Friday, February 4, 2011

Ideology and Hegemony


Within the remaining section of chapter four, Storey examines Althusserianism, Hegemony, Post-Marxism and cultural studies. Although these sections relate directly or indirectly to our readings, we should nevertheless examine the key points outlined by Storey. Instead of accepting the "base/superstructure formulation," Storey explains that Althusser instead believes that economic, political, and ideological practices found within the superstructure maintain the base (p. 70). Storey then goes on to draw on two of Althusser's definitions of ideology. The first is that ideology is "a system (within its own logic and rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas, or concepts) (1969: p. 231) through which men and women live their relations to the real conditions of existence" (p. 71). Like nature, representations establish meaning based upon one's ideology. However, "a text is structured as much by what is absent by what is present" (p. 72). For example, when we look at the collection of "women laughing along with salad" we become more aware of what is not included within the picture, such as a woman who is crying over her salad, a woman grumpy because her friend sitting next to her is eating a steak, or even a man laughing alone with his salad.

Althusser's second model of ideology operates through the process of "interpellation." We will expand this notion a bit further when we discuss Althusser more specifically. However, before moving to the next section, we should be careful to note Storey's criticism that Althusser's second model seems to work too well. If ideology does operate through interpellation, then there would be little room for interpellation not to occur.

Storey turns to Gramsci to understand the hegemony section of the chapter. Through hegemony, "a dominant class (in alliance with other classes or class factions) does not merely rule a society but leads it through the exercise of intellectual or moral leadership" (p. 80). Thus, despite class oppression and injustice, the hegemonic system maintains the superstructure/base relationship. And like the Althusser section, we will expand on Gramsci's understanding of hegemony further in the post -- in his own words.

We should lastly note that Storey argues that organic intellectuals "shape and organize the reform of moral and intellectual life" -- while others believe this is the role of "practical intellectuals" (p. 81). Additionally, Storey applies the idea of hegemony to popular culture. He argues that through popular culture the "ideological state apparatuses" (more on this later) are maintained (p. 81). While youth culture serves as an exemplar of how this hegemonic process of culture can be challenged, examples such as the merchants of cool and hipsters draw attention to the complications involved in challenging hegemony in culture.

Lastly, Storey discusses Post-Marxism and cultural studies. Using Laclau and Mouffe, he identifies the difference between moving beyond Marxism as a whole (post-Marxism) and transforming Marxism (post-Marxism). Storey explains that post-Marxist cultural studies recognize two things. First, that “only in cultural that the world can be made to mean,” and second, “meaning making is always a potential site of struggle and/or negotiation” (p. 87). Therefore, regardless whether the site is a radical art show or filling out bureaucratic forms as a symbolic moveby paying attention to “details of the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities,” we become more aware of how symbolic forms of protest, as well as others, serve as a way to define and challenge relationships among groups of individuals.


Louis Althusser's essay delineates critical distinctions to be drawn from notions of ideology, power, constitution, interpellation, and the roles of both the State and the subject. First, Althusser articulates an important distinction between "State Apparatuses" (henceforth, SAs) and "Ideological Apparatuses" (henceforth, ISAs) (p. 321). SAs, in the vein of Marx, are more tangible structures; e.g. governments, administrations, armies, the police, courts, prisons, and the like (p. 321). Marx understands such apparatuses to be repressive; that is, they are characterized by their public and visible reliance on violence to maintain and exert power. Conversely, ISAs are less tangible and, unsurprisingly, more ideological, private, and seemingly invisible; in short, they are institutions like religion, education, the family, law, politics, unions, communication, and culture (p. 321).

Althusser advances two theses about ideology. First, he claims that ideology is a "representation of imaginary relationships" (p. 322). By this, he first argues (and then debunks the claim) that ideology merely represents an imagined relationship between individuals and their real conditions of existence (p. 322). In this view, ideology is nothing more than a "world outlook," a "belief," a "point of view," "mythical," "an illusion 'alluding' to the real world": all of these suggest a marked distance between ideology and reality. Althusser disagrees. Instead, he finds that ideology has a "material existence" (p. 323). That is to say, individuals act based on material relations. Formulaically, material action is carried out via material ideological apparatuses, ultimately yielding material rituals which reoccur. A good exampe of this connection between ideology and action would be hair-straightening. Ideologies that suggest that women should either defy or correct nature by straightening their hair might lend themselves to women investing in and using hair-straighteners; ultimately, these women might then (ritualistically) straighten their hair every day. Adele Morrison wrote a fantastic article chronicling practices of female African-American law professors who straighten their hair to fit into the ideological practices in their workplaces. As Morrison argues in this case study, "the process of straightening Black hair [is/becomes] a metaphor for the process of straightening one's identity" (p. 88).

Finally, Althusser writes that ideology "interpellates" individuals as subjects. In short, his key proposition is that all ideology "hails" or "interpellates," in the process acting to "recruit" subjects from individuals. In doing so, the individual is transformed into a subject by his/her recognition of (and, by extension, compliance with) the ideology at hand. In many ways, this hearkens to Brown & Levinson's articulation of "politeness" for example. "Politeness" can function ideologically; that is, yelling "help" and the response (or lack of response) to that can serve as an example of an individual being hailed and either responding negatively/impolitely/maintaining individual status or positively/politely/transforming into a subject of the "polite" ideology.


In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci makes a distinction between the ability to be an intellectual versus the opportunity to be an intellectual. Instead, he argues that through a "historical process," an "intellectual strata" has been produced. Depending on what is needed for a particular location, specific types of specialization are created. What's more, Gramsci concludes that these relationships are "mediated" through the whole fabric of society and by the complex of superstructures (p. 264). Essentially, the negotiations of these relationships are everywhere. These superstructures can be pinpointed to "two major superstructure 'levels'." One level is the superstructure that is silently enforced, which Gramsci refers to as "civil society" and "hegemony" (p. 264). The other superstructure is maintained through "direct domination," or rather "the State" (p. 264).

However, Gramsci argues that an "intellectual moral bloc" can guide the "intellectual progress of the mass" (264). Because we have "two theoretical consciousnesses" -- one which uses the intellectual training to question the hegemony, and one which adheres to the hegemony -- hegemony can be overcome through the help of the "intellectual moral bloc" (p. 264). Gramsci asserts, "Consciousness of being part of a particular hegemonic force (that is to say political consciousness) is the first stage toward a further progressive self-consciousness in which theory and practice will finally become one" (p. 264). In other words, one becomes aware of supererstructure when an intellectual theory is being used to critically examine practice(s).

Through films such as "Metropolis" we can imagine how the "historical process" of the traditional intellectual could transcend to an extreme separation division between those who have the "brain" and those who have the "muscle." One could even argue that Gramsci's "intellectual moral bloc" is represented by Freder. While this might represent Gramsci's argument truthfully on one level, we cannot be too quick to accept his premise.

In Joyce Kornbluh's collection of Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) archival material we learn that the I.W.W. hobo would often spend time not working, in camps, also known as jungles, learning biology, sociology, economics, and a variety of other subjects. These self-reflexive critical migrant workers basically embodied the type of "intellectual moral bloc" that Gramsci described. Although the I.W.W. did indeed pave the way for labor unions to take hold, we have only to look around to judge the effectiveness of this strategy.

What's more, groups such as anarchists, who have often taken Gramsci's approach, have been accused of ignoring the needs and values of the working class. As Kraditor explains, these organizations will often fall into the trap of attempting to "awaken" the "political consciousness" within the worker. Not only can this strategy be ineffective, but it is built on the assumption that the "intellectual moral bloc" holds the only solution to addressing the hegemonic structure.


In the "Introduction" to his work on "Hegemony," Bocock procivides us with an initial definition for the term of his focus: hegemony is "moral and philosophical leadership [which] is attainted through the active consent of major groups in a society" (p. 11). To this end, hegemony becomes a "concept" and a "problematic" concerned with how "moral and philosophical leadership is produced, [reproduced, consented to, challenged, reinforced, and so on] in a social formation" (p. 12). As Bocock notes in his overview, Foucault extended Althusser's conception of the movement of power within a society to include "discourse" as a site where "power was to be seen being exercised" (p. 16). Both make, as the author argues, a critical error in either over- or underestimating the role of the State in exercising power: this is largely due to the negligence of considertation given to the agency of humans (p. 16). Further, Bocock directs our attention to Antonio Gramsci and the evolution of his thought regarding "hegemony" to demonstrate his point.

As an imprisoned critic, Gramsci brought to light the integral role of hegemony in Marxist thought through his concern "with people giving their full understanding and consent to the politices which political leaders aimed to carry out" (p. 22). Tracing the history of the concept and its eventual influence on Gramsci, Bocock tells us that "hegemony" emerged in the 1880s by Marxists, based in Russia, who were concerned with a lack of knowledge, consciousness, and power in more marginalized groups like peasants, workers, the bourgeois, and intellectuals (pp. 25 - 26). Drawn to this concept, Gramsci used the term in three ways (pp. 28 - 30):

1. Hegemony as cultural and moral leadership exercised in civil society, while coercive power came via the State.

2. Hegemony as exercised in both civil society and the State.

3. Hegemony is characteristic regardless, and distinctions between civil society and the State are collapsed.

Further clarifying the terms at hand and, most helpfully, elaborating on distinctions between "civil society" and "the State" for us, Bocock highlights three which are key (pp. 33 - 34):

1. The Economic: the "dominant modes of production at a particular moment in time."

2. The "State": the means of violence (police and armed forces) combined with institutions funded by the State (e.g. certain educational institutions, welfare, etc.).

3. "Civil Society": institutions that are neither funded by the State nor related to the dominant modes of production (e.g. religion, politics, etc.)

Ultimately, a principal contribution from Gramsci is his movement away from a Marxian economic-centric approach, to instead provide a more accomodating view, which more fully accuonts for "the other major areas of society, namely the State and the institutions of civil society" and the (emotional!) agency of individuals (p. 35).


1. How does accepting Gramsci's statement of the two forms of consciousness affect how one might approach hegemony?

2. Althusser delineates the relationship(s) between notions of ideology, interpellation, and individuals-as-subjects. To make clearer the relationships between and among these concepts, provide one example of how you understand them to interact and work. Moreover, ground your example in a case study in communication. That is to also ask: what is the role of communication (rhetoric) in Althusser's theoretical framework? Can interpellation take place without communication?


  1. Melody and Merci,

    Thank you for giving us lots to think/talk about. You did an extensive job and I love all the links. Heart the cat. Now let the commenting begin!

  2. Great job on the outline/discussion of this week's material. I had read the hipster article a few years ago and found it entertaining but a bit ethnocentric. Now that I have a greater understanding of the forces behind cultural movements and a number of conspiracy theories about the downfall of western civilization, the article is a poignant lament of this generation's total lack of substance. (But that's a different discussion altogether.)

    Regarding the readings, it is evident that communication is part and parcel to Althusser's concepts. The purpose is to demonstrate a perspective of existence and impart it to other people in hopes that they will subscribe to the message. I disagree with your claim that he debunks his first theory of ideology in favor of his second. The theories of ideology are intrinsically connected because the mental perspective and material patterns of behavior justify each other. He presents them as 2 aspects of how ideology acts within and upon a group. It is true that the material existence is easier to observe and quantify because it has a tangible nature, but the psychological implications of the imaginary relationship between individuals and the real world are equally manifested.

    The bridge connecting both theories is in the case of the problematic. Storey explains with the aid of Pierre Macherey (pp.73-75) and Judith Williamson (pp. 78-79) that the information/questions/problems that are absent from a cultural text are just as important as the information/questions/problems that are present. You have to read the text and the subtext to fully understand the message.

    Let's examine the pictures of women laughing alone with salad. Each one essentially is identical. There is a slim, attractive woman in her 20s-40s clearly having one helluva time with her food. The light is soft, warm, and clear.

    If we follow Althusser's 1st theory of ideology (the imaginary relationship between individuals and the real world) the message is that salad brings happiness, healthiness, good looks, and photographs worthy of the glossy pages of your favorite magazine. Salad is the answer. Salad is your BFF. Is this perspective realistic? Absolutely not.

    When we add the material existence theory we can examine how the pictures interpellate us as subjects to create patterns of action/behavior. As Althusser explains, the pictures "hail" us, single us out to preach their message one-on-one. The joyful herbivores ask implicitly if you, as an individual, would like to be a happy, healthy, pretty salad-eater like them. Any response to the call indicates a successful interpellation. Congratulations, you have been targeted and subjectified! Even if you don't start eating salads, the message was implanted, and someone else will accept the illusion it projects.

    The remainder of the message is the problematic--what is unspoken. The pictures lack any stressful or dramatic elements; nor do they show women who are significantly old or young, who have a larger-than-slender body, who express emotions other than ebullience; males are completely excluded; and there is a distinct lack of food outside salads. So what about all those scenarios? Why are they omitted? Because such things don't exist according to this ideology. As Macherey states, "Ideology exists precisely to efface all trace of contradiction." (Storey, p.76) Althusser already explained that the relationship between an ideology and actual life is false and inaccurate. The problematic of absent information enforces rather than inhibits the happy, healthy, salad eating perspective. To put it simply, nothing else matters when you're eating a salad.

  3. First, I would like to add to your excellent summary a point about a qualification that Althusser makes concerning interpellation. At the end of the passage that we read, Althusser asserts that “The existence of ideology and the hailing or interpellation of individuals as subjects are one and the same thing” (324). This comment contains a key point for interpreting his understanding of interpellation and ideology.

    The sentence here comes in the context of Althusser’s qualification that the “Hey, you there” analogy entails an artificial distinction: that ideological interpellation occurs in succession or that ideology first exists apart from the concrete individual and then second that it “recruits” the individual as a concrete subject by addressing the individual. “But in reality,” Althusser asserts, “these things happen without any succession” (324). In other words, you cannot separate ideology from its function of interpellating. Ideology, Althusser claims, has “always already” interpellated the concrete individual as a concrete subject. Thus, Althusser’s comment means that ideology never exists apart from having already interpellated its subjects. Its existence is coextensive with its very hailing.

    Second, on the topic of your question about interpellation:

    While Althusser does not go into too much detail (in the section that we read at least) about how interpellation happens beyond his “Hey, you there!” analogy, I think that one can assume that interpellation occurs through and within the material existence of ideology (Althusser’s “THESIS II”). That is, ideology has a material existence that can be seen in everyday rituals and practices (“material practices governed by a material ritual” [323]) like the “hand-shake, the fact of calling you by your name, the fact of knowing, even if I do not know what it is, that you “have” a name of your own” (324) and so on. All of these practices address the concrete individual as a specific kind of concrete subject.

    Perhaps a simple analogy of this interpellation in material practice might be the following: if a student walks into class and goes straight up to the professor and calls out for a “high-five.” If a student does this, the student’s actions assume a certain kind of subject position for that professor. That is, whether the professor desires it or not, the student’s actions “hail” the professor into the subject position of a chum, not a superior. (Of course, the professor will likely resist such a hailing, refusing to give the high-five and so on.)

    All this suggests that, while Althusser does not seem to dwell on the communicative properties of an ideology’s material existence, interpellation does seem to depend on messages. And so I would say that interpellation is not possible without communication (non-verbal though it may be).

  4. At times, the theoretical discussion in these readings feels a bit like trying to determine the order of appearance of the chicken and the egg. It is clear that the two are related to each other and also clear that at various points in reality, one give rise to the other. Yet, it is far from clear which came first. So it is when looking at the state and civil society. Both are clearly interdependent. Civil society forms a type of base and the state forms a type of superstructure.

    Ludwig Feuerbach, in The Essence of Christianity (1957), posits that God is merely the projection of individual values and knowledge. Through collective projection, values and knowledge become generalized, even canonized. It seems to me that, as articulated in the various readings, the state can be viewed as a projection of the society. That is to say a core set of values and knowledge becomes paradigmatic and abstracted (my understanding of Althusser’s conception of ideology). This transcendent abstraction takes form as the state and develops codes and boundaries that reinforce and maintain the core set of values and knowledge – an ideology. This ideological enforcement is what Gramsci appears to be calling hegemony.

    As the society evolves, the state also evolves. The state and civil society are interdependent. Each evolves and each informs and influences the other. There is dynamic tension. This is in fact a way to understand the three models that Perry Anderson finds in Gramsci. On page 28 of the Bobcock reading, Bobock cites Anderson’s argument that none of the models were entirely satisfactory. This does not seems so odd to me. As discrete models, each explains a part of the larger process. Taken together, the models are more satisfactory because they can be seen in their own dynamic tension and in that tension they provide a fuller picture of the working relationship between the state and civil society. In this relationship, hegemony is a product of the base civil society and a commodity of the state.

  5. As a business major in undergrad I learned and accepted the belief that the reality of any organization is determined by the top, not the bottom, and that the people at the bottom have little to no power to change the system in which they function. Based on the readings, it appears my professors were influenced more by Althusser and Gramsci than they were Marx because their top down approaches to explaining an organization’s reality contradicts Marx’s model that postulates the top (superstructure) is primarily determined by the bottom (base). One problem with Marx’s model is that it leaves room for one to believe that since the majority of power is possessed by the base then the base possesses the ability to restructure the system in a way that benefits them and, inevitably, the superstructures that are predicated on the base.

    In stark contrast to Marx, Althusser’s model situates all the power—economic, political, and ideological practices—at the top and argues that the base is a product of what occurs at the top (Storey 70). The people on the base level adhere to the rules and regulations established at the top because the ideology passed down to them serves as their lens for what is right and what is wrong. I think the example of the female African-American law professors who straighten their hair because they perceive it is the right thing to do in order to “fit-in” is a great example of how ideology determines what is right and wrong—natural or coarse hair in this instance is considered wrong—and it motivates one to act a certain way. In this way, the power to determined outcomes is embedded in the ISA, not the individual, who represents the base (Althusser 321).

    I believe Althusser’s concept of ideology coupled with Gramsci’s notion of hegemony can be simplified by the stories I grew up hearing about puppet masters and their puppets on strings. At the base level, the puppet appears to be very active: moving around, waving its hands, and kicking its feet. However, a closer observation reveals that each movement the puppet makes is determined by a string that is traced back to the puppet master. The puppet master represents hegemony in that a dominant person is in control and everything that occurs reflects decisions from the top. The string represents ideology in that the puppet’s moves are predicated on what the string permits. Regardless of what the puppet does or wants to do, it cannot change the superstructure because the power it does have comes from the top and can be regulated or withdrawn at any moment.

  6. Systematic Reading of a Febreze Commercial: The answer to my two consciousnesses’ struggle with being the sports fan and the female of the house?

    Recently I saw a very interesting football related commercial for Febreze( This commercial for Febreze air spray depicts a mixed group of males and females watching football in a home while eating traditional football foods. The narrator is clearly talking to the “female of the house” describing the scene and commenting on her husband. The final scene of the commercial shows the “female of the house” wearing a traditionally colors football jersey (I would argue that it’s a Dallas Cowboys Jersey) spraying Febreze in order to remove the smell from the party. Like the women laughing with salad photos, I am drawn to understanding what is left out (the woman upset at having to clean up or the man doing the clean up). In addition, what set of ideologies are being reinforced by this commercial?

    Althusser’s symptomatic reading of the text in order to reveal the problematic (assumptions, motivations, and underlying ideas) requires the reader to “perform a double reading” looking first at the text and second at “the lapses, distortions, silences, and absences” in order to “produce and read the latent text” (Storey, 2009, pg. 72). I would argue that in doing this type of reading of the Febreeze commercial text one would reveal the problematic that answers the question, “How does a female juggle the two roles of the sports fan and the traditional female role in the house?” The answer, according to this commercial, Yes, women can now be sports fans watching the game and cheering while wearing jerseys, but at the end of the day they are still ultimately responsible for the clean up.” Althusser would argue that this ideology is not just a belief or world outlook but based “represents an imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions” and is based on “a material existence” (Lemert, 2010, pg. 322-3). In other words, this commercial represents an imagined relationship to the reality and it is grounded in the actual existence of this practice. If this is true, then there are women that are sports fans and are still fulfilling their traditional “female of the house” roles and the imaginary relationship is the idyllic happiness from this dual roles fulfillment. However, are they doing this similarly to Morrison argument that African American women straighten hair their hair as a metaphor for the straightening of their identities (Blog post by Melody and Merci)? Is this the female sports fan’s way of still being a female? It is an interesting thought. I know that I personally sometimes struggle with my sports fan role and female of the house role? Does Febreeze answer this for me? ;) Gramsci makes me feel much better about this struggle by identifying for me that this is due to my two consciousnesses that work with and against the hegemony (Lemert, 2010, pg. 264). So the Febreeze commercial is actually working to solve a normal struggle!

    A New York Times article ( discusses this controversial commercial, specifically because the NFL claims to have tried to help in changing portrayals of female sports fans, by offering more clothing choices and marketing more toward females. Is this because they actually care or because they have found a new buyer for their products (not to mention that traditionally women have been the primary purchasers in the household, although if you buy into this thought, you should read this Advertising Age article ( stating otherwise)?

  7. Althusser's idea which I have come to understand as "Structural Marxism" presents a frightening reality. Essentially, we are components of a structure who have been "interpellated" into preconcieved forms of subjectivity. This is an extension of Marx's base/superstructure relation, as Althusser sees ideology as an effect of structure, where economic, political, legal, cultural and ideological practices are interrelated to shape social consciousness.

    In this model, all roles exist and we are induced to identify with certain roles not by our own agency, but by the values and practices of the existing society. Damn. So even when we have agency, these choices are given to us, pre-packaged, plus shipping and handling, some assembly may be required (probably not much).
    Thanks Kevin for bringing up the idea of conspiracy; some have proposed that these new trends that pop up in pop culture are not occurring because of some grass-roots movement, but externally imposed. For example, when did kids suddenly decide that rocking the mohawk was a cool thing to do? While some may argue that it is an organic trend, others may say its the Tavistock Institute. Regardless of where one stands on these spooky, behind-the-veil theories, it is interesting to watch how trends develop seemingly from nowhere.

    This brings me to Gramsci's hegemony theory, where the dominant groups attain hegemony through inducing consent from the subaltern or subordinate groups. To me this makes a little more sense. In capitalism, there is always this act of co-opting or assimilation. I think Gramsci would agree that the counter-hegemonic forces are always contesting the forces of domination. One great example is hip-hop culture. Once on the margins, deemed useless and artless, it is now mainstream, useful and profitable. There are even classes at universities that use hip-hop as a subject of study. How the hell does that happen?

    Capitalism does not care. If the people want it, it will be sold and ultimately diluted of its original potency. Another good example of this is the mainstreaming of conspiracy theory. There was once a time when subjects like the Trilateral Commission, New World Order, HARRP, etc. were relegated to fringe publications. Now you can hear about all of these subjects and more on a show like 'Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura' on TRU TV sponsored by multi-billion dollar corporations. Far fetched or true, these radical ideas lose their bite when you can see them displayed in a mainstream format. Apparently the decision makers felt there are enough people out there that gravitate toward this content to green light a show about it. So what if the show tells you that your government is evil? It does not matter. The people want it, and those ads need eyeballs.

    I hate to think my radical or alternative views are not unique, but the way information is disseminated always makes me wonder. Ultimately, I think it works both ways and the structures must always be contested, lest we be mindless drones.

  8. Thank you to Melody and Merci for their hard work and effort in summarizing and analyzing the readings for this week. Through thoughtful examples, they have given a good basis for discussion in class on Monday. Also, a big shout out to them for being the guinea pigs of the semester :)

    In accepting Gramsci's statement of the two forms of consciousness, I am not certain that the concept of hegemony can ever be overcome. Gramsci asserts that although humans have a practical purpose in life, they have no clear theoretical understanding of this practical purpose, even though this understanding is necessary to understand and change the world around us. Indeed, according to Gramsci, an individual's theoretical awareness may not be in agreement with daily activities. This division between theory and practice results in the double consciousness that Gramsci speaks of, one which is implicit in a person's activities and acts as a bonding element among workers, and the other which is an explicit awareness (at least at a surface level) that has been passed down and uncritically accepted. It is this uncritical acceptance of past ideologies that binds specific social groups and influences moral conduct and decision-making. However the conflict in consciouness does not create a powerful enough situation for any change to occur. Individuals become (and remain) politically and morally passive.

    If we use Bocock's defintion of hegemony as the "moral and philosophical leadership...which is attained through active consent of major groups in a society," can Gramsci's assertion be possible and/or overcome? If individuals are not critically aware of their situations, can they give active consent? Of course, we know that dominant practices are created and manitained by those with the power in a society, but at some point ("the beginning," if you will), someone had to be on this higher intellectual level to create the ideologies which are passed down and uncritically accepted by the brainless masses. Yet, Althusser identifies ideology as a "profoundly unconscious" process where we relate to real experiences through imagined representations for both dominant and subordinate classes. Those in the subordinate classes believe everything is okay and dominant groups believe their exploitation of the subordinate groups is necessary for a succesful society. If Althusser is correct and the creation of ideologies is an unconscious process, can Gramsci's idea of the intelectual bloc, which is critically self aware of their purpose in life be possible? I say no.

  9. Addressing discussion question 2: My attempts to better understand Althusser’s concept of “hailing,” (interpellation) are documented in a paper I wrote where I recounted an incident I witnessed one evening.
    “It’s a Friday night; a coffee shop is packed, standing room only, as a solo guitar player entertains the crowd. Suddenly in the middle of his song, the musician stops playing, points and screams, “Hey!” Audience members look at each other; was he talking to me; whose he pointing at? The musician points again, “Hey girl!” The guys relax; it’s not me. “Can I have your number?” The crowd realizes it’s part of the song; there’s laughter, and a few claps in appreciation of the moment. The musician goes back to playing and singing the song.”
    Hailings seem to be liminal moments that come and go. To me the important part of interpellation is not the recognition that one is being hailed, but what one takes from the “hailing.” To ground my answer in a case study in communication, this concept I believe is best explained in Edwin Black’s “The Second Persona,” where the speaker creates an ideal persona for an auditor to step into. “What equally well solicits our attention [the hailing] is that there is a second persona also implied by a discourse, and that persona is its implied auditor” Black posits that ideological persuasion is achieved when an auditor adopts a speaker’s or discourse’s language. He claims that those who share language share ideology. This I believe is where Gramsci and Althusser find their connection, through the role of communication, where the “unity of theory and practice” take place.
    Gramsci argues that this unity leads “to the level of real possession of single coherent conception of the world” (p. 264). This coherence or ideology I believe is achieved through shared language. But as Gramsci points out “there is no organization without intellectuals, this without organizers and leaders” (p. 265). Someone has to create the words and develop the ideological views of the world. Since questions infer answers and “the intellectuals” of civil society appear to establish hegemony through language, I have to wonder how this week’s bloggers are attempting to non-violently “control” our views of the world through the words they have decided to highlight “Politeness”, “intellectual moral bloc”, “(emotional!) agency” and the examples they picked; women laughing along with salad, Adele Morrison’ article about Black women law professors, and the Hillary Clinton debate. On the other side of the coin, which examples might they being unknowingly using because of the influence of other organizing intellectuals on them; merchants of cool, hipsters, Metropolis? Then there is the framing of the question around a "communication" case study. I have to wonder what hegemonic forces are guiding our conversation; are we merely repeating organizing ideological scripts; is it possible for us to actually say something original? Interpellation seems to work best when you don’t know you have been persuaded into an ideology.

  10. Hegemony, largely, acts through moral and philosophical leadership that is attained through the active consent of major groups within a society. However, Antonio Gramsci’s mention and acknowledgment of two existing forms of consciousness, allows a broader approach to the notion of hegemony. Gramsci’s two forms of consciousness are. According to Gramsci, hegemony is organized by an elite class, which he deems the “organic individuals.” These individuals work in silence to form state apparatuses designed as a mechanism aiding social control. Gramsci, however, views all men as intellectuals but cites the key difference lying in the ability to enter the social strata within which intellectuals stem. That is, all human beings possess the capacity to introduce new modes of thought, which act to modify existing ideologies that dominate societies. In society, one is forced to “distinguish” and “organize” himself if he is to fit within the elite intellectual class.
    In sum, Gramsci notes that individual humans possess the function of intellectual, however, hegemony acts to suppress this human right by creating a stratified social system that emphasizes the predominant notion of “the others” in social theory. Here, “the others” simply represent all of those individuals who do not “make the cut” of that of an intellectual.

    Louis Althusser views ideology in two distinct yet related ways. First, according to Althusser, ideology is a system of representations exists whereby individuals live in real conditions of existence. This represents a closed system that encourages the maintaining of social authority and control through the artificial creation of boundaries and limits as an ideology, which the individual becomes subject to through interpellation.In Althusser’s second representation, ideology is the lived, material practice through which rituals, customs and practices become part of what he deems the “Ideological State Apparatuses.” These institutions then construct concrete individuals into state-run subjects.
    Althusser’s concepts of ideology, interpellation and individuals-as-subjects, provide a different take on hegemony. According to Althusser, ideology spreads through interpellation, that is, widespread beliefs of a society ultimately force individual beings into the role of subject. However, the individual must comply with the prevailing ideology to succumb to interpellation.
    Although Althusser’s model occurs frequently, exceptions certainly exist. While this model is over-reaching in its practical use, the fundamental notion that ideology subjects humans to hegemony remains quite valid.
    Michel Foucault’s critical view of Althusser’s notion of statist control stressed that power and its conceptualization in society is diffused through many portals of society. That is, infrastructure and state apparatuses do not delineate all ideology upon individuals, therefore interpellation is not certain to occur as regularly as Althusser seems to assume.

  11. Good job, folks. A found your post to be a properly distilled summary and very cogent.

    Regarding the Althusser article, I enjoyed this because it seemed to have more relevance than the Marx writings we read and discussed last week. Though Althusser seems to agree that the State Apparatus does hold a firm grip on our function within society, it is the less obvious Ideological Apparatuses that have a greater effect on forming the individuals within society. A good analogy I can summon is the idea of Republicans (conservatives) v. Democrats (liberals) that is force fed to the American public. Though every two years -- or every year when a national or local election surfaces -- we are forced to pick sides, it would seem unlikely that each individual who casts a vote would be unlikely to neatly fit into such convenient categories. When I think of this analogy I see Marx as embodying, though true, a very broad categorization of a the people, whereas Althusser embodies these more specific and demarcated ideologies.

    Regarding Althusser's idea on interpellation, what came to mind, for me, is getting pulled over by a police officer. Outside of a context where we as citizens are pulled over, there is truly nothing to be afraid of i.e. we are merely being followed by a car with flashing blue lights. Given our personal experience with police officers - be it positive or negative - we are conditioned, legally and socially, into accepting the terms that the officer has set out i.e. pulling over and presenting our license and registration.

    I liked that y'all the attached article by Kornbluh, especially when it is read with the opening lines of Gramsci in mind: "All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say; but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals" (263). I like this idea that even in conditions and situations where the lowest of the low are expected to toe the line for the "cause," individuals still find it within themselves, consciously or not, to pursue self-betterment for its own sake.

    Lastly, regarding hegemony, I found the best example summed up by Storey, specifically this idea of Resistance and Incorporation especially when it is considered among the context of Africans and the Caribbean and their English oppressors: "The dominant element of this new language is English, but the language itself is not simply English. What emerged was a transformed English, with new stresses and new rhythms, with some words dropped and new words introduced...The new language is a result of a 'negotiation' between dominant and subordinate cultures, a language marked by both RESISTANCE and INCORPORATION." He goes on to write: 'Hegemony is never simply power imposed from above: it is always the result of 'negotiations' between dominant and subordinate groups...There are of course limits to sch negotiations and concessions. As Gramsci makes, clear they can never be allowed to challenge the economic fundamentals of power" (81). I find this all over our American society today, especially when one considers the ubiquitous rap movement that glorifies status, personal power, and the attainment and distribution physical green backs when one goes to the local club. When I see rappers on TV, I can't help but think of an exec above the rapper in this hegemonic pyramid saying: "Be yourself, brother. Go crazy but not too crazy, and make us some more money."

  12. Hello everyone. Apparently, I accidently originally posted on the page marked Ideology, instead of posting my comments here. So I am going to include my response here again. Sorry about that!!

    In regards to this week's discussion questions, accepting Gramsci's two forms of consciousness may provide people ways to think about and "oppose" hegemonic forces in societies. In regards to hegemony, Gramsci writes, one form of consciousness is "implicit in his activity and which in reality unites him with all his fellow-workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited from the past and uncritically absorbed" (Social Theory, p. 264). Gramsci believes that the the second, verbal conception influences morality, while the first consciousness produces a passive state of moral and political actions. However, Gramsci believes that "consciousness of being part of a particular hegemonic force is the first stage towards a further progressive self-consciousness in which theory and practice will finally be one;" however, Gramsci notes that this development of the process of uniting theory and practice is still only in its primary stage (Social Theory, p. 264). Gramsci concludes this section of his essay by discussing the development of the critical self-consciousness, "the creation of an elite of intellectuals" (p. 264). If one accepts these two forms of consciousness, one might try to enact change by realizing that they too live in a society of oppression, regardless if they feel directly effected by hegemonic ideals or not, which would hopefully further progress towards praxis.
    In regards to the second question, Althusser defines ideology not as a specific outlook on life, but rather something that encompasses the existence of materiality. Althusser believes that all people are "always already" subjects who "constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition" (Social Theory, p. 323). Althusser further believes that ideology interjects or interpellates individuals as subjects. Althusser gives the reader as performing and "hey you there" examples to suggest the relationship between these concepts. An example that demonstrates the relationship between these concepts discussed by Althusser might contain the scenario of a classroom and one student sneezes and the class as a whole responds unhesitatingly, "God Bless You." The sneezing itself is a result of a bodily signal, but taken in it's societal context, when heard or scene, it often becomes a ritual of ideological recognition in which this ideology itself- stemming from many institutions from the Ideological State Appartuses (ISA)- interjects itself onto humans and their realities in the form of reacting in a religious, courteous, or "polite" manner. Furthermore, Althusser believes that such examples of "hailing" subjects can not take place without communication, and that most often individuals believe they are the ones being "called" in the ideological recognition process.

  13. Fantastic job everyone! Look forward to discussing these matters in class on Monday