What is an Ideological State Apparatus?

Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) are private institutions that function based on ideologies (Althusser, 1971/1970).  Ideology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary (n.d.) as a set of ideas that often become the framework of different theories and policies. Although ISAs primarily function on ideologies to create imagined relationships between people and their society, it also uses repression as a secondary function to implement discipline and order when needed. Methods of these implementing rules as punishment and as forms of discipline (i.e. expulsion, selection and censorship) are  often times incorporated in the management of the ISAs. (Althusser, 1971/1970). 

Based on the lecture of the University of the Philippines Philippine Institute professor Albina Fernandez (2013), ISAs use ideologies and persuasion to produce imagined reality and relationship between people that will influence their behavior as it translate to material practices. Fernandez (2013) also added that as opposed to Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) that uses force and violence in the public sphere, ISAs function in the private sphere. These ISAs, more often than not, cater to the desires of the ruling class in order to keep them dominant and of power in society. (Althusser, 1971/1970).

According to Althusser (1971/1970), Ideological State Apparatuses are composed of distinct and specialized institutions namely: the family, the religious system, the legal system, the political system, the educational systems, the communication and the cultural institutions. These ISAs highly influence the views and beliefs of contemporary capitalist social formation and contribute to the reproduction of the relations of production (i.e. of capitalist relations of exploitation).

Now, focusing on the family as an ISA, it is in this institution that the ‘vulnerability’ of a person decapitates through methods of learning. Children are forced to adapt to the different rulings, virtues and ideologies to initially prepare them for the distant future and to further eject them into the production environ of the capitalist society. Though it has been stated by Althusser that the family as an ISA produces the labor of power, it may also be labeled as the unit of production and/ or the unit of consumption. This term paper addresses significant topics and issues regarding the family as an Ideological State Apparatus in the Filipino context. It focuses on how families, particularly here in the Philippines, affirm and reaffirm ideologies and how its supporting virtues are passed from one generation to the next.


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