The Althusserian Legacy

Jayson C. Jimenez Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy Had it not on his therapeutic claims on Marxism that his ideas revolutionized the way we understand the society, especially on the playing field of ideology and the subject. Hence, a certain man, Louis Althusser surpassed the life of misery to his philosophic nobility to advance the power of interpreting Marx to its limit. Louis Althusser was born on October 16, 1918 in Algeria. He was admitted in the elitist Ecole Normale Superiure (ENS) in 1939 but he joined the army to serve his country during the World War II before the school start. After the war, he was taken as a prisoner of war. But in 1945, after his release, he re-entered ENS and took the competitive examination. In 1948, he passed the aggregation and became the Director of Studies at ENS and had worked with Lacan, Badiou and Foucault. In the same year too, he joined the French Communist Party. Althusser had only three relationships with his entire life: on his devotion with Frnech Communist Party; with his companion to Helene Rytman (but on his latter life, he strangled his wife to death linking him to his third relation); his “in and out” relationship with French Psychiatry. All these were written to his posthumous autobiographical work The Future Lasts Forever. His works centers on interpretation of Marx, exceptionally, his re-reading of Marx that enabled him to locate the “epistemological break” in Marx’s intellectual development and his Theory on Ideology. He died on October 20, 1990. Althusserian Hermeneutics His reading of Marx’s text was that of a symptomatic reading. The symptomatic method of reading was designed to make these concepts explicit and “to establish the indispensible minimum for the consistent existence of Marxism. His inspirations of interpretative method were Spinoza, Freud by way of Lacan and lastly Marx. Instead of looking at Marx’s early work in order to find the “essence” of his philosophy, Althusser argued that Marx’s true philosophy was largely absent from his work prior to 1845. This was possible through his Spinozist influence such that according to Spinoza, “authors and texts are products of their times and they are entangled with temporal exigencies like the bible entangled with prophetic imagination with the Word of God.” On the other hand, Althusser argued that one can disentangle those ideological concepts to Marx’s teachings so as to extract the essence of his philosophy. Althusser consistently argued that Marx's work prior to 1845 was ideological and that it was saturated with non-Marxian concepts borrowed from Hegel's and Feuerbach's philosophical anthropologies.



preferences and judgments. Page 2 . in order to find Marx. it is pointless to try to build a social theory on a prior condition of the individual. desires.” Furthermore. Ergo. says Althusser. the economic practice of a society determines which other aspect of the society dominates as a whole. much as he criticized the idea that a social theory can be forwarded on an historical conception of human needs so as to critique the idea that economic practice can be used in isolation to explain other aspects of the society. Hence. There is no such thing as objective and innocent reading: we only understand things with concepts available to us. Marx defined society as a set of fixed “levels and practices. one should treat a Marx’s texts as problematic in theoretical ideological background with contradictions with numerous passages with the same work. Marx does not explain society by appealing to the properties of individual persons like their beliefs. he used this analysis to defend Marx’s historical materialism in which posits a base (economic level) and a superstructure (rising upon it). it is a mistake to attribute this economic determinism to Marx. Economic practice is a structure in dominance because it plays a major part in determining the relations between other spheres and is called a “dominant instance. Marx was not fully conscious of these frameworks. A Primer on Ideology: How Structure Existed? Marx believed that the individual is a product of society.” For Althusser. one has to read his mature works. Althusser believes that the base and the superstructure are interdependent but he still keeps the classical Marxist understanding of the determination of the base “in the last instance. For Althusser. he who controls the economic practice overdetermines the superstructure which is anti-humanist in nature. Marx’s works are symptoms in psychoanalytic terminology which are unarticulated philosophic frameworks that need a through scientific investigations. In Althusser’s view. We can extract three points here: 1) the relation is an economic practice. According to Althusser. he conceived an interconnected collection of economic. The centerfold. For example.His theory of epistemological break in Marxian texts was located between the early works of Marx that displays a Hegelian and Ideological framework that was prior to 1845 and a long transition from 1845-1857 where his work become recognizably Marxist and scientific. is not individual human but the “structure” that exists prior to human. and lastly 3) political (power dominance) and ideological (ideas in domination) can be extracted. ideological and politico-legal practices as vital points in social formation.” In this relation. 2) can exist in the context of legal system with individuals become agents as buyers and sellers. the relation of production in a capitalist setting wherein buying and selling of labor power by capitalist and worker under rules and regulations.

Ergo. Hence. by the interest of a particular class. thirdly. it is nothing. It has no historical basis in a sense that it is based on class position. In German Ideology. ne it religious. Page 3 . On the positive note. ideology is conceived as a pure illusion. Now the question: Why men create ideology to represent something other than themselves? There were two responses made by Althusser: one is that cynical men base their domination and exploitation of the people on a false representation of the world which they have imagined in order to enslave other minds and second in relation to the first one—men subject themselves to alienation. political. One admits that ideology do not correspond to reality (since it is eternal and trans-historical) and its immediate understanding suffice the conditions of its illusionary value either as what Althusser mentioned as Mechanistic or Hermeneutic. Since it has no history. aesthetic being assured of their subjection to ruling ideology). All its reality is external to itself. For Althusser. ideology is a system of ideas and representations which dominates the mind of man and social group. determined in the last instance. misrepresentation occurs. Second. there is no history of ideology but only history of individuals living in material conditions of their necessities. The thesis that ideology has no history is therefore purely negative thesis since: I. things are rest assured in saying what have you about ideology: first that that Ideology has no History. Ideology has no history (not on the basis that there is no history in it) but it has no history of its own. Therefore it is in material conditions. II. Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA in which I will be dealing largely later) was a realization of an ideology (unity of these different regional ideologies. ideology is trans-historical and therefore eternal. Both sides bring us to the characterization of man’s real condition of existence such that becoming a real King in form of God or a human being which are ideological in the last instance. Ideology exists in an apparatus and its resulting practices. Ideology has a material existence. Ideology is not the system of “real relation” which governs the existence of individuals but the imaginary relations to the “real relations” in which they live. In relation to the second. a pure dream in which it is based on individual’s concrete materiality which produces their existence. Hence.On Ideology For early Marx. It is an imaginary assemblage. pure dream for example nothingness. Ideology is a representation of the Imaginary relationship of Individuals to their conditions of existence. (Mechanistic in a sense that God is the imaginary representation of the real king and hermeneutic in a sense that God is the essence of the Real Man). ethical legal. ideologies have history but only determined in a class struggle. not of a spiritual existence. Ideology is nothing but a pure dream (manufactured by who knows hat power but negative determinations). Heretofore. Ideologies are brought by participating class whose interest lies that results to multiplicities of these assemblages of ideologies.

Therefore.g when the Police shouts at you. Ideological interpellation is the transformation of individuals to subjects via recognition process e. everything will be all right. rituals are instruments of subjectivity. Absolute. Ideological ritual surrounds the expectation of Truth. His ideas are his material actions invented into material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined by material ideological apparatus from which drive the ideas of that subject. recognition of subjects with each other and finally subject’s recognition of himself. If he is subject to an ideology. Ideology then takes place outside ideology. “Hey! You there!” and you respond “Yes! I am!” then you recognized the existence of the Police as the state apparatus and you are immediately subjected to the police power. God calls us with our names (via commandments) thus we are always already interpellates as subjects with personal identity. Category of the subject is constitutive of all ideology. 5) There is a quadruple system of interpellation as subjects of subjection to the Subject. Recognition gives us “consciousness of our practice that we are constituted to the category of the subject. of universal recognition with exception of “Bad Subjects” who provokes the intervention of Repression by the State. Consequently. All of us are subject of ideology. These are the theses: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) There is no ideology except by the subject and for the subject. a Subject needs subjects in order to be recognized.Fourth. Page 4 . this is the duplicate mirror-structure of ideology: 1) Interpellations of individuals as subjects 2) Subjection of individuals to Subject 3) Mutual recognition of subjects and Subject. Ideology interpellates individuals as subjects. God defines himself as the Subject for he who through to himself and form himself (I am that I am). individual’s condition who live under ideology despite of its imaginary relation to real relation. The individual consciousness is subject to ideology if not. Other Subject which one calls God. it only means that he is subject to rituals and practices of ideology that suffices material condition. Be that as it may. All ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects y functioning the category of the subjects. Hence. he is wicked. Fifth. ideology is centered. the Absolute subject occupies the unique place of the center (subjecting all subjects). 8) 9) For example that may serve the understanding of Ideological Interpellation is the Christian Religious Ideology. Ideology functions as recognition and misrecognition. There is this strange phenomenon: that fact that there can only be such a multitude of possible religious subjects on the absolute condition that tehre is a Unique. 4) Absolute guarantee that everything really is so and that on the condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly.

RSA also imposes ideas when rest assured of the good activities of the subjects. The state. 2) State Power and State Apparatus must be distinguished. Ideological State Apparatus concerns about public lives that is being advanced in terms of rituals and practices and less repression or violence that may incur when the subjects became bad subjects. occupies the superstructure which represents the interest of the ruling class and on the same avenue is the machine of repression that comprises the State Power. Its language is either: Ideological or Repressive. Political. ISA is plural and diverse. Legal. The State serves the dominant position whose language indicts supremacy. administrative interventions. meaning omnipresent and existing to all corners of society however it works in private mechanisms such as the Church. misunderstanding will arise in a speech community. ISA conditions the mind of the subjects to act behave in order to become performative societal activities. and Communication and Cultural activities. School. On the other hand. We need a little review of the Marxian Theory of State. these are—Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) and Repressive State Apparatus (RSA). 4) The proletariat must seize state power in order to destroy the existing bourgeoisie State Apparatuses by replacing it with a different state apparatus and set in motion the radical process of the destruction of state (classless society). 3) Objective of class struggle concerns state power and after which. Family.The State Apparatuses What calls for this ideology of the Ruling class to be imposed? Althusser had in mind to apparatuses/instruments in which assured that all subjects are under one authority. How will one communicate if he belong either side of the structure? Hence. The superstructure imposes the political and legal instances of ideology while the infrastructure represents the economic base. the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) is a unified power under one objective of advancing repression and violence to all subjects. It is publicly imposed in terms of the Government mechanism. 1) State is the repressive State apparatus. the use of the state apparatus by the classes holding state power as a function of their class objective. namely the relationship of superstructure and infrastructure that forms the architectural harmony/discontent of ideology. Educational Ideological Apparatus determines and shapes the dominant position in capitalist social formation via teaching know-how to learners to become participative in relations of production. Police power and Prison system. Army. The Marxian theory of state indicates the helm of power and weakness. Page 5 . Today.

Translated by Richard entries/althusser/. (New York: The New Press.html. This should be the language of revolution. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation. ________. Edited by Francois Matheron. Machiavelli and Us. says Althusser. 1971). Accessed on 24 September. Page 6 . Zalta. Louis. Lewis. (London: Monthly Review Press.What we need. ________. William. "Louis Althusser. [Online Article]. “In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from http://plato. 2012. The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir.” In Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays. Edited by Edward N. 1993).stanford. is to alter the course and collective revolt against the Ruling class that holds this power and apparatuses and replace a new apparatus whose foundation lies primordially on a classless framework—that is—a society for non-subjects. Edited by Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutag. Translated by Ben Brewster. (London: Verso. References Althusser. 1999).

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