Louis Althusser: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Info package and summary of the book

Louis Althusser is a French philosopher born in 1918 and died in 1990. In this book, he is dealing with the Marxist theory and building his own thoughts on this theory.

  • As Marx asserts, a social formation -no matter what kind of social formation it is- must reproduce the conditions of production at the time it is produced or it will last no more than a year. In other words, a social formation must reproduce the system in which it is produced. Thus, the ultimate condition of the production is to reproduce the conditions of production.
  • The process of production must reproduce: 1- The productive forces. 2- The existing relations of production.
  • The productive forces is the unity of all means of production like; tools, machineries and other materials that require the human labour. The human knowledge can also be regarded as the productive force.
  • The productive forces doesn’t means the means of production. The productive force is “the reflection of the relationship of people to the objects and forces of nature used for the production of material wealth.” (The Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., tex tbook (1957, p xiv)  So, the machinery itself is the mean of production, and it becomes the productive force with the human labour.
  • The reproduction of labour power is ensured by wages.
  • Institutions serve the endless chain mechanism of production. For instance, the schools teach children the know-how of the system or mechanism of the reproduction of conditions of the production.
  • The reproduction of labour class includes not only the reproduction of the skills for the mechanism or the system, but also the reproduction of the submission to the rules set by the ruling ideology, and also the reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology in favor of the continuation of its mechanism. In this way, the labour class promotes the agents of exploitation and repression and thus becomes the server of the domination of the ruling ideology.
  • The exploited refers to proletarians, the exploiters refer to the capitalists, and the the exploiter’s auxiliaries refer to managers.
  • The know-how of system of the domination of the exploiters is imposed on the exploiteds with the exploiter’s auxiliaries as the agent. Schools, churchs and etc. serves as the means of exploitation.
  • The reproduction of the existing relations of productions is achieved by the superstructure.
  • The superstructure is a part of the edifice metaphor for the society.
  • The edifice of society consists of infrastructure and superstructure. The infrastructure is the economic base of the society, it is the unity of both productive forces and the relations of productive forces. The superstructure, on the other hand, is the upper structure located upon the infrastructure. The superstructure contains; the politico-legal level (law and state), and the ideology.
  • The superstructure cannot sustain its existence without the infrastructure. In other words, the superstructure depends on the infrastructure. The edifice will collapse once the infrastructure  is removed or failed to exist.
  • There are two state apparatuses: The repressive state apparatus and the ideological state apparatus.
  • The repressive state apparatus mainly works by violence, but ideological aspects also has a role to a certain extent. The army, the police, the courts, the prisons, the government and administration aare the example of RSAs.
  • The ideological state apparatuses work mainly by ideology, but repressive aspects can also have a role. The educational system, the religion, the family, the culture etc. are the examples of ISAs.
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