ALTHUSSER Contextual Information Althusser was a French Marxist who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, attempted to investigate the way in which social institutions reinforce ideology and the Capitalist system. He focussed on two terms: IDEOLOGICAL STATE APPARATUS and INTERPELLATION as a way to help identify how ideology is reinforced and accepted by ordinary people. But, before we can look at these two terms in more detail and how they can be applied to the representation of a collective identity of teenagers, it s important to quickly remind ourselves of how they fit into the Marxist critique of Capitalism. The Purpose of Capitalism and dominant ideology For Capitalism to function, it requires the division of labour: those who own the production methods (the owners) and those who make the products (the workers). This immediately implies a divide in power those who control and those who are controlled and therefore indicates that Capitalism relies upon: y y The division of labour The division of power

For people to accept this division and to ensure the continuation of Capitalism (and profit for the owners of production), the idea of division needs to become part of our wider consciousness so that it is seen as normal and we don t question it or our roles within it. Otherwise, Capitalism cannot work if labour can t be divided. How does this idea and dominant ideology become part of our wider consciousness? Althusser identified 3 ways in which we accept the ideology of the dominant class (the owners): 1. Repressive state apparatus (RSA) 2. Ideological State apparatus (ISA) 3. The act of Interpellation The RSA is a way of punishing people if they don t conform legally to the system (the army, the police etc.. are all part of the RSA) and are owned by the State. Ideological State Apparatus (ISAs) are institutions that teach us about and reinforce the dominant ideology. They are privately owned by those who form part of the dominant class but support each other by reinforcing the same values and therefore symbolically work to make people subtly accept the system, learn how we fit into it and the role that we can expect to occupy depending on our education, religious beliefs, political viewpoints, gender, age and so on. They therefore have a fundamental impact on the construction of our identities, as individuals and as part of collective groups.


The ISAs identified by Althusser are: y y y y y y y y Religious ISA Educational ISA Family ISA The legal ISA The political ISA The trade union ISA The Communications ISA (press, tv, radio etc ) The Cultural ISA (arts, sports etc )

ISAs are able to naturalise the division of labour (and the class struggle) by representing this division in other ways and forms. For eg, the educational ISA tells us what is important to learn in order to equip us with the knowledge required for future employment, the stage at which we leave the education system will determine the type of work we are able to complete in the future. If we think about Media representations, the Communications ISA reinforces stereotypes of groups of people that either fit in to or are other to the dominant group. Those who are seen as other (anyone not white, western, capitalist, Christian, male, middle-aged, heterosexual etc ) are often represented in some kind of conflict, deviance or opposition. We learn to recognise these representations across the ISAs and through their repetition, they become real and acceptable in terms of the divisions and conflicts they show us. Through the act of INTERPELLATION, we are able to identify with the representations we see of ourselves (or the groups or subjects we are seen to be part of e.g. women, wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter etc ) and accept that this is how we should behave, these are the roles we should fulfil, this is what we can expect. In doing this, we move from being an individual to forming and becoming part of a group or a subject and therefore part of the Capitalist system. Through the act of interpellation we feel that we are making a choice about our identities but are, in fact, identifying with a stereotype that has been constructed in order to reinforce a specific point of view relating to the dominant ideology and we are able to subconsciously identify which part of the divide that we fit in to owner or worker?

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