Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism

Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism, College and University Answer Bank for BA,,, and Post Graduate Notes and Guide Available here, Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism Solutions to each Unit are provided in the list of UG-CBCS Central University & State University Syllabus so that you can easily browse through different College and University Guide and Notes here. Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism Question Answer can be of great value to excel in the examination.

Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism

Join Telegram channel

Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism Notes cover all the exercise questions in UGC Syllabus. Literary Theory Unit 1 Marxism provided here ensures a smooth and easy understanding of all the concepts. Understand the concepts behind every Unit and score well in the board exams.

12. Discuss the life and works of Antonio Gramsci.

Ans: Antonio Francesco Gramsci was an Italian Marxist philosopher, journalist, linguist, writer, and politician. He wrote on philosophy, political theory, sociology, history, and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the communist party of Italy. A vocal critic of Benito Mussoline and fascism, he was imprisoned in 1926 where he remained until his death in 1937.

Gramsci wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His prison notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th-century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources-not only other Marxist but also thinkers such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel, and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the french revolution, fascism, Taylorism and Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture. 

Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class-the bourgeoisie-use cultural institution to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoise, in Gramsci’s views, develops in hegemonic culture using ideology, rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Cultural hegemony is therefore used to maintained consent to the capitalist order, rather than the use of force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure. Gramsci also attempted to break from the economics determinism of traditional Marxist though, and so is sometimes described as a neo-Marxist. He held a humanistic understanding of Marxism, seeing it as a “philosophy of praxis” and an “absolute historicism” that transcends traditional materialism and traditional idealism. 

Gramsci was one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century, and a particularly key thinker in the development of western Marxism. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writing, known as the prison Notebooks, contain Gramsci’s tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as will as some ideas in Marxist theory, critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:

(a) Cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining and legitimizing the capitalist state.

(b) The need for popular workers’ education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class.

(c) An analysis of the modern capitalist state that distinguishes between political society, which dominants directly and coercively, and civil society, where leadership is constituted through consent.

(d) Absolute historicism.

(e) A critique of economic determinism that opposes fatalistic interpretations of Marxism.

(f) A critique of philosophical materialism.

13. What is the relation between intellectuals and education?

Ans: Gramsci gave much though to the role of intellectuals in society. He stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He saw modern intellectuals not as talkers, but as practical-minded directors and organisers who produced hegemony through ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a traditional intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks “organically”. Such “organic” intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate, through the language of culture, the feeling and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. To Gramsci, it was the duty of organic intellectuals to speak to the obscured precepts of folk wisdom, or common sense (senso comune), of their respective political spheres. These intellectuals would represent excluded social groups of a society, what Gramsci referred to as the subaltern.

In line with Gramsci’s theories of hegemonic power, he argued that capitalist power needed to be challenged by building a counter- hegemony. By this he meant that, as part of the war position, the organic intellectuals and others within the working- class, need to develop alternative values and an alternative ideology in contrast to bourgeois ideology. He argued that the reason this had not needed to happen in Russia was because the Russian ruling class did not have genuine hegemonic power. So the Bolsheviks were able to carry out a war of manoeuvre (the 1917 revolution) relatively easily, because ruling class hegemony had never been fully achieved. He believed that a final war of manoeuvre was only possible, in the developed and advanced capitalist societies, when the war of position had been won by the organic intellectuals and the working-class building a counter- hegemony.

The need to create a working-class culture and a counter-hegemony relates to Gramsci’s call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, whose task was not to introduce Marxist ideology into the consciousness of the proletariat as a set of foreign notions but to renovate the existing intellectual activity of the masses and make it natively critical of the status quo. His ideas about an education  system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci’s writing and ideas important to this day.

(B) Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses


1. Who used the term ‘ideological state apparatuses’ for mass media?

Ans: Louis Althusser.

2. Who was Louis Althusser?

Ans: Louis Althusser was a french philosopher.

3. According to Louise Althusser, the mode of production involves complex articulation of______.

Ans: Economic, political and ideological practices.

4. In which year the essay was published?

Ans: The essay was published in the year 1979.

5. In which year feminism began?

Ans: Feminism began during the Frence Revolution in the year 1789.

6. What was the demand of women in the first phase of the feminism? 

Ans: In the first phase the women demanded for the equal rights of women such as gender inequality, the right for devorce of women, education for women and right to vote. 

7. In which year the second wave of feminism started?

Ans: The second wave of feminism was from 1940 to 1990.

8. What was the result in this phase?

Ans: The women in this phase got right to vote. There was an end of the parental authority of men over his family. The women got access to abortion and birth control.

9. Why Irigaray did begins her essay by considering women as a commodity?

Ans: Irigaray begins her essay by saying that women is a commodity among the men. Like other material things, they are exchanged by the men, among the domain of men. The males, on the other hand, are outside this particular domain.

10. What concept did Irigaray borrowed to explain why women are commodity among men?

Ans: She borrowed the concept of deconstruction of Derrida language is not logo centric. It is cultural production. As culture is patriarchal hence language is also patriarchal.

11. Why does Irigaray reject the concept of homosexuality?

Ans: Irigaray reject Freud concept of homosexuality. According to her, homosexuality (sexual relation among the persons having same sex) and homosociality (relation among person with same sex without having sex) exist in society. However homosociality is promoted respected and accepted whereas homosexuality is promoted respected and accepted whereas homosexuality is rejected.

12. According to Irigaray, what women should do?

Ans: in the end, she says that women should established homogenous relation among themselves. In this way, phallus will lose its power and hence they will achieve the desired status. They will never be able to bring change by adding women voice to the current male centric world.


1. Who was Althusser?

Ans: Althusser was a structuralist Marxist. He wrote ideology and ideological state apparatuses in French which was published in 1970. In this essay, Althusser tells how the conditions of means of productions and productive forces are reproduced and maintained in society.

2. What is the reproduction of conditions of productions?

Ans: According to Althusser the reproduction of the productive forces is ensured by the wage system that pays a minimum amount to the working class so that they may have to work every day and also may not raise in status. Wages are set not by biological Needs but by the historical minimum. On the other hand, the conditio, production include machinery, skills, raw material etc.

The reproduction of conditions of production and reproduction of relations of productions takes place through the state apparatuses which are controlled by the ruling ideology of the capitalist class.

The capitalist class is the base and the working class is the superstructure. Capitalist class at the base controls the superstructure through two tools:

(a)  Repressive state apparatuses.

(b)  Ideological state apparatuses.

3. What is Repressive state Apparatuses?

Ans: According to Althusser state is a Repressive apparatus. It is a machine of repression that makes the ruling class dominates the working class. This is done through police, courts, prisons, government, administration etc. The Repressive state apparatuses function as a unified entity. Whenever an individual or a group of individuals challenge the dominant ideology of the state, the later uses repressive state apparatuses in order to stabilize the former. These apparatuses are always violent.

4. What is an ideological state apparatus?

Ans: Ideological state apparatuses on the other hand function behind the shield in the form of morals and ethics. Ideological state apparatuses are quite different from the repressive state apparatuses as these are not violent.

They include educational institutions, religious institutions, family, media outlets, trade unions, cultural groups, political groups, legal groups etc.

In all ideological state apparatuses, the set of ideological discourses at work are always dominated by the ruling ideology.

According to Althusser, the educational institution is the core of ideological state apparatuses. In earlier times church used to shape the minds of the people and today it is the school which makes the children learn morals and ethics.

The student are taught the proper ways of behaviour, ways of talking, in interacting, thinking and acting. Those who dominate become capitalists while others become workers. Ruling ideologies do not enjoy freedom in ideological state apparatuses. Thus they form subjects.

5. What is ”Ideology and ideological state Apparatuses”?

Ans: “Ideology and ideological state Apparatuses is an essay by the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. First published in 1970, it advances Althusser’s theory of ideology. Where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels posited an thinly-sketched theory of ideology as false consciousness, Althusser draws upon the works of later theorists such as Antonio Gramsci, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan to proffer a more elaborate redefinition of the theory. Althusser’s theory of ideology has remained in influential since it was written.

6. What is reproduction of the relations of production?

Ans: Althusser begins the essay by reiterating the Marxist theory that in order to exist, a social formation is required to essentially, continuously and perpetually reproduce the productive forces (labour power and means of production), the conditions of production and the relations of production. The reproduction of labour power is ensured by the wage system which pays a minimum amount to the workers so that they appear to work day after day, thereby limiting their vertical mobility. The reproduction of the conditions of production and the reproduction of the relations of production happens through the state apparatuses which are insidious machinations controlled by the capitalist ruling ideology in the context of a class struggle to repress, exploit, extort and subjugate the ruled class.

The Marxist spatial metaphor of the edifice describes a social formation constituted by the foundational infrastructure, i.e. the economics base, on which stands the superstructure consisting of two floors:the law/the state (the politico-legal floor) and ideology.

7. What is base and superstructure?

Ans: In Marxist theory, society consists of two parts: the base (or substructure) and superstructure. The base refers to the mode of production which includes the forces and relations of production (e.g. employer- employee work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations) into which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life. The superstructure refers to society’s other relationships and ideas not directly relating to production including its culture, institutions, political powers structures, roles, rituals, religion, media, and state. The relation of the two parts is not strictly unidirectional. The superstructure can effect the base. However the influence of the base is predominant.

8. What is meant by superstructure and infrastructure?

Ans: The difference between the two is that the infrastructure forms the base or foundation of business activity, while the superstructure forms the facilities and operational procedures of business activity.

9. Why is the superstructure important?

Ans: The place where norms, values, beliefs, and ideology reside, the superstructure legitimizes the base. It creates the conditions in which the relations of production seem fair and natural, though they may actually be unjust and designed to benefit the ruling class only.

10. Explain about Ideological state Apparatuses.

Ans: Ideological state apparatuses (ISA), according to Althusser, use methods other than physical violence to achieve the same objectives as RSA. They may include

educational institutions (e.g. school), media outlets, churches, social and sports clubs and the family. These formations are ostensibly a political and part of civil society, rather than a formal part of the state (i.e. as is the case in an RSA). In terms of psychology they could be described as psychosocial, because they aim to inculcate ways of seeing and evaluating things, events and class relations. Instead of expressing and imposing order, through violent repression, ISA disseminate ideologies that reinforce the control of a dominant class. People tend to be co-opted by fear of social rejection, i.g. ostracisation, ridicule and isolation. In Althusser’s view, a social class cannot hold state power unless, and until, it simultaneously exercises hegemony (domination) over and through ISA.

Educational ISA, in particular, assume a dominant role in a capitalist economy, and conceal and mask the ideology of the ruling class behind the “liberating qualities” of education, so that the hidden agendas of the ruling class are inconspicuous to most teachers, students, parents and other interested members of society. Althusser said that the school has supplanted the church as the crucial ISA for indoctrination, which arguments the reproduction of the relations of production (i.e. the capitalist relations of exploitation) by training the students to become sources of labour power, who work for and under capitalists.

However, because ISA cannot dominant as obviously or readily as RSA, ideological state apparatuses may themselves become a site of class struggle. That is, subordinate social classes are able to find the means and occasions to express class struggle politically and in so doing counter the dominant class, either by utilizing ideological contradictions inherent in ISA, or by campaigns to take control of positions within the ISA. This, nevertheless, will not in itself prevent the dominant class from retaining its position in control of RSA.

11. According to Althusser, what are the two these of ideology?

Ans: Althusser advances two these on ideology: “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence”; and “Ideology has a material existence”.

The first thesis tenders the familiar Marxist contention that ideologies have the function of masking the exploitative arrangements on which class societies are based. Where Althusser’s theory differs from the conception of ideology held by previous Marxists, is that it sees ideology as a permanent medium of delusion that must exist to bind men together into society. Even in a classless society, ideology is needed to give social cohesion, to constitute individuals as imaginary subjects.

The second thesis posits that ideology does not exist in the form of “ideas” or conscious “representations” in the “minds” of individuals. Rather, ideology consists of the action and behaviours of bodies governed by their disposition within material apparatuses. Central to the view of individuals as responsible subjects is the notion of an explanatory link between belief and action, that every ‘subject’ endowed with a ‘consciousness’ and believing in the ‘ideas’ that his ‘consciousness’ inspires in him and freely accepts, much act according to his ideas, much therefore inscribe his own ideas as a free subject in the action of his material practice.

12. What do you mean by Repressive State Apparatuses? What is the difference between RSA and ISA?

Ans: The ruling class uses repressive state apparatuses (RSA) to dominate the working class. The basic, social function of the RSA (government, courts, police and armed forces, etc.) is timely intervention within politics in favour of the interests of the ruling class, by repressive the subordinate social classes as required, using either violent or nonviolent coercive means. The ruling class controls the RSA because they also control the power of the state (political, legislative, and armed).

Althusser has enhanced the Marxist theory of the state by distinguishing the repressive apparatuses of the state from the ideological apparatuses of the state (ISA), which comprise an array of social institutions and multiple, political realities that propagate many ideologies-the religious ISA, the educational ISA, the family ISA, the legal ISA, the political ISA, the communications ISA, the culture ISA, etc.

The difference between the RSA and the ISA are:

(a) The repressive state apparatus (RSA) functions as a unified entity (an institution), unlike the ideological state apparatus (ISA), which is diverse in nature and plural in function. What unites the disparate ISA, however, is their ultimate control by the ruling ideology.

(b) The apparatuses of the state, repressive and ideological, each perform the double functions of violence and ideology. A state apparatus cannot be exclusively repressive or exclusively ideological. The distinction between an RSA and an ISA is its primary function in society: respectively, the administration of violent repression and the dissemination of ideology. In practice, the RSA is the means of repression and violence, and, secondarily, a means of ideology; whereas, the primary, practical function of the ISA is as the means for the dissemination of ideology, and, secondarily, as a means of political violence and repression. The secondary function of the ISA are effected in a concealed and a symbolic manner. Moreover, when individual persons and political groups threaten the social order established by the dominant social class, the state invokes the stabilising functions of the repressive state apparatus. As such, the benign forms of social repression effect the judicial system, where ostensibly public contractual language is invoked in order to govern individual and collective behaviour in society. As internal threats (social, political, economic) to the dominant order appear, the state applies proportionate social repression: police suppression, incarceration, and military intervention.

13. What do you mean by Interpellation? Explain.

Ans: Althusser uses the term “Interpellation” to describe the process by which ideology constitutes individual persons as subjects. According to Althusser, the obviousness that people (you and I) are subjects is an effect of ideology. Althusser believes that there are two functions of Interpellation. One function of ideology is “recognition” and the other function, its inverse, is “misrecognition”. Below are a few concrete illustrations that Althusser provides to further explain the two function:

When a friend of yours knocks on your door, you ask “Who’s there?” The answer, since it is obvious, is “it’s me”. Once you recognize that “it is him or her”, you open to the door. After opening the door, you see that it truly is he or she who is there.

Another illustration reflects Althusser’s idea of reconnaissance. When recognizing a familiar face on the street in France, for example, you show him that you have recognized him and that he has recognized you by saying “Hello, my friend”. You also shake his hand when speaking. The handshake represents a material ritual practice of ideological recognition in the everyday life of France. Other locations across the world may have different rituals.

Ideological social and political institutions “hail” the individual in social interactions, giving the individual his or her identity. Althusser compares ideology to a policeman  shouting “hey you” to a person walking in the street. The person responds to the call and in doing so is transformed into a subject- a self-conscious, responsible agent whose actions can be explained by his or her thoughts. Althusser this goes against the classical definition of the subject as cause and substance, emphasising instead how the situation always precedes the (individual or collective) subject. Concrete individual persons are the carriers of ideology-they are “always-already interpellated” as subjects. Individual subjects are presented principally as produced by social forces, rather than acting as powerful independent agents with self-produced identities. Althusser’s argument here strongly draws from Jacques Lacan’s concept of the mirror stage-we acquire our identities by seeing ourselves somehow mirrored in ideologies.

As a further example, Althusser depicts Christian religious ideology, embodied in the Voice of God, instructing a person on what his place in the world is and what he must do to be reconciled with Christ. Althusser draws the pint that in order for that person to identify himself as a Christian, he must first already be a subject; that is, by responding to God’s call and following His rules, he affirms himself as a free agent, the author of the acts for which he assumes responsibility. We cannot recognize ourselves outside of ideology, and in fact, our very actions reach out to this overarching structure.

14. Give an explanation on Althusser’s Ideology?

Ans: Louis Althusser’s builds on the work of Jacques Lacan to understand the way ideology functions in society. He thus moves away from the earlier Marxist understanding of ideology. In the earlier model, ideology was believed to create what termed “false consciousness,” a false understanding of the way the world functioned (for example, the suppression of the fact that the products we purchase on the open market are, in fact, the result of the exploitation of labourers). Althusser explains that for Marx “Ideology is […] Thought as an imaginary construction whose status is exactly like the theoretical status of the dreams among writers before Freud. For those writers, the dream was the purely imaginary, i.e. null, result of the ‘day’s residues”. Althusser, by contrast, approximates ideology to Lacan’s understanding of “reality,” the world we construct around us after our entrance into the symbolic order. 

For Althusser, as for Lacan, it is impossible to access the “Real conditions of existence” due to our reliance on language; however, through a rigorous” scientific” approach to society, economics, at least the ways that we are inscribed in ideology by complex processes of recognition. Althusser’s understanding of ideology has in turn influenced a number of important Marxist thinkers, including Chantalle Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Slavoj Zizek, and Fredric Jameson.

Althusser posits a series of hypotheses that he explores to clarify his understanding of ideology:

(a) “ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence”. The traditional way of thinking of ideology led Marxist to show how ideologies are false by pointing to the real world hidden by ideology (for example, the “real” economic base for ideology). According to Althusser, by contrast, ideology does not “reflect” the real world but “represent ” the “imaginary relationship of individuals” to the real world; the thing ideology (mis) represent is itself already at one remove from the real. In this, Althusser follows the Lacanian understanding of the imaginary order, which is itself at one step removed from the Lacanian Real. In other words, we are always within ideology because of our reliance on language to establish our “reality”; different ideologies are but different representations of our social and imaginary “reality” not a representation of the real itself.

(b) “Ideology has a material existence”. Althusser contends that ideology has a material existence because “an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and it’s practice, or practices”. Ideology always manifests itself through actions, which are “inserted into practices”, for example, rituals, conventional behaviour, and so on. Indeed, Althusser goes so far as to adopt Pascal’s formula for belief: “Pascal says more or less: ‘kneel down, move or lips in prayer and you will believe”. It is our performance of our relation to others and to others and to social institutions that continually instantiates us as subjects. Judith Butler’s understanding of performativity could be said to be strongly influenced by this way of thinking about ideology.

(c) “All ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects”. According to Althusser, the main purpose of ideology is in “constituting’ concrete individuals as subject”. So pervasive is ideology in its constitution of subject that it forms our vary reality and thus appears to us as “true” or “obvious”. Althusser gives the example of the “hello” on a street: “the rituals of ideological recognition […] Guarantee for us that we are indeed concrete, individual, distinguishable and (naturally) irreplaceable subjects”. Through “Interpellation,” individuals are turned into subjects (which are always ideological). Althusser’s example is the hail from the police officer: “Hey, you there!” “Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes place in the street, the hailed individual will turn round. 

By this more one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject”. The very fact that we do not recognize this interaction as ideological speaks to the power of ideology: what thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology [….] That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, “I am ideological.”

(d) “Individuals are always-already subjects”. Although he presents his example of Interpellation in a temporal form (I am interpellates and thus I become a subject, I enter ideology), Althusser makes it clear that the “becoming-subject” happens even before we are born. “This proposition might seem paradoxical”, Althusser admits; nevertheless, “That an individuals is always- already a subject, even before he is born, is […] The plain reality, accessible to everyone and not a paradox at all”. Even before the child is born, “it is certain in advance that it will bear it’s father’s Name, and will therefore have an identity and be irreplaceable. Before its birth, the child is therefore always-already a subject, appointed as a subject in and by the specific familiar ideological configuration in which it is ‘expected’ once it has been conceived”. Althusser thus once again invokes Lacan’s ideas, in this case Lacan understanding of the “Name-of-the-Father.”

Most subjects accept their ideological self-constitution as “reality” or “nature” and thus rarely run afoul of the repressive state apparatus, which is designed to punish anyone who reject the dominant ideology. Hegemony is thus reliant less on such repressive state apparatuses as the police than it is on those Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) by which ideology is inculcated in all subjects. As Althusser puts is, “the individual is interpellated as a (free) subject in order that he shall submit freely to the commandments of the subject, i.e. in order that he shall (freely) accept his subjection, i.e. in order that he shall make the gestures and actions of his subjection ”all by himself”.

15. Give an explanation on Althusser’s Ideological state Apparatuses.

Ans: Louise Althusser complicates Marx’s understand of the relation between base and superstructure by adding his concept of “ideological state apparatuses”. Marx distinguished among various “level” in a society: the infrastructure or economic base and the superstructure, which includes political and legal institutions (law, the police, and the government) as well as ideology (religious, moral, legal, political, etc.). The superstructure has a relative autonomy with relation to the base; it relies on the economic base but can sometimes persist for a long period after major changes in the economic base. Althusser does not reject the Marxist model; however, he does want to explore the ways in which ideology is more pervasive and more “material” than previously acknowledge. As a result, he purpose to distinguish “ideological state apparatuses” (ISAs for short) from the repressive state apparatus (SA for short). 

The state apparatus includes “the government, the administration, the Army, the Police, the Courts, the prisons, etc”. These are the agencies that function ”by violence”, by at some point imposing punishment or privation in order to enforce power.

To distinguish ISAs from the SA, Althusser offer a number of examples:

(a) The religious ISA (the system of the different public and private ‘school’).

(b) The family ISA.

(c) The legal ISA.

(d) The political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).

(e) The trade union ISA.

(f) The communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.)

(g) The cultural ISA (Literature, the Arts, sports, etc.)

These ISAs, by contrast to the SA, are less centralized and more heterogeneous; they are also believed to access the private rather than the public realm of existence, although Althusser’s goal here is to question the bourgeois distinction between private and public: “The distinction between the public and the private is a distinction internal to bourgeois law, and valid in the (subordinate) domains in which bourgeois law exercises it’s ‘authority’. 

The main thing that distinguishes the ISAs from the SAs is ideology: “the Repressive state Apparatus functions ‘by violence’, whereas the ideological State Apparatuses function ‘by ideology’. To be more precise, Althusser explains that the SA functions predominantly by violence or repression and only secondarily by ideology. Similarly the ISAs function predominantly by ideology but can include punishment or repression secondarily: “Schools and Churches use suitable methods of punishment, expulsion, selection, etc., to ‘discipline’ not only their shepherds, but also their flocks. The same is true of the Family…. The same is true of the cultural IS Apparatus (censorship, among other things), etc.”

Although the ISAs appear to be quite disparate, they are unified by subscribing to a common ideology in the service of the ruling class; indeed, the ruling class must maintain a degree of control over the ISAs in order to ensure the stability of the repressive state apparatus (the SA): “To my knowledge, no class can hold state power over a long period without at the same time exercising it’s hegemony over and in the state ideological Apparatuses”. It is much harder for the ruling class to maintain control over the multiple, heterogeneous, and relatively autonomous ISAs (alternative perspectives can be voiced in each ISA), which is why there is a continual struggle for hegemony in this realm.

It is also worth mentioning that, according to Althusser, “what the bourgeoisie has installed as it’s number-one, i.e. as it’s dominant ideological State apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant ideological state apparatus, the Church”. Through education, each mass of individuals that leaves the educational system at various junctures (the labourers who leave the system early, the petty bourgeoisie who leave after their B.A.s, and the leaders who complete further specialist training) enters the work force with the ideology necessary for the reproduction of the current system: “Each mass ejected an route is practically provided with the ideology which suits the role it has to fulfilling class society”. Other ISAs contribute to the replication of the dominant ideology but “no other ideological State apparatus has the obligatory (and not least, free) audience of the totality of the children in the capitalist social formation, eight hours a day for five or six days out of seven”. 

The very importance of this function is why schools are invested in hiding their true purpose through an obfuscating ideology: “an ideology which represents the school as a neutral environment purged of ideology (because it is…lay), where teacher respectful of the ‘conscience’ and ‘freedom’ of the children who are entrusted to them (in complete confidence) by their ‘parents’ (who are free, too, i.e. the owners of their children) open up for them the path to the freedom, morality and responsibility of adults by their own example, by knowledge, literature and their ‘liberating’ virtues”. So pervasive is this ideology, according to Althusser, that “those teachers who, in dreadful conditions, attempt to turn the few weapons they can find in the history and learning they ‘teach’ against the ideology, the system and the practices in which they are trapped….. are a kind of hero”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top