Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Althusser on Ideology, Bad Subjects and the Repressive State Apparatus


Louis Althusser described how ideology constitutes people as particular kinds of subjects by providing them identities to which they actively adopt ("work on themselves"), unless of course they are "bad subjects" who reject their ideological interpellation and thereby attract the attention of the repressive state apparatuses:

“The duplicate mirror-structure of ideology ensures simultaneously:

1.              The interpellation of ‘individuals’ as subjects.

2.              The subjection to the Subject

3.              The mutual recognition of subjects and Subject, the subject’s recognition of each other, and finally the subject’s recognition of himself.

4.              The absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right: Amen – “So be it”.

“. . . the subjects ‘work’, they ‘work by themselves’ in the vast majority of cases, with the exception of the ‘bad subjects’ who on occasion provoke the intervention of one of the detachments of the (repressive) State apparatus” (37)


Good subjects embrace their subjectification. Bad subjects rebel.

Althusser's thoughts seem especially relevant these days as I scroll through my Twitter feed....




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