Revolution Lullabye

February 22, 2009

Foucault, What Is an Author

Foucault, Michel. From “What Is an Author?” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,  2000. 233-246.


Foucault shifts attention from the individual author to examining the features of texts that have authors, prioritizing discourse, language itself, instead of authors or even readers. He explains that the role of the author isn’t merely descriptive; it performs an act, an authoring act in society. Four features of the author-function are as follows: it is connected to institutional and societal issues of legal property and appropriation; it is not the same for all discourses and in all cultures and time periods; it is defined through a complex process of assigning and constructing an author by searching for coherence in style, argument, and quality over many texts; and it allows for the plurality of egos, a separation of the author, narrator, and other subjects in the text. Foucault then moves to describe a particular kind of author who arose in the nineteenth century, citing Marx and Freud as examples. They are authors of entire discourses, who produced not only their own texts but a possibility for the production of others, texts that always return to the founding discourse, never debunking it. He distinguishes between a founding act of science and a founding act of discourse. Foucault then suggests what work must be done next: creating a typology of discourse through analyzing the relationships of between an author and a text and investigating the role of subjects and authors as functions of discourse, not existing outside of it.


Quotable Quotes


Marx, Freud:  “They cleared a space for the introduction of elements other than their own, which, nevertheless, remain within the field of discourse they initiated” (241).


“The initiation of a discourse practice is heterogeneous to its ulterior transformations” It “overshadows and is necessarily detached from its later developments and transformations” (242).


“The subject (and its substitutes) must be stripped of its creative role  and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” (245)


“We can say in our culture, the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others: a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, but not an author; and, similarily,  an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses in society” (235).


Notable Notes


Shifts the focus from author to text, from discourse and its functions.


Labor-intensive process of assigning an author to a body of work. We believe that the work of an author must be homogenous: there must be unity in its quality, arguments, style, historical place and context. Contradictions must be solved – there can’t be any inherent complications unless they can be explained away.


The name of an author functions as a classification, creates relationships between texts and gives text and discourse a sort of permanence in society  (235)


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

Create a free website or blog at