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Ideological State Apparatus

 

Explanations > Critical Theory > Althusser > Ideological State Apparatus

Ideology | The ISA | See also

 

Ideology

Althusser revised Marx's view of ideology, which he described as:

"...thought as an imaginary construction whose status is exactly like the theoretical status of the dream among writers before Freud."

He saw human individuals being constituted as subjects through ideology. Consciousness and agency are experienced, but are the products of ideology 'speaking through' the subject.

He built on Lacan's work, presenting ideology as an imaginary construction that represents the real world. However, it is so real to us that we never question it.

The ISA

In a highly influential essay, Althusser identified the 'Ideological State Apparatus' as the method by which organizations propagate ideology. This is in contrast to the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), by which compliance can be forced and includes the army, police.

The ISA contrasts with the RSA in that it produces willing compliance.

Ideologies interpellate people into defined subject positions through the ISA.

Ideological State Apparatuses include those used in religion, law, politics, trade unions, media and the family. Althusser puts education at the top of the tree:

"What the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e. as its dominant ideological State apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant ideological State apparatus, the Church."

See also

Subject, Ideology, Mirror phase, Propaganda

Althusser, L. (1989). 'Ideology and ideological state apparatuses' in Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays. London: New Left Books pp 170-86

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