Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hey You! Help a Cog out

I'm looking for something but don't quite know what I'm looking for, which makes knowing what database or source to look in sorta difficult.

Basically, I need some references to people who take up and extend Althusser's concept of interpellation. Does, say, Butler treat that in any depth?

Althusser claims that the State "hails" or interpellates individuals as subjects (as in, subject to the state) through Ideological State Apparatuses. My theory books are all packed, but I believe his examples are the police, the school, state-sponsored religion, the family...

But he doesn't say much, as far as I can recall, about advertising and capitalism. Clearly, ads of all sorts interpellate individuals into consumer subjects. But just as clearly, corporate ad campaigns are not The State. George Bush's speech about needing Americans to go out and support their country by spending after 9/11 was an unusual development.

So what I need is the scholarly debate about how Althusser does/doesn't translate from the State to capitalism, how people have theorized this shift, or advertising post-Althusser, whatever big names have extended this conversation, something. I'm not sure what I'm looking for or what I'm going to say, but I need to know who to name-check even when disagreeing with them, or pointing out something they have missed (actually, that's the ideal for an article, right?).

In other, only tangentially-related news, I love those old-timey pointing-finger images. Maybe I could do a whole article on whether the fingers are pointing at you or away.


Tree of Knowledge said...

Butler, Bodies that Matter. She sets it up in chapter 4 & you can use the index to find the other references.

I know I've read others, but that's the only thought I've attached to an actual text so far.

phoenixcomplex said...

I knew would have this one -- -- if you want the text itself. This isn't at all my area of expertise, but I might even try searching Google books for the title of the essay (or Althusser-ISA-advertising or something) along with plausible theorists' names -- Jameson, Butler, Stuart Hall, etc. I can't remember how apostolic succession from Althusser supposedly runs...

Also, distraction warning, but did you see this review? Specifically, this passage:

Even more peculiarly, Menand argues that the inclusion of these new bodies and the scholarly work they did had no real impact on the academy or on the liberal arts. If you believe that people like Edward Said, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gayatri Spivak, Joan Scott, Paul Gilroy and Lisa Lowe have transformed intellectual thought, think again. It’s not that Menand thinks their work isn’t important; it’s just that he doesn’t think it is terribly original. In his view, these lines of thought have already been fully established by (white, male) scholars like Paul de Man, Thomas Kuhn, Hayden White, Clifford Geertz and Richard Rorty. (82, 84)

-- made me so angry. I don't even know if it's true! But the anger didn't care. Anger!! I never knew stupid old Menand could cause such reactions, at least in caricature.

Er, I hope your other commenters are more helpful... Oh look, there's a helpful one ahead of me already.

Dr. Crazy said...

I don't actually know the answer to your question in the sense of having a specific text come to mind, but I would be inclined to look to Terry Eagleton - oh, and also Raymond Williams.

Susan said...

The only thing that came to mind for me is completely inappropriate, EP Thompson's critique of Althusser -- I think mostly in Writing by Candlelight...

Dr. Koshary said...

I seem to recall some recent writings that spin off from Althusser's argument to deal with certain concepts of racial interpellation. If this sounds useful to you, let me know and I'll try to run down where I came across these.

Breena Ronan said...

This probably isn't quite right but this book uses the idea of interpellation. (Personally I don't agree with his argument.)

Robbins, Paul. Lawn people: how grasses, weeds, and chemicals make us who we are. Temple University Press, 2007.

Jeremy said...

Someone please explain to me what this Althusser revival is about. Last I was aware, he was still the whipping boy of post-structuralists like Butler and neo-Marxists alike. (Eagleton is or used to be one of his defenders, but Eagleton was also a defender of the concept of false consciousness, so.)

The basic critique (and it was so ubiquitous that I can't think of a particular text) was that Althusser was a kind of dumbed-down version of Frankfurt-school style magical bullets. "Interpellation" is a fancy way of saying that people accept official ideology because official ideology wants them to. The problem is that people can make use of take part in institutions such as school or the military without necessarily accepting the ideology of those organizing such institutions. People recognize themselves as subject to or citizens in a particular state authority without agreeing on what that should mean.

Sisyphus said...

Dr. K, you mean like Fanon? If they're actually about extra-stative calls into a certain form of being, they might be useful.

Jeremy, I'm not so much part of an Althusser revival as clueless about the current (post)Marxist theorist names bandied about. And I thought he was the whipping boy because he murdered his wife?

Anyway, I'm really interested in the *process* of how that acceptance works, psychologically, and it just feels like interpellation. I've also got some leads on "identification" but that may not quite be what I want (it's so tied into queer theory and not necessarily ISAs) but getting hold of a bunch of theory books is going to be a pain right now.

Basically, I have something that actually has pointing fingers and the "you" address and it is just screaming interpellation at me. I feel I have to start there and cite a bunch of people at this starting point, even if I then go on to think about how and whether this thing actually works on its interpellants. (interpellants?)

PMG said...

Another good Butler-on-Althusser moment in The Psychic Life of Power, starting right with the Introduction, and then a whole chapter on "Althusser's Subjection."

Jeremy said...

Sorry, this is forever ago in blog time and you are in the midst of moving trauma (for which you have both my envy and my sympathies; boy does moving suck), but some brief thoughts.

I didn't mean to imply that you were leading the Althusser revival. More that this wasn't the only place I'd seen serious reference to interpellation, especially from Lit folks. This seems odd to me, because in my discipline I think it remains a thoroughly discredited concept.

Overall, though he's not without problems of his own, I think Bourdieu is a better way to go with this than Althusser. The hailing is not unimportant, but it's perhaps a smaller piece of the process of people forming identifications than their quotidian participation in institutions and in the physical and cultural spaces shaped by the existing power structure. To say the same thing in a slightly different way, the pointing fingers are vitally important for understanding how the state or other power sturctures are trying to relate to and manage their citizens/subjects/clients, but only part of the way that those subjects experience and come to understand their relationship to the finger pointers.

Georgia said...

"The problem is that people can make use of take part in institutions such as school or the military without necessarily accepting the ideology of those organizing such institutions."
Not necessarily, only if you think there is a unified subject, else, who does the resisting/where does the resistance come from? But by the same token, the main criticism of Althusser's concept of interpellation is that it's not clear who or what the subject is who responds to the interpellation that supposedly forms the subject.
Stuart Hall's article 'Who needs Identity?' is useful on tracing these issues from Althusser to Butler.

Jeremy said...

"Not necessarily, only if you think there is a unified subject, else, who does the resisting/where does the resistance come from?"

What now? I'd say I'm not arguing for "resistance" so much as critical/ambivalent engagement (resistance, whether defined in terms of intent or effect, would form some subset of those engagements, as would full-throated affirmation).

I'm not clear if you mean "unified self" or "unified subject." In either case, I don't see why it's necessary for critical engagement. Butler's point that there is no pre-social/cultural self, or Bourdieu's that their is no consciousness separate from habitus, are very correct, but they don't prevent resistance, or any other form of response, they simply mean that those responses are themselves conditioned by the
mutually constituting world of power.

People are thinking creatures and while they often accept the voice of power they don't always. They can also form communities of dissent. Butler's critique of Althusser is a cute one, but, to my mind, it's ancillary to more fundamental point that his model posits a response rather than illuminating anything.