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Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus

Louis Althusser’s concept of the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) represents an innovative at the time view on peoples’ being involved into different manipulations from the part of official power. The concise picture of Althusser’s ISA represents rather interesting explanation of how individuals living in a state governed by the rule of law are interrelated and bound in what they do. It is vital to admit that the whole discussion on a media phenomenon functioning in terms of ISA. The role of ideology, impacting on people wherever they are, matters in this respect.

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It is known that public opinion of the society is in most points a result of mass media. In other words, people are not secured at all from being dependent on what newspapers, television, Internet or other media inform. Hitler once said that the more lies are ominous, the more people believe in them. This constitutes the powerful and tremendous impact of mass media at the time. Looking at Althusser’s concept, material and ideological features are contradicted in the concept of ISA. Their mutual relation is apparent. Ideology serves, as a means to create material amenities. On the other hand, material amenities play a great role for strengthening ideological influence on people. The hegemonic influence of the state power uses media phenomenon in order to keep social, economical and political processes going on.

Every individual is subject to a phenomenon of media owing to an increase of information among individuals. It is also a result of an increase in aggregate demand of individuals in information. For instance, various advertisements are informing people on what is proposed or what is better to buy. As a result, people think of such commercials, as true and in turn people persuade their relatives or friends in the use of such information. According to this, Althusser claims that media should produce “relations for production” (Althusser 6). In this respect media corresponds to the most effective way in completing different tasks of mighty people. Hence, ideology relates people to what they want to have in life and how they want to live actually.

The phenomenon of media is apparent and cannot be omitted. It interpellates every ordinary individual through different signs, indexes in everyday life. For example, it is likely to be a tradition in every British family that a host reads morning papers over a cup of tea. Hence, since the very morning he is full of information being a part of spread ideology apparent for British society.

Hence, Althusser’s concept of ISA relates individuals to their real conditions of living. It is better to admit that individuals comply with ideological claims by means of imaginary code of rules. In present days people are involved into the flows of information coming through and through automatically. The hierarchical structure of the society is built up on the conventional character of media that Althusser indicates as material existence of ideology (Althusser 22). The process through which phenomenon of media interpellates individuals as subjects consists in direct and all-pervading nature of information flows at the time.

Advertising is an instrument to make “imaginary relationships of individuals to their real conditions of existence” more viable. A combination of peoples’ beliefs and hopes are in most cases related toward what contemporaries convince them in. One can imagine it, as a pyramid with a little group of mighty people at the top. Though, each individual is trying to live by his rules and in accordance with law, ideology from screens and other sources cannot be omitted. People take it for granted and in some sense they might appear helpless without being informed. It is vital for them in order to build future plans. Thus ideology helps people, as subjects, go through difficulties of life.

Freedom through subjection is achieved owing to sufficient functioning of the main bodies of power and local services. This process Althusser sees in ascending and descending communication between marginal and top layers of the society. This communication manifests itself in producing goods and providing services that make society grow. Educational and regulative functions of ideological trends in media are realized in some examples. For instance, traffic lights serve keeping order in relations between people driving cars and ordinary pedestrians.

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A man is a biosocial creature that in most cases cannot omit direct relation to the social, economical and political trends in the society. The world is not ideal, but due to the concept of ISA one can come up with a plan to improve his/her life. This point constitutes that the structure of the society presupposes individual’s being subject to it since the birthday.

Louis Althusser provided a really comprehensive and logically brilliant concept of ISA. The role of media is paramount in it. Further still, living in post-industrial type of society, one should keep it in mind that information is the main product today. Information also points out ideological trends common to a definite society or country. Interpellation between ISA and RSA is apparent in every civilized society. It correlates features of population’s demands and governmental supplies. To make it easier to understand, the concept of ISA elaborates on living in the society, as it should be ideally. Imaginary relationship of individuals as subjects to the state improves as per evidences of their living at the time.

Works cited

Althusser, Louis. Althusser – lecture slides. 2009.

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"Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus." StudyCorgi, 3 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus." December 3, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus." December 3, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus." December 3, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Louis Althusser’s Concept of an Ideological State Apparatus'. 3 December.

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