Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses:
And they are NOT to be confused with Repressive State Apparatus. So what’s the difference? There’s only one RSA, while there are many ISAs, there no discernable unity among ISAs, as opposed to the RSA. RSA in the public domain, while many aspects of ISA in private domain. RSA functions by violence, while ISAs function by ideology. More clearly, RSAs function primarily by violence (repression), secondarily by ideology, and the converse is true, and it is this function that provides the semblance of unity for disparate ideologies.
IMPORTANT: “No class can hold state power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State Ideological Apparatuses.”
“An ideology always exists in an apparatus.”
Althusser then describes the ideology of ideology and how the actors and events in the world around individuals, and the social expectations of them, create identification with an ideology, as I’ve read in articles leading up to this one.
He’s poking at Marx a bit here, and the Marxist idea that ideology is, basically, imaginary, by saying an individual’s beliefs are material “in that his ideas are his material actions inserted into material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas of that subject.”
So, in a way, ideas have disappeared in favor an existence “is inscribed in the actions of practices governed by rituals defined in the last instance by an ideological apparatus. In other words, there are no ‘ideas’ as such, rather actions/thoughts governed by ideological apparatuses.
The importance of the notion of ‘subject.’
- There is no practice except by and in an ideology
- There is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects.
Now, after confusing me greatly (I’m not so sure I’m grasping all of Althusser’s argument here) he moves on to his “central thesis.”
Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects
I’ll have to have some guidance from my instructor on this one. Once Althusser gets into his main these, I get very confused about, for example, this quote:
“This thesis is simply a matter of making my last proposition explicit: there is no ideology except by the subjects and for subjects. MEANING, there is no ideology except for concrete subjects, and this destination for ideology is only made possible by the subject: MEANING, by the category of the subject and its functioning.” What? What exactly is a subject? “By this I MEAN that, even if it only appears under this name (the subject) with the rise of bourgeois ideology, above all with the rise of legal ideology, the category of the subject (again, what’s ‘the category of a subject’?)(which may function under other names: e.g. , as the soul in Plato, as God, etc.) is the constitutive category of all ideology, whatever its determination (regional or class) and whatever its historical date — since ideology has no history (what?).
Seriously, he says some iteration of the phrase ‘what I mean is…’ three times in that one paragraph, which included one of the nastiest run-on sentences I’ve ever encountered. It seems he’s trying to clarify his baffling position with the above paragraph, but there’s nothing clear about it.
And I’ll need to understand that before being able to grasp his next point, which also includes a lot about “subjects,” whatever they are. I gather I’m a subject, and so is Althusser, and so is everyone. Why he insists on calling people subjects is beyond me, except to mean that everyone is subject to ideology; more so, that there’s no separating ideology from individual. I do think that’s the overall point he’s trying to make using these word gymnastics. Instead, he says “the category of the subject is constitutive of all ideology..”
There’s no subject of science Althusser says? But science was one of the SUBJECTS I took in school. See, I’m missing something here. What the fuck is a SUBJECT?
And how many times will Althusser start to make a point, then say, naw, let’s leave that for another discussion. It’s annoying.
OK, ideology interpellates individuals as subjects. I know know that without know that it means.
Always-already? Again, what? I’m sorry, I’ve enjoyed every reading I’ve done for this independent study, except this last one. The over-wordiness of this is inexcusable.