Show Summary Details

Page of

 PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, COMMUNICATION (communication.oxfordre.com). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 19 October 2018

Summary and Keywords

Louis Althusser bequeathed to his students and coworkers a rich but problematic legacy, not least of all with respect to his notion of the unconsciousness of ideology. Traditionally, even among Marxists, the latter had been associated with the conscious realm of ideas, thereby giving rise to the notion of a “false consciousness.” From the Althusserian standpoint, by way of contrast, ideology was profoundly unconscious in its operations. Two of Althusser’s students, Michel Foucault and Juan Carlos Rodríguez, rose to meet the challenge posed by this facet of their former master’s work, although to very antithetical effect. In Foucault, Althusser’s original insight underwent a radical transformation from which it emerged, stripped of its Marxist framework, as a discursive unconsciousness, materialized in the rules that governed discourse and, subsequently, in social institutions and practices. Rodríguez, on the other hand, reworked the notion of ideological unconsciousness into an ideological unconscious. Understandably, Foucault’s work found favor with a bourgeois academy that, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, increasingly abandoned Marxism to embrace conservative forms of postmodernism and neo-liberalism. During the same period, Rodríguez struggled to make his presence felt from the margins of the global academy. By a curious irony, however, his very location afforded a perfect vantage point from which to study the workings of ideological conflict. His notion of the ideological unconscious remains a seminal if still neglected concept.

Keywords: Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Juan Carlos Rodríguez, discourse, ideology, the unconscious, Marxism, power, exploitation, Don Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges, state/stage, communication and critical studies

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.