The constitution of the subject and the resurrection of the object : a materialist critique of Althusserian and post-Althusserian theories of ideology

  • Ian Watson

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis has examined several of the most recent advances in the theory of ideology. These have developed in the wake of the seminal work of the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. They have attempted to continue the insights found in Althusser's attack on empiricist epistemology and in his theory of the formation of human subjectivity. The central argument of this thesis is that the theory of ideology, in terms of the "constitution of the subject", is a valuable breakthrough which allows the concept of ideology to be extended beyond its traditional (class) parameters. However, the anti-empiricist epistemology which has removed the object (ie. the material referent) from the theory of ideology, has been a regressive step since it has rendered the whole enterprise idealist. ''The standpoint of this thesis is a materialist one which forcefully maintains that the real world is directly implicated in the knowledge produced by social practices. Therefore, the theory of ideology must include a concept of representations of that real world if it is to be fully materialist. This thesis does not  explicitly  present a materialistic theory of ideology. Instead, it examines the theoretical principles of these recent advances and shows how they ultimately degenerate in to idealism at crucial points. The thesis then employs some of my empirical interview material and proceeds to show that the concrete applications of these theoretical principles also leads to idealist research practices. The thesis concludes by suggesting that there is, nevertheless, something of value in these recent advances which a materialist research practice can incorporate.
Date of Award1982
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra

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