In “Althusser’s Dramaturgy and the Critique of Ideology,” Étienne Balibar reconstructs Althusser’s quest for “a critical concept of ideology” and offers one of his own. Both moves are based on close attention to the relation between theater and politics. Power is always theatrical because it always operates by “combining [. . .] a machinery and a show.” This essay highlights this figure and presents it as both a metaphor for and proper description of the functioning of ideology itself. Literalizing the metaphor, this essay shows how it helps us resolve two enigmas in Althusser’s concept of ideology with which Balibar, following Althusser, is preoccupied: the possibility of revolution and the persistence of “bad subjects.”

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