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.

Louis Pierre Althusser proposed a scheme in which ideology and politics are conditions of existence of the economy. Althusser considered mode of production as a complex relationship of economy, ideology and also politics. Louis 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 conventional analysis.

Althusser's concept of ideological state apparatuses was a notion deriving from Antonio Gramsci. 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 touched on the old sociological debate about the relation of agency and structure.

He objects to theories which reduce explanation to the characteristics of individuals or collections of individuals, like classes. Individuals have to be seen as bearers or agents of the structures of social relations.