Escaping Idelogy

Thinking back on Althusser’s essay can be utterly shocking.  It almost seems unreal to realize just how much the Ideological State Apparatuses relate and operate in our everyday lives. 

I had never questioned my ideology of school.  Like most, I assume, it is something we never question unless we are forced to.  Yet, when Althusser noted that the ISA of school is the most dominant, I began to think of all the ways my ideology of school has affected me.

Schooling has become intrinsic to my being.  I devote hours and hours to my classes.  It influences and complicates my emotions. I qualify good grades with happiness.  I get emotional over bad grades.  My day can change drastically by the number assigned to a paper or test.

Success has become measured by how we perform in this ideology of school.  We are told if we Do Well in school that we can get into a Good College so that when we graduate we can get a Good Job so that when we get married we can send our kids to Better Schools so that they can get Better Jobs . . . etc.

When does this cycle stop?  Or, do we want it to stop?

For me, the ideology of schooling adds meaning to my life.  Without my status of “student,” I am labeled as “unemployed.”  Without the ideology of school, I lose my goals and ambitions.  I lose a part of me that I hold dear.

In our awareness of Althusser, are we able to rid of our “common sense” (the interpellation of the police officer calling a subject)?  Can we rid our gut reactions?  How do we stop ourselves from our unconscious reactions?  Althusser’s example of the police officer is so effective:  I would stop without thinking about my action of stopping.  It would happen automatically.  I wouldn’t notice I had stopped until mid-conversation with the police officer.

So, is it possible to escape ideology?

I think not.  We can actively seek methods to seclude ourselves from society, but in doing so, aren’t we just continuing ideology by reacting against it?  When we live on the outskirts, don’t we become the “outliers” of society that Althusser said we need to define what isn’t the norm?  By trying to separate ourselves from ideology, don’t we reaffirm the ideological standards?  It seems that we cannot separate our essence from ideology.  We are cultured into ideology prior to birth.  How do we escape what we can’t detach from?

Maybe, the only way to escape from ideology is to never have been assimilated with society at all.

One thought on “Escaping Idelogy

  1. I have been so preoccupied this week with the overwhelming role of ideology in my life. Your blog post made me feel better that I am not alone in feeling disturbed by Althusser’s proposal. I am unsettled by the lack of agency or individuality Althusser’s theory allows. How am I supposed to accept the idea that every decision I have made in my life is merely a product of the cultural and infrastructural ideology that has been operating on me since I was born? Where does that idea leave us? How can we account for all the differences in ideology in society? Simply within the small community of Amherst we see different expressions of ideology from people of all types of economic, religious, geographical, and ethnic backgrounds. Even if two people share all of those characteristics in common they frequently differ in what they believe, how they act, and what they value. What explains the variation if ideology within communities? Ana and her sister grew up similarly and get express divergent ideology. To what can we attribute these differences?

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