By: Nick Popow
Abstract: Althusser and Lacan: Theory of the Subject
From Descartes’ Cogito to Husserl’s transcendental consciousness, the Subject has undergone countless formulations over the course of philosophical history. In “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Louis Althusser proposed a complete rethinking of the Subject. For Althusser, to be a Subject is to have one’s thoughts, beliefs, and (as we shall later see) most intimate perceptions partly shaped by external influences. On this point, Althusser was avowedly influenced by the work of Jacques Lacan, who attempted to provide a concept of the Subject that would be commensurate with both structuralism’s emphasis on scientific formalism and psychoanalysis. Lacan and Althusser’s rejection of the post-structuralist view of the Subject as anachronistic put them in a liminal position as vanishing mediators between the heyday of structuralism and the imminent advent of post-structuralism. According to Althusser, Subjects do not preexist their ideological capture, but emerge through processes of interpellation within ideological state apparatuses (more on this later).