Anthusser's Notion Of Interpellation And The Human Subject, With Reference To Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing".

1142 words - 5 pages

Interpellation, according to Althusser, is a hailing by social ideologies that form 'individuals' into 'subjects' by forcing social identities upon them. This primarily occurs through Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA), including the family, education and mass media. It is through these ISA's that people are given both a sense of identity and an understanding of reality.Ideology, for Althusser 'represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence' (cited in Stevenson 1995: 37). Ideology transforms human beings into subjects, leading them to see themselves as self-determining agents when they are in fact shaped by ideological processes.This ideology comes almost exclusively from Ideological State Apparatuses. These are institutions that, according to Althusser, interpellate individuals into either the bourgeoisie (ruling class) or the proletariat. "Ideology 'acts' or 'functions' in such a way that it 'recruits' subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or 'transforms' the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: 'Hey, you there!'" (Althusser, Ideology and ideological state apparatuses, 1971) The fact that we do not recognise this as being "ideological" shows the power of ideology. It is so ingrained in us that we cannot see it unless we are knowledgeable about it.Althusser emphasizes that the process of interpellation allows the existing power structure of capitalist society to maintain its domination over the general population without resorting to violence or force. Interpellation occurs in subtle ways through the workings of what Althusser calls "Ideological State Apparatuses," including official culture and such specific institutions as churches and schools, though it is constantly backed up by the physical force represented by the "Repressive State Apparatus" of the police and the militaryIn Tillie Olsen's short fiction story I Stand Here Ironing, Ideological State Apparatuses influence the social standings of both of the main characters, the Mother and the eldest child Emily.The mother is hailed as a typical housewife. What's more, she is also a single mother, and is black. Because of this, her ideology is one of the proletariat. She is a working class subject, and has been formed as such. The fact that she is indeed "stand(ing) here ironing" shows the reader that she is a housewife for the simple reason of proving to the reader that ideologies have been forced upon her.There is evidence in the first paragraph of the story that both the mother and Emily have been influenced by Ideological State Apparatuses, most noticeably the Education Apparatus. The mother has been identified as a mother figure by the bourgeoisie of the story (the teachers) and assumed to have an understanding of her child. "You think...

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