Ideology

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Louis Althusser builds on the work of Jacques Lacan to understand the way ideology functions in society. He thus moves away from the Marxist understanding of ideology. In earlier model, ideology wasbelieve to create what was termed “false consciousness”, a false understanding of the way the world functioned. (For example the suppressions of the fact that the products were purchased on the openmarket are, in fact, the, result of exploitation of laborers.) Althusser explains that for Marx Ideology is thought an imaginary construction whose status is exactly like the theoretical status of thedream before Freud. Althusser, by contrast, approximates ideology to Lacan’s understanding of “reality” the world we construct around us after our entrance into the symbolic order. For Althusser,as for Lacan, it is impossible to access the "Real conditions of existence" due to our reliance on language; however, through a rigorous "scientific" approach to society, economics, and history, wecan come close to perceiving if not those "Real conditions" at least the ways that we are inscribed in ideology by complex processes of recognition. Althusser's understanding of ideology has in turninfluenced a number of important Marxist thinkers, including Chantalle Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Slavoj Zizek, and Fredric Jameson.

Althusser posits a series of hypothesis that he explores to clarifyhis understandings of ideology:

1. “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence”: The traditional way of thinking of ideology led Marxists toshow how ideologies are false by pointing to the real world hidden by ideology (for example, the "real" economic base for ideology). According to Althusser, by contrast, ideology does not "reflect"the real world but "represents" the imaginary relationship of individuals" to the real world; the thing ideology represents is itself already at one remove from the real. In this, Althusser follows...
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