin of idolatry death equals God , it fails to acknowledge the existence of a particular class, the proletariat, for whom anguish is not its lot and who is actually capable of delivering the emancipation from fear by re-appropriating the products of human production, including the atomic bomb.

It also includes a Hegelian critique of the existing Catholic Church which suggests that the church is incapable of such an alliance without a theological revolution.

Each of these essays includes the suggestion that critique and reform will occasion a better church and a truer Christianity. By , however, Althusser was totally pessimistic about this possibility and, in a letter to his mentor Jean Lacroix, he argued that the sole possibility for realizing Christian values is through communist action.

Instead, he contends that Marx is guilty of committing the same error as Hegel in mistaking historical content for the fulfillment of the dialectic. Something like this argument will appear again in his classical work as a critique of the empiricist tendency in Marxist philosophy. In two short essays from on Marxist philosophy, this switch is fully apparent. In his description of what these concepts and methodology are, Althusser pretty much follows the Party line, insisting that Marx reversed the Hegelian dialectic, that historical materialism is a science, that the sciences verify dialectical materialism, and that the proletariat needs to be taught Marxist science from above.

Though these essays repeat the Party philosophy as formulated by Lenin, Stalin, and Zhdanov, they also include recognizable Althusserian themes and show his thinking about these themes to be in transition.

Both also anticipate future concerns in their speculations about the ideological character of current scientific knowledge and in their incorporation of ideas from Mao about the relationship between theory and practice. This is a theme to which he would return. In addition, these texts suggest the need for a thorough study of Marx. This study, however, would wait until the beginning of the next decade.

These figures included Montesquieu, on whose political philosophy and theory of history he wrote a book-length study, and Feuerbach, whose writings he translated and commented upon. With the perspective afforded by the mass of posthumous writings published since the s, it has become clear that Althusser was perennially concerned with important issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, historiography, hermeneutics, and political philosophy.

However, it is also true that the primary medium Althusser employed for thinking through problems in these areas was Marxist philosophy. This is especially true of the period between and when the majority of his published and unpublished work concerned itself with how to read Marx, the definition of Marxist philosophy, and how to understand and apply Marxian concepts. For these reasons, it is natural when discussing these texts to focus upon the contexts that engendered them and upon the positions within Marxist philosophy that Althusser stakes out by their means.

Alternatively, as Althusser indicates in many of these pieces his debts to contemporaneous theorists and to philosophical predecessors such as Spinoza, there is the temptation to understand his thought as a combination of the insights contributed by these thinkers with Marxist philosophy. This version of Marxist philosophy had dominated European leftist thought and action since the dawn of the Cold War in and, in France, was widely disseminated via Communist Party schools and literature.

From the fruits of this new method of reading, Althusser argued that not only was Marx the originator of a new philosophy, Dialectical Materialism, that had nothing to do with its Hegelian and Feuerbachian predecessors, but that he also founded a new science, Historical Materialism, which broke with and superseded such ideological and pre-scientific precursors as the political economics of Smith and Ricardo.

For the most part, the essays collected in For Marx and the seminar papers issued as Reading Capital develop and utilize this method of reading in order to justify and describe Marxist philosophy and Marxist science as well as to distinguish between these two theoretical activities. In so doing, Althusser says quite a bit about the nature of knowledge and the general relations between philosophy, science, politics, and ideology.

These included the Humanist interpretations of Marx described above as well as variations on the orthodox Marxist-Leninist theory, which specified the strict determination of culture and history by the existing modes of economic exchange and resulting class struggles.

The three inspirations Althusser gave for this interpretive method were those provided by Spinoza, Freud by way of Lacan, and that provided by Marx himself. In addition, he added to these examples insights from the French tradition of historical epistemology about the way in which sciences come to be constituted. One of the ideas borrowed from Spinoza was the contention that texts and authors are the products of their times and that the thoughts authors set down on the page cannot help but be a part of, and be affected by, the ideological currents that accompany and allow for the satisfaction of needs in a specific era.

However, inasmuch as this early work was seen to espouse a telic view of humanity in which the individual and society was said to undergo a necessary historico-dialectical development, Althusser identified it as fundamentally Hegelian. However, the actual case is not so simple. However, Althusser made the case that these texts were contradictory and insufficient for this purpose.

Thus, in a way parallel to Marx pointing out in Capital V. The explicit project of Reading Capital and of many of the essays included in For Marx was to make these fundamental concepts explicit. Of these frameworks, Marx was not fully conscious. However, they were what allowed him to investigate and describe such socio-economic events as the transformation of money into capital without recourse to Hegelian logic and concepts.

That the concepts Althusser derived from his symptomatic reading of Marx, Lenin, and Mao were Marxist concepts was avowed. Nevertheless, Althusser also acknowledged that some of the concepts found latent in these texts were derived from and consistent with his philosophical and social scientific contemporaries as well as with those of Spinoza.

Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses Summary by Althusser

Althusser was a Structuralist Marxist. He wrote ideology and ideological state apparatuses in French which was published in In this essay, Althusser tells how the conditions of means of production and productive forces are reproduced and maintained in society. According to Althusser the reproduction of the productive forces is ensured by the wage system that pays a minimum amount to the working class so that they may have to work every day and also may not raise in status. Wages are set not by biological needs but by the historical minimum. On the other hand, the conditions of production are also needed to be reproduced. The conditions of production include machinery, skills, raw material etc.

In "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses " Louis Althusser asks the traditional Marxist question of how are conditions and relations of production being reproduced and maintained is society. Althusser's answer is that two types of mechanisms are at play here: "repressive state apparatuses which gain abidance and cooperation from the public through physical coercion means such as the police, army, prisons, courts etc. According to Althusser ideological state apparatuses" are sustained by cultural institutions such as the education system, the church, the family, media and culture. The ideological state apparatuses gain free willed cooperation and a sense of choice of what is in reality imposed. Althusser holds that both repressive state apparatuses and ideological state apparatuses operate together by combining repression and ideology, with the difference between them being the different nature of their workings.


Louis Althusser was the leading Structuralist Marxist philosopher in France in serious analysis of any ideology will immediately and empirically show to every While discussing the ideological State apparatuses and their practices, I said.


Louis Althusser

Marxism is essentially a materialist philosophy which aims at creating a classless society based on common ownership. In the work The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have claimed that the history of every society is the history of class struggles. Here in the essay, Althusser brings in the concept of State Apparatuses and how class struggle always attempts to possess the State power which consequently results in the possession of the State apparatuses. Marxism also believes that capitalism and industrialisation have led to the alienation of people so much so that people have become mere things.

Althusser is a structuralist Marxist.

Louis Althusser: ISA and RSA

Louis Pierre Althusser — was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20 th Century. As they seemed to offer a renewal of Marxist thought as well as to render Marxism philosophically respectable, the claims he advanced in the s about Marxist philosophy were discussed and debated worldwide. In addition, his autobiography has been subject to much critical attention over the last decade.

I must now expose more fully something which was briefly glimpsed in my analysis when I spoke of the necessity to renew the means of production if production is to be possible. That was a passing hint. Now I shall consider it for itself.

First published in , it advances Althusser's theory of ideology. Where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels posited a thinly-sketched theory of ideology as false consciousness , Althusser draws upon the works of later theorists such as Antonio Gramsci , Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan to proffer a more elaborate redefinition of the theory. Althusser's theory of ideology has remained influential since it was written. Althusser begins the essay by reiterating the Marxist theory that in order to exist, a social formation is required to essentially, continuously and perpetually reproduce the productive forces labour power and means of production , the conditions of production and the relations of production. The reproduction of labour power is ensured by the wage system which pays a minimum amount to the workers so that they appear to work day after day, thereby limiting their vertical mobility.

Doing Cultural Theory is a textbook and a toolkit that teaches the basics of cultural theory, unpacks its complexities with real-life examples, and shows readers how to link theory and practice. Other textbooks only show how others have analyzed and interpreted the world. Doing Cultural Theory takes it a step further and teaches students step-by-step how to do cultural theory for themselves. The key concepts introduced in this chapter are: ideology, the ideological state apparatuses, the repressive state apparatuses, overdetermination, the material and imaginary aspects of ideology, interpellation, double reading, the problematic and symptomatic reading. This chapter introduces some of the ideas that cultural studies has found most useful in the work of the Marxist philosopher Louis

The work of Louis Althusser has proven controversial in the International Socialist tradition, as well as throughout Marxist thought worldwide. In recent years, a revival of interest in his work has taken place. He had garnered a reputation as an oppositional, radical figure among Communists and the Left more broadly, but was unable to act beyond the dictates of the party bureaucrats. Why was Althusser unable to break from the PCF? While his membership in the PCF is often claimed as evidence that he was a doctrinaire Stalinist, Althusser actually hoped to drastically change the party from within, to render it a legitimate organ of the working-class masses that formed its base of support.

Louis Althusser : Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus

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Repressive State Apparatus

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    From Louis Althusser, “Ideology and ideological state apparatuses (Notes towards an investiga- reasonably thorough analysis of any one of the ISAs proves it.

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