Althusserianismand Film as a Pop Culture in Europe
Inhis book, John Storey discusses the growth of the Marxist theory aswell as the application to cultural studies. This he does fromclassical Marxism up to Post Marxism. According to Classical Marxisttheory, social and cultural life is often gauged by means and mode ofproduction. They take note that from the economic "base"there comes up the ideological perspective known as "superstructure"(Storey, 72). This viewpoint posits that the dominant ideology withinany popular culture is often tied and anchored in an economic system.This paper seeks to criticize the theory of Althusserianism asadvanced by John Storey in relation to Film production in the West asa form of popular culture. In advancing the essay, the concreteconcepts surrounding Althusserianism will be taken into account. Inshort, the paper shall single out one ideaology by John Storey,Althusserianism and point out how well it works in the filmproduction.
Severalscholars have criticized Althusserianism post-structuralist Marxismas one that is completely discriminatory among them English MarxistHistorian E.P Thompson. Thompson is seen to contest the positiontaken by Storey where he allude that only a few of theoreticalpractitioners who have full information about the ideas and conceptsof Althusserian Marxist knew the truth (Storey, 78). He alsocontested the theory of idealism which had root in the ideologicalsuperstructure rather than economic and political base of anycommunity. According to Althusserian Marxist, in any capitaliststructured system, the ideological superstructure had a relativeadvantage given the degree of autonomy that they enjoyed.Additionally, Thompson criticism was based on the notion of thepopular culture according to Althusserianism. To this effect, thearguments on film production as a popular culture will establish abase on some of the arguments and criticisms advanced by Thomspson.
Thefirst criticism of popular culture is based on idea that popularculture is a potential and actual site and an area that resists theconcept of the dominant ideology. Further, popular culture can beseen not to be over determined by the dominant ideology. Suchcriticisms were even clearly supported by the rise in tradition ofcultural studies which was witnessed in Britain in the late 1960s andearly 1970s. The interpretation of popular culture as an activeagency and resistance is without doubt contradicting thematerialistic philosophy advanced by Althusser, which state that anyapparatus works to constitute concrete individuals as subjects(Storey 77). Therefore, popular culture is inexorably intolerant andremains so until it is taken over by the shocks within itstheoretical practice.
Usually,during the production process of cinema, the cinema would portraymaterialistic nature as long as the cinema is anchored inAlthusserian model. Often, there would be the deconstruction of thedominant ideology which would then be taken over by the ideologybased on the precepts of Althusserian Marxism. In film industry, theAlthusserian approach was adopted by several French and English filmproducers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the filmjournals that adopted the Althusserian approach included Positif,Cinetique, Tel Quel andCahiers du Cinemaand the journal from the English known as Screen.Basing its cue on Althusser as well as sourcing some inspiration fromthe events that occurred in 1968, the brains behind the production ofCinetiqueembraced the fact that production of commercial cinema was anideological state apparatus. This, in their view, they related towhat is seen in churches and education sector. According to theproducers, for one to come up with a contradicting position that isable to challenge the dominant institutions, as well as ideologies,then they must craft a whole new and progressive cinema that is ableto counter the existing one.
BothCinetiqueandTel Quelapplied the concept "inter-pellation" as advanced byAlthusser (Storey, 77). In their application, the producers positthat the dint of reality created by the cinema was in one way oranother promoting the existence of dominant ideologies. In both thecinemas, the realism was the ideology embraced throughout. Hence,both journals were seen to propagate for the creation of anti-realistfilms, as well as self-reflexive form of cinemas. However, Cahiersdu Cinematook a different perspective from the two. It was seen to haveinclined to a cultural view on the potential of mainstream cinemawith a view that most of the areas of popular culture criticized theconcept of the dominant ideology. The argument was clearly supportedin view of American film individuals such as John Ford, Douglas Sirkas well as European directors like Carl Dreyer and Roberto Rosselini.Later, the film would shift its position and relate to the modernistview adopted by the other two of counter-cinema.
Focusingon the film, Screen,it is clear that several attempts were made to embed structuralismand post-structuralism in the general theory of film. From theAlthusser perspective, it is clear that the mainstream feature filmsput the spectator within the spectrum of a dominant ideology. Thisposition can further be supported by the politically progressive filmby Ken Loach known as Daysof Hopeproduced in 1975. In this film, there is a clear manipulation of thesubjects owing to its dependence on realistic methodology which in myview was more of authoritarian. From this analysis, it is clear thatindividuals propagated for an anti-realist theory as well asreflexive kind of cinema practice.
Witha focus given to the four main European films produced in the 1960sthrough to 1970s, a criticism of John Storey`s idea onAlthusserianism has been advanced. One such criticism has been laidon the fact that popular culture is a potential and actual site andan area that resists the concept of the dominant ideology. Thecriticism is supported by the fact that popular culture can be seennot to be over determined by a dominant ideology (Storey 81).Throughout the analysis, it is evident that the films did not stickto the precepts of Althusserian. There is manipulation of thesubjects for films like Daysof Hope andScreen.Further, it is evident that some films such as Screen, attempted tointegrate structuralism and post-structuralism on the general theoryof film. However, the concept of Althusser seems to work well inother films with both CinetiqueandTel Quelapplying the concept "inter-pellation" as advanced byAlthusser. In their application, the producers posit that the dint ofreality created by the cinema was in one way or another promoting theexistence of dominant ideologies. Therefore, in both ways theAlthusserian concept advanced by John Storey has its both sides ofthe coin.
Storey,John, ed. Cultural theory and popular culture: A reader. Universityof Georgia Press, 2006.