This essay offers a rejoinder to Balibar’s reconstruction of Althusser’s thought. The author analyzes Balibar’s reading by attending to its formal protocols and substantive arguments, especially the transposition of the aporias in Althusser’s theoretical formulations, moving from a politics of theater to a theatrical politics. Building on the movement Balibar traces on how the problematic of ideology is successively transformed through a series of décalages over a longitudinal view of Althusser’s oeuvre, this essay proposes another décalage in light of the posthumously published writings. Offering a reading of Althusser’s theory of ideology from the perspective of aleatory materialism, the essay calls attention to the radical instability of structures and the role of struggle in social reproduction that is otherwise hidden from view. The author also extrapolates a new conception of subjectivity, a theory of “bad subjects,” that attempts to address the aporias of interpellation by making room for disobedience and resistance. The essay develops the idea of a layered subjectivity based on the overdetermined effect of contingently sequenced subjectivations and countersubjectivations that result from interpellating encounters, and it theorizes disobedience as the becoming-dominant of countersubjectivations within each singular subjectivity understood as a contradictory unity. The essay contends that aleatory materialism puts forth the field of subjectivity as a theater within theater, designating it as the site of revolutionary politics today.
Althusser’s Materialist Theater: Ideology and Its Aporias
banu bargu is associate professor of politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought and critical theory. The thematic focus of her work spans theories of sovereignty, biopolitics, and resistance, as well as aesthetics and materialism. She is the author of the award-winning Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014). Her essays have appeared in such venues as Angelaki, diacritics, Contemporary Political Theory, theory & event, South Atlantic Quarterly, qui parle, and Constellations. Bargu is currently working on a book-length manuscript on Althusser’s political thought and aleatory materialism.
Banu Bargu; Althusser’s Materialist Theater: Ideology and Its Aporias. differences 1 November 2015; 26 (3): 81–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-3340372
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