With the exception of Nietzsche, no other madman has contributed so much to human sanity as has Louis Althusser. He is mentioned twice in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as someone’s teacher. There could be no greater lapse: for two important decades (the 60s and the 70s), Althusser was at the eye of all the important cultural storms. He fathered quite a few of them.
This newly-found obscurity forces me to summarize his work before suggesting a few (minor) modifications to it.
(1) Society consists of practices: economic, political and ideological.
Althusser defines a practice as:
“Any process of transformation of a determinate product, affected
by a determinate human labour, using determinate means (of production)”
The economic practice (the historically specific mode of production) transforms raw materials to finished products using human labour and other means of production, all organized within defined webs of inter-relations. The political practice does the same with social relations as the raw materials. Finally, ideology is the transformation of the way that a subject relates to his real life conditions of...