You are on page 1of 1

ALTHUSSER

Althusser was a Marxist critic whose ideas were used to interpret various forms of popular culture. His theories concerning
ideology, like Gramscis hegemony, challenge the simplistic determinism governing the relations between the base and the
superstructure.

The problematic and the symptomatic reading


Book: Reading Capital. Problematic: it is possible to read all kinds of texts with relation to their theoretical or ideological limits. A
text is limited by its subject matter which, in turn, limits the kinds of questions and the answers that can be given about it.
A symptomatic reading is one which asks questions that demand answers which can only be found in the texts silences, gaps or
absences. Althusser also combined Marxism with psychoanalysis in the idea of double reading, which reads the surface but also
beyond it (the unconscious). There is some variation: the invisible problematic where it is possible to perceive answers which
dont correspond to any question posed in the text. The value of this approach is not only the contribution it makes to the
interpretation of the text itself but in how it encourages questions about the social, political, economic and cultural world in which
the text is produced.
Gibson argued that there are two readers: the actual flesh and blood reader who is holding the book and the mock reader which
corresponds to the role that the reader is invited to play during the reading experience.

Interpellation
This is a concept designed to explain how ideology works. He saw ideology not only as ruling or dominant ideas but as material
practice: ideology is contained in the practices of everyday life. Interpellation is about how individuals become subjects of
ideology, which functions like a summons. In the media, you are implicitly constructed as a subject and subject to the persuasive
power of the discourse of the advert. We might think that we are free of dominant ideas, beliefs, ways of doing things that
characterize capitalism but we are actually products of cultural systems. Society is full of subjects who live the illusion of feeling
like they are free individuals but they arent. They are victims of misrecognition. According to Althusser, the only way to see
through ideology is through Marxist science; through Althusserian Marxism. Ideology had imaginary and material aspects:
Imaginary: It is not their real conditions of existence that people represent to themselves in ideology but their relation to them.
Material: ideology is linked to forms of action which are inserted into practices which are governed by rituals. (Baptism)

Apparatuses
The Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses represent the interests of the ruling class, which holds state power through
alliances between classes or class fractions and must exercise hegemony over and in the ISAs. Through them, individuals are
exposed to repressive and persuasive mechanisms which regulate normative behaviour, attitudes and values. Some become the
agents of exploitation (capitalists and managers), others the agents of repression and others professional ideologists (priests).
ISA: Law, education, religion, family, politics: mainly ideological (but not entirely). They seem to have autonomy but tend to
reinforce the basic principles of capitalism: individualism, competitiveness, the protection of property
RSA: Government, administration, armed forces, police: mainly work through violence and repression (but not entirely)