French thinker (1918 – 1990)
Tries to answer the question: If – as Marxist thinkers seem to prove – certain classes are
exploited or that the capitalists state uses/commodifies labor in a way that alienate the workers
– then why isn’t there constant revolt? Why do people obey the state? Why do they continue to
allow their exploitation?
The answer – Ideology and ideological state apparatuses
What is Ideology?
“Ideology is the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.”
The individual is often in a real, exploitative economic and/or political system but
ideology obscures this unequal, alienating relation of individual with process of
production/consumption. Ideology as a “representation” works like a story we tell
ourselves (or that are told to us and we believe) about our relation to the world to
function within an unequal system.
Teacher: studies for years for poor pay – why do it? Maybe paid less than a
plumber – but better than, more valued than the plumber. Doing good, etc.
Madame Butterfly – respect and honor of being a wife. Idea of romantic love
Ideology has a material existence
Ideology is more than just ideas (Marxism is, after all, a materialist system)
Althusser: “an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices”
(such as a ritual, or other forms of behavior dictated by the specific ideology)
Ideology always manifests itself through actions – it is in our performance of our
(imaginary) relation to other individuals and/or institutions that posits us as ‘well-
adjusted’ subjects What does Althusser mean by “State”?
‘Nation’ along with its governmental power center that has control over the subjects and
the various social, economic, cultural systems
Capitalism and “State” emerged at the same time historically speaking, and Althusser,
like other Marxists, suggests that the two are mutually supportive. In this context,
democracy as form of governance is in harmony with this