Home >> Neo-Marxism >> Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser rejected the positive content of empirical knowledge entirely. He asserts that essence is not to be found in appearance but must be discovered through theoretical practice. He redefined ideology as a continuous and all pervasive set of practices in which all groups and classes participate in their manipulation. He maintained that Marx's philosophy remained largely implicit as the background system of concepts that allowed the scientific work to generate work. Althusser neo Marxist concept of the ideological state apparatus seeks to expose the social causes that permit continual class exploitation via the reproduction of the conditions of production as the ultimate condition of production. The reproduction of labor power requires not only a reproduction of its skills but also at the same time a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order. The superstructure of the societal house is sustained by the production of the lower floors whose know how is generated by the members of the superstructure in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology. According to Althusser ideology is a representation of the imaginary relationships of individuals to their real condition of existence. He begins his explanation of this pronouncement by looking at why people need this imaginary relation to real conditions of existence. The material relations of capitalist production are themselves alienating but people cannot deal with the harsh reality of life so they make up stories about how the relations of production aren't so bad these stories or representation then alienate them from the real conditions. The alienation of alienation work like analgesic a pill to keep us from feeling pain of alienation. This idea about representation and reality assume that what is reflected in the imaginary representation of the world found in ideology is the real world or real condition of existence.

Althusser mention two major mechanisms for insuring that people within a state behave according to the rules of that state even when it is not in their best interests to do so. This is called by Althusser as the Repressive State Apparatus that can enforce behavior directly such as the police and the criminal justice and prison system. Through these apparatus the state has the power to force physically to behave .The literary studies are the second mechanism that he investigates and calls ideological state apparatus. Though the ruling ideological state apparatus was once the church. Althusser claims that it is now the school which at every phase holds its young audience captive 5 or 6 days a week and has a number of different disciplines through which to disseminate its coded know how. It is important that ideology is some what coded because it is self-effacing. What is important in ideology as a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence is the relation to those conditions that is represented therein. The ideological state apparatus finally constitutes the reproduction of the relations of production and of the relations deriving from them. Specific socio-economic structures require particular ideologies. These ideologies are instantiated by institutions or ideological state apparatuses like family, schools, church etc. that provide the developing subject with categories in which she can recognize herself. In as much as a person does so and embraces the practices the practices associated with those institutions she has been successfully hailed or interpellated and recognized herself as that subject who does those kinds of things. As the effect of these recognitions is to continue existing social relations. Althusser argued that a dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary so that ideological state apparatus productive of the bourgeois subject can be replaced with those productive of proletarian or communist subjects.

Current Affairs Magazine