Louis Althusser

Topics: Marxism, Louis Althusser, Ideology Pages: 4 (1085 words) Published: November 24, 2012
In his essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, Louis Althusser demonstrates that in order to exist, a social formation is required to essentially, continuously and perpetually reproduce the productive forces (labour-power), the conditions of production and the relations of production. The reproduction of productive forces 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 economic base on which stands the superstructure comprising of two floors: the Law-the State (politico-legal) and Ideology. Althusser extends this topographical paradigm by stating that the Infrastructural economic base is endowed with an “index of effectivity” which enables it to ultimately determine the functioning of the superstructure. He scrutinizes this structural metaphor by discussing the superstructure in detail. A close study of the superstructure is necessitated due to its relative autonomy over the base and its reciprocal action on the base.

Althusser regards the State as a repressive apparatus which is used by the ruling class as a tool to suppress and dominate the working class. According to Althusser, the basic function of the Repressive State Apparatus (Heads of State, government, police, courts, army etc.) is to intervene and act in favour of the ruling class by repressing the ruled class by violent and coercive means. The Repressive state apparatus (RSA) is controlled by the ruling class, because more often than not, the...
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