Sociology Index

Louis Pierre Althusser

Among distinguished sociologists, Louis Pierre Althusser was a French Marxist philosopher born in Algeria. Louis Pierre Althusser attempted to reformulate the base and superstructure model, because he objected to the economic determinism, which he believes is implicit in most accounts of that model. Althusser's concept of ideological state apparatuses was a notion deriving from Antonio Gramsci. Pierre Althusser argues that ideology should be seen as a real social relation, or as a practice, not as an illusion as it is in conversational analysis. Louis Pierre Althusser objects to theories which reduce explanation to the characteristics of individuals or collections of individuals, like social class. Individuals have to be seen as bearers or agents of the social structure of social relations.

Louis Pierre Althusser proposed a scheme in which ideology and politics are conditions of existence of the economy. Louis Pierre Althusser considered mode of production as a complex relationship of economy, ideology and also politics. Louis Pierre Althusser killed his wife, the sociologist Hélène Rytmann, by strangling her.

Louis Pierre Althusser was declared unfit to stand trial due to insanity and committed to a psychiatric hospital for three years. For capitalist societies to continue over time, the relations of production must be reproduced, a requirement that is met by the ideological state apparatuses like media and education.

Louis Pierre Althusser's arguments and theses were set against the threats attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism, the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, and humanist and reformist socialist orientations and the problem of the "cult of personality" and of ideology. Louis Pierre Althusser's arguments touched on the old sociological debate about the relation of agency and structure.