Revolution Lullabye

February 15, 2009

Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation)” In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. 127-186.

The educational system is the primary way the ideology of the ruling class is reproduced and therefore inscribed in society. The schools are a ideological state apparatus, which though part of the private domain, are institutions of the State in as much as they silently indoctrinate (through ideology primarily, then repression) children, producing classes of workers who each ascribe to the philosophy and mentality that is necessary for them to reproduce the societal relations that the State, controlled by the dominant class, is dependent upon for existence. The ideology that pervades ideological state apparatuses like the educational system has a material existence: it must be a practice and be performed through rituals and apparatuses created and acted out by subjects to that ideology.

Quotable Quotes

Central thesis: “1. There is no practice except by and in an ideology; 2. There is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects” (170).

“No class can hold State power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State Ideological Apparatuses” (146).

“The ultimate condition of production is therefore the reproduction of the conditions of production” (127).

Notable Notes

ideology creates subjects out of individuals, exists eternally, so we are all subjects always

extends Marx’s critique to include the idea of ideological state apparatuses in addition to Marx’s repressive state apparatuses, which ensure the political existence of the state through repression primarily, ideology second.

Church used to be the dominant ISA – one of the most important consequences of the French Revolution and the Reformation was the destruction of the Church as a unified ISA for the State.

education system takes kids away during formative years, for 11+ years, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and spits them out at different times, have learned different roles according to their function in society: blue collar (exploited), white collar (those who exploit), leaders/elite (create ideologies, agents of repression). School is thought to be natural, neutral, beneficial, and indispensible. Education “steeps” them in ideology (133)

ISAs are the sites of class struggle, because they are so plural and diverse, full of contradictions, State power can’t lay down the law as easily here


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