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Althusser Presentation

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Lauren Fusilier

on 31 March 2011

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Transcript of Althusser Presentation

Althusser “A Letter on Art in Reply to André Daspre”

The Relationship between Art and Scientific Knowledge
-to ‘see’, ‘feel’, ‘percieve’ something which alludes to reality.
-art makes us see “the ideology from which it is born, in which it bathes, from which it detaches itself as art, and to which it alludes.” On Solzhenitsyn and the Reality of Ideology

-Knowledge is “the conceptual knowledge of the complex social mechanisms which eventually produce the ‘lived experience’ […] that Solzhenitsyn’s novel discusses.”
-The novel “may draw attention to its ‘lived’ effects, but cannot give an understanding of it; it may put the question of the ‘cult’ on the agenda, but it cannot define the means which will make it possible to remedy these effects.” “I know that the artist, and the art lover, spontaneously express themselves in terms of ‘creation’, etc […] spontaneous language is an ideological language, the vehicle of an ideology, here the ideology of art and of the activity productive of aesthetic effects. Like all knowledge, the knowledge of art presupposes a preliminary rupture with the language of ideological spontaneity and the constitution of a body of scientific concepts to replace it. It is essential to be conscious of the necessity for this rupture with ideology to be able to undertake the constitution of the edifice of a knowledge of art.” . Divesting Author and Critic of their Anointments
“When you counterpose ‘rigorous reflection on the concepts of Marxism’ to ‘something else’, in particular to what art gives us, I believe you are establishing a comparison which is either incomplete or illegitimate. Since art in fact provides us with something else other than science, there is not an opposition between them, but a difference.”
“Now I believe the only way we can hope to reac a real knowledge of art, to go deeper into the specificity of the work of art, to know the mechanisms which produce the ‘aesthetic effect’, is precisely to spend a long time and pay the greatest attention to the ‘basic principles of Marxism’ and not to be in a hurry to ‘move on to something else’, for if we move on too quickly to ‘something else’ we shall arrive not at a knowledge of art, but an ideology of art; e.g., at the latent humanist ideology which may be induced by what you say about the relations between the art and the ‘human’, and about artistic ‘creation’, etc.”

“[…] it is not in order to pass art silently by or to sacrifice it to science: it is quite simply in order to know it, and to give it its due.”
“The ultimate condition of production is therefore the reproduction of the conditions of production.”
In order to be able to produce, it must reproduce:
1.the productive forces,
2.the existing relations of production.
. The Reproduction of Labour-Power in a capitalist regime:
-Education and “Know-how”
-“They go to varying distances in their studies, but at any rate they learn to read, to write […] including elements of ‘scientific’ or literary culture’, which are directly useful in different jobs in production […].”
“[T]he reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology got the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words’.”
Infrastructure and Superstructure: the Spatial Metaphor of the “Social Whole”
-The infrastructure—“the economic base (the ‘unity’ of productive forces and the relations of production).
-The superstructure—“the politico-legal (law and the State) and the ideology (the different ideologies, religious, ethical, legal, political, etc.).
1. [T]here is a ‘relative autonomy” of the superstructure with respect to the base;
2. there is a ‘reciprocal action’ of the superstructure on the base.
. The State Apparatus
-The basic function of the State: “a force of repressive execution and intervention ‘in the interests of the ruling classes’ in the class struggle conducted by the bourgeoisie and its allies against the proletariat.”
-It provides not only the “necessities” of “law, police, the courts, the prisons, but also the army, which intervenes as a supplementary repressive force.” (The Repressive State Appratus)
-While State power (the object of class struggle) can be assumed through revolution, the State apparatus remains to be used by the classes holding State power as a function of their class objectives. As a result, the proletariat must sieze state power in order to destroy the existing State apparatus, and phase out its vestiges until the State itself is destroyed. . The State Ideological Apparatuses
-The ISA is “on the side of the (repressive) State apparatus, but must not be confused with it.”
-The ISAs:
•the religious ISA (the system of the different public and private 'Schools'),
•the family ISA,
•the legal ISA, (both systems)
•the political ISA (the political system, including the different Parties),
•the trade union ISA,
•the communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.),
•the cultural ISA (Literature, the Arts, sports, etc.)
-The Unity of the ISAs
-The RSA is unified, not only by its ultimate actualization through violence, but in that it “belongs entirely to the public domain” and functions primarily by “physical repression” and only secondarily by ideology. Ex: the police.
-the ISAs are “of the private domain” and function primarily by ideology and secondarily by repression. Ex: Schools, Churches, Families, and the Cultural.
-Their diversity is unified by their “double ‘functioning’.”
-“No class can hold State power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State Ideological Apparatuses.”
-The ISAs are “not only the stake, but also the site of class struggle.” . A Return to Reproduction
-The reproductions of the relations of production are secured “by the legal-politcial and ideological superstructure” and moreover “by the exercise of State power in the State Apparatuses.”
The ‘Division of Labour’:
-The SA contributes to its own reproduction (dynastic politics) and secures by repression (physical force, edicts, commands and interdictions, as well as open or tacit censorship) the political conditions for the actions of the ISAs.
-The ruling class, which holds state power, must profligate the ruling ideology that ensures ‘harmony’ between the RSA and the ISAs, as well as between the ISAs themselves.
-‘Serfdom” and the Church as the arm of the state in the feudal mode of production.
-The aims of revolution in destroying the Church as ISA. (France, Spain) Problematic: (USSR, the United States).
The Educational ISA
-The Educational ISA as “installed in the dominant position in mature capitalist social formations as a result of a violent and ideological class struggle against the old dominant ISA.”
-All ideological State apparatuses, whatever they are, contribute to the same result: the reproduction of the relations of production, i.e. of capitalist relations of exploitation.
2. Each of them contributes towards this single result in the way proper to it.
-The political apparatus by subjecting individuals to the political State ideology, the 'indirect' (parliamentary) or 'direct' (plebiscitary or fascist) 'democratic' ideology.
-The communications apparatus by cramming every 'citizen' with daily doses of nationalism, chauvinism, liberalism, moralism, etc, by means of the press, the radio and television.
-The same goes for the cultural apparatus (the role of sport in chauvinism is of the first importance), etc.
-The religious apparatus by recalling in sermons and the other great ceremonies of Birth, Marriage and Death, that man is only ashes, unless he loves his neighbour to the extent of turning the other cheek to whoever strikes first. The family apparatus… In Concert

-The Ideology of the current ruling class […] integrates into its music the great themes of the Humanism of the Great Forefathers, who produced the Greek Miracle even before Christianity, and afterwards the Glory of Rome, the Eternal City, and the themes of Interest, particular and general, etc. nationalism, moralism and economism.

4. Nevertheless, in this concert, one ideological State apparatus certainly has the dominant role,
although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.

-Takes the child at a vulnerable point—when “squeezed between the Family SA and the Educational SA and drums into them […] a certain amount of ‘know-how’ wrapped in the ruling ideology, or the ideology in its pure state.”

-The majority of children enter production at an early age: Peasantry.
-Others go further, then “fall by the wayside”: Petty bourgeois.
-The last portion pursues further and falls into “intellectual semi-employment” or the agents of exploitation (capitalists, managers), the agents of repression (soldiers, policemen, politicians), and professional ideologists (ecumenical and not).

-No other ISA has such a captive audience as schoolchildren.
“A Kind of Hero”

--Those who teach against the system in which they are trapped are rare.
-The majority are unaware of their role, are crushed by the system, or worse, go wholeheartedly about their work. The Bricolage of Ideology
-Differing from The German Ideology-Marx-Engels
--It nothing insofar as it is a pure dream (manufactured by who knows what power: if not by the alienation of the division of labour).
--Ideology has no history. Not that there isn’t any history in it.

-Ideology, after Freud, “is eternal”. Ideology’s history is external to it. It is an omni-historical reality. The structure and function are immutable. Thesis I

Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.

-When examining ideology from a critical point of view, we admit that these ‘world outlooks’ do not correspond to reality, though they do make allusion to reality; and that they need only be ‘interpreted’ to discover the reality of the world behind their imaginary representation of that world.

Ideology = illusion / allusion Literature = ?

-So, why do we “’need’ this imaginary transposition” of life and circumstance in order to represent our “actual conditions of existence”? False Answers

1.Beautiful Lies, as propounded by Priests and Despots in order to engender human obedience through obedience to a higher power and its agents on earth.
2. Material alienation. Creating an alienated (imaginary) representation of their conditions because the conditions themselves are dominated by the essence of alienated society.

-These answers depend upon the idea that “what is reflected in the imaginary representation of the world found in an ideology is the conditions of existence of men, i.e. their real world. Continuing from Marx-Feuerbach
-If representations arise from the relations of production and from relations deriving from the relations of production, it represents in its necessarily imaginary distortion not the existing relations of production, but the (imaginary) relationship of individuals to the relations of production and the relations that derive from them.

-Ideology does not represent the system of the real relations governing individual existence, but the imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live.

-The question of cause disappears, the two answers are “esxploded”, only to be replaced by the question of why the representation one’s relation to the social conditions which govern one’s existence necessarily an imaginary relation. . Thesis II

Ideology has a material existence.

-The spiritual existence of ideas and the ideal arises in an ideology of the ‘idea’. Spiritualism begetting spiritualism, transcendentalism begetting transcendentalism, humanism…

-An ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice or practices.
-It is material, but in “different modalities”

The Individual Living in Ideology

-Those whose ideology is reduced to ideas endowed by definition with spiritual existence derives his belief from him as a subject with a consciousness which contains the ideas of his belief.
-Behaves, adopts an attitude, and participates.
-Thus every subject is endowed with consciousness and must “act according to his ideas”. Ideology of this sort has a necessary physical manifestation. If the ‘believer’ does not do so, his actions still exist as a function of the same idealist scheme. He is not negating those ideas, but is ‘inconsistent’, a back-slider, who remains governed by the idea even in reaction against it. Conjoint Theses

1. there is no practice except by and in an ideology;
2. there is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects.

Ideology Interpolates Individuals as Subjects

-The subject is the constitutive category of all ideology, but only insofar as ideology has the function of ‘constituting’ concrete individuals as subjects.
-The double-constitution of ideology. It is nothing but its functioning in the materil forms of existence of that functioning.

-The functions of ideology as recognition and misrecognition.

-Examples of greeting. We are always already subjects.

-The relationship between writer and reader is a ritual of ideological recognition, engendering judgments of truth or error.

-Conscious recognition of our incessant (eternal) practice of ideological recognition.

-What is the knowledge of the mechanism of this recognition?

-Ideology hails or interpolates concrete individuals as concrete subjects.

-One becomes the subject by recognizing that one is being hailed. (Not solely explainable by “guilt”)
-The individual is an always-ready subject, even before birth.
The Religious discourse

-The duplication of the Subject into subjects

“It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.” Solzhenitsyn "A work of art contains its verification in itself: artificial, strained concepts do not withstand the test of being turned into images; they fall to pieces, turn out to be sickly and pale, convince no one. Works which draw on truth and present it to us in live and concentrated form grip us, compellingly involve us, and no one ever, not even ages hence, will come forth to refute them." Solzhenitsyn Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses
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