15 thoughts on “Ideology Part Two: Althusser

  1. Is this all your own opinion? I'd like you too clarify that every two seconds in your next video, so the video doesn't get annoying at all.

  2. you missed something in your run down of the relations of production and their reproduction. Althusser is a Marxist and the framework for this essay is the question, "how do the exploitative relations of production under capitalism exist and sustain themselves?" The whole question revolves around exploitation. This is not merely conditioning and conformity in ideology but material relations themselves. So when you reach the point that the ISA's reproduce "the values that are already in production" (around 5:30) you fall off the track that Althusser is following.

    What you really should be saying here is that the ISA's are a mechanism which hold in place not their own values but the material relations of production, which under capitalism are exploitation. A generous read of your words, "keep the system in place" could suggest this but I don't think it's sufficiently emphasized here given that Althusser set out in this essay to analyse the conditions of exploitation and how they function on a scale beyond the individual firm or individual capitalist.

    Referring to this process as a reproduction of values is only the first half of the equation; the ISA's themselves /are/ systems of values; the ISA's in context of production are mechanisms for sustaining exploitation. They are not merely means to ideological hegemony but means to power over the exploited proletariat. This is why he puts them in relation to the RSA: both sustain the material relation of exploitation, not merely the values themselves which sustain those relations. The ruling class does not propagate "the values that are already in production" to their own end but only to the end of sustaining its exploitation of the ruled class, the proletariat. To leave this out of any account of Althusser's work is to sink into idealist vulgarization of revolutionary theory.

  3. So if a state of conditioning is inescapable, would it be more helpful to look at the physical objects and status'es of people? If one interprets being poor or unmotivated as a state of suffering and you can observe that it would be a helpful response to learn/solve for suffering? So I suppose im saying you can condition yourself through habitualizing the use of helpful (to you, people around you, people in general. values etc) habits, through observsation? Werner Erhard said superstition is disempowered by just noticing it.

  4. Thank you! This was very helpful in making sense of the text as a whole!
    I recently read Foucault's panopticism. As a future video idea/discussion it would be helpful to see you connect this idea of ISA trying to create conforming societies and people, to the panopticon that seeks to control people through self-regulation. Not totally sure if I've explained myself well here but the idea of creating conforming people relate to both texts 🙂

  5. This is such a good video and you're so cute. Wish you could be my gf 🙂
    Your video was very helpful.

  6. Nice videos, I agree! Good to see you struggle with a difficult text as I once did and still do. You ask for comments, and here is one, if it's still of interest some months later. It is only meant to supplement with perspectives possibly helpful when it comes to counteract ideologies.

    Like many people trying to cover Althusser you say that an ideology is a system of ideas, a way of thinking, conceptions of the world, legitimizing the existing social order, keeping the system in place. You may find this in Althusser, but in the ISA-essay something different comes to the foreground, something that may seem to contradict the 'idea'-part of the term ideology. It's not about what an ideology is saying (e.g. 'conceptions of the world'), rather that someone (or an institution) repeatedly says something to YOU. Forced to respond you are caught in some sort of grip, where you continue to respond (like Amen in a church). You know the allegory (I wouldn't say an example) Althusser uses with the policeman in the street, shouting from a distance 'hey you!'. Already by turning around in the direction of the call, you recognize that it was meant for you, which 'makes' you a subject (within the existing order). This extreme simplification is just meant to shift the focus from ideas in the head of the individual to the play between the individual and the ideological apparatus. When a child walks into a church (say a cathedral) it's not religious dogmas that are in play but an obscure sence that here must dwell something powerful, a power to submit to. The building itself talks. When you walk into a mall, with our without words you are interpellated as a consumer, someone whose life is fullfilled by buying their stuff and more generally belonging to a world of consumption. Watch this commercial where Ronald McDonald interpellates children, they turn around just like the person in the allegory, they come running and start dancing and singing 'Yes, this [McDonalds] is our place!' (where we go to be the subjects that we are). ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku-PTxrfM6M ) As you know Althusser stresses that an ideology has a material existence and consists of practices and rituals. Ideas are also transferred, but the basis is the ongoing interaction with and within the apparatuses, keeping YOU in place (which may be physically). Furthermore, ideological ideas are not ideas about what the world is as much as what YOU are (for ideology) – a worker, a consumer, a child of God, whatever. An ideology is a mirror rather than a window. It may give you an identity and in return it gets your submission (if we're talking about that kind of ideology).

    Critique of ideology then is to see and reject ideology at work (and not only dissect ideas). To learn not to respond, to free yourself from the grips of the apparatuses and as the next step engage in politics against the power relations reproduced in them. Politics where you also meet ideologies and interpellations for the sake of emancipation. Hope this makes any sense.

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