Analysis of Althusser’s Philosophy

Louis Althusser is a postmodern, post-structural philosopher known for his contribution of reinterpreting Marxism and making it a modern reading. His career suffered downfall when he strangled his wife to death and that point of time he was suffering from bipolar disorder. For analyzing his thoughts we have to make preview into the philosophy of Marxism.
Marxism is an atheistic philosophy that has introduced the concept of materialistic interpretation of history and dialectical materialism. What is materialistic interpretation of history? Marx argues that all the institutions of society have their root base on the production system. The factors of production are owned and controlled by the Capitalists who exploit the workers and make stupendous profit. All the institutions of the society like legal, political, religious and literary are owned and controlled by the capitalism. Dialectical materialism espouses the view that that roots of society’s foundations, its institutions lie with the economic base that is who owns the factors of production. Marx is of the view that a capitalist system makes profit and creates an industrial class of people called the bourgeoisie and a menial exploited class of people the proletariat. Althusser is not clear about how these Marxian concepts can be accommodated into modern day capitalist societies.
The next concept used by Althusser is ideology. Ideology is used in the broad sense of the term and encompasses society’s structures especially its political, legal, economic, psychiatric and literary structures. These structures function as ideological apparatuses. However the relevance of Marxism and ideological structures is anachronistic. All of the ideological apparatuses, the legal, political, economic, and psychiatric are dependent on the economics of production. Profit making of the bourgeoisie and exploitation of the workers is the result of the function of ideology. Here I would like to disagree with Althusser. What began as Communism and known as the Eastern bloc including the erstwhile Soviet Union collapsed. Free enterprise and capitalism rule the world today. Even in a country like China, only it political structure is communist while its market is market friendly.
Next we come upon Althusser’s term: the problematic. A rereading and re-interpretation of Marxian texts is problematic. The Marxian concept of class struggle is antiquated. The workers in a capitalistic society are not exploited. They are paid wages to meet their needs. Marxism has been successful only in Communist Cuba but Cuba is also opening its doors to a free market economy. Marxian concepts have failed to work in modern day economy. The internationalization of the industry as the transnational corporation and also out sourcing has created many jobs for workers in the third world. The world is edging towards a one world order and a one world currency. The bourgeoisie are becoming richer and richer while the workers become divided into upper and lower middleclass strata of the society.
Next Althusser talks about ideology as an aesthetic artifact. Aesthetics produces works of art which have an ideological structure. For example Renaissance paintings carried Christian motifs and it represented the ideological influence of Christianity. The works of Andy Warhol show the preponderance of crass consumerism. Mainstream literature especially pulp literature depicts the ethos of consumerism starved with the narcissism of the fetish of deprived minds. Can art transcend ideology and introduce something new? Art and aesthetics have to become a culture of deviation.


Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan is a famous writer and he is known for his masterpiece: Pilgrim’s Progress. The story is an allegory of a struggling Christian. In the novel: Christian encounters many dreams and has conversation with various persons who are represented thematically.
Christian traverses through the valley of despondence. There he encounters various leitmotifs like envy, covetousness, sloth, gluttony and promiscuity. Christian has dialogues with each of them.
What is envy? It is the feeling of jealousy towards another person. Envy has no room in Christian thought and is considered to be a Sin. Envy is personified as a person and it asks Christian whether he has feelings of envy. Yes, and Christian is weighed down by a ton of bricks and asks God to forgive the envy he has towards his neighbors. Envy personified wants to retain that attribute in Christian. Christian overcomes the feeling and continues his journey.
The next encounter is with a person, personified as covetousness. Covetousness asks Christian whether he would like to covet his neighbor’s wife and his neighbor’s possessions. Christian becomes overcome with guilt and asks God for repentance. Covetousness is a quality that is present in most people. Christian philosophy adheres to the view that we have to refrain from covetousness. Covetousness for Christianity is a sin. When I read Christian’s encounter with covetousness, I felt a pang of guilt. I asked God to remove all the blisters if covetousness in me. All who are covetous won’t enter the kingdom of God. Covetousness is a quality that is possessed by Lucifer. Lucifer became overcome with pride and wanted to be God and therefore, he was cast into the hell of fire.
The next personified person that Christian encountered in a dream was sloth. There is a saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Christian was asked whether he possessed sloth. Again Christian became remorseful and asked God for forgiveness. Sloth is a Christian taboo. Sloth is sinful and God detests sloth. Those who are slothful won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The next personified person that Christian encountered with gluttony. Gluttony confronted Christian by saying that he is gluttonous. Yes, I am said Christian; I am a glutton at heart. I penitently seek God’s forgiveness. Gluttony is also a sin in Christian philosophy and gluttons won’t reach the golden throne. Gluttons will be cast down into the lake of fire.
The next personified person that Christian came across was promiscuity. Christian becomes overcome with feelings of guilt and angst. Promiscuity queries Christian whether he has indulged in adultery. Christian feels sorry for the sin of adultery. Adultery is a serious crime in Christian ethics and adulterers would surely not reach the kingdom of God. They will lose the belongings of paradise.
John Bunyan is a brilliant writer and he has set the novel based on Christian virtues. It is a must read for every Christian as it will make a Christian repentant in a soul searching catharsis. The Pilgrim’s progress is a literary master piece and he is brought out the pathos of an ideal Christian caught up with worldly life at the same time wanting to accept Christ into his life.