Althusser, Louis. (1970) “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”



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Main Idea – Ideology interpellates individuals as capitalist subjects. Capitalism relies on ISAs to reproduce subjects’ labour power and the relations of production so that it continues to regenerate itself into succeeding generations.

Summary – Builds on Marx’s assumption that Capitalism only works if the conditions of production are reproduced. Capitalism is structured into three levels: (#1) the economic infrastructure and two superstructures, (#2) the political state and (#3) ideology.

This paper concerns #2 and #3 and explores how they perpetuate capitalism. He determines that ideology is a product of social institutions he terms “apparatuses.”

Repressive State Apparatus – Government, Army, prison and other systems that function by violence and repression. Similar to Gramsci’s model of class formation via “Dominance”

Ideological State Apparatus – Religions, Education, Family, Media, Culture and other systems that function by ideology and concealed or symbolic repression. These funtion behind a “shield” provided by RSAs. Similar to Gramsci’s model of class formation via “Intellectual and Moral leadership”

In former centuries the dominant ISA was the church. Now he claims it is the education system.

Interpellation – “calls into being.” Althusser asserts that ideology interpellates individuals as subjects.

Critiques/notes – There is no room for personal agency in this model. It assumes people are accept the authority of ISAs and have no ability to resist interpellation as capitalist subjects. Also I would argue that the education system is not the dominant ISA – the media is.


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