1. Background: From Ideology to Problematic/Systematic Readings
Louis Althusser) was a French Marxist philosopher who “revolutionized Marxist theory” with his own ideology theories and their influence upon politics and culture (Ferretter, 2006, p.i). Karl Marx distinguished the hierarchy found in society: the infrastructure or economic base, which consists of “a combination of the ‘forces of production’ and the ‘relations of the production’”(Storey, 2009, p. 60), and the superstructure that contains two levels in itself- political and legal institutions (law, the police, the government) and ideology (religious, moral, legal, political, ect.) (Blunden, n.d.). The relationship between these levels in society can be viewed from two ends of a spectrum: a side where the superstructure both justifies and challenges the base, or a side where the base determines the limits of the content and form of the superstructure, as it is the forces of production. (Harman, 1986, pp. 3--44) Althusser rejected the economic base and the superstructure’s passive relation (Storey, 2009, p. 72).
Althusser aimed to explore to what extent ideology was more “pervasive” and “material” than formerly recognized (Althusser, 1972, p.96). Althusser created three definitions to ideology, the first states "Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence"(Althusser, 1972, p.121-176). This theory included both the base and the superstructure -which differs from Marxist theories- oppressed groups are made believe, by ideologies, that the world is doing fine, while the higher groups are fooled towards believing oppression and exploitation are simply universal necessity. Althusser’s Marxism is a ‘scientific’ disclosure that penetrates ideology to reveal the real conditions of existence. Ideology, as the closed system it is, remains within its boundaries. This means it will not question that which it’s incapable of answering. This principle was the key for Althusser’s concept of the ‘problematic’. Althusser first discovered the problematic in the “Epistemological Break”, Marx’s work from 1845. (Storey, 2009)
Althusser stated that the essences of a problematic is based on assumptions, motivations and, but not limited to, underlying ideas from which a text is made. This evinces that a text is not only structured by what is present, but also by what is not. He also stated that in order to fully comprehend the message of a text, one should be able to recognize those assumptions, which do not appear in the text itself, as well as the surface meaning. A way to do this is to search the text for answers to questions that have not been stated. A text must be de-constructed in order to revel the problematic, based on a symptomatic reading. A symptomatic reading involves reading the text in two different ways. Initially the manifest text, what is present, and through observing the absent, the lapse or distortions, the latent text....