Althusser is often charged with holding an elitist perspective. Some commentators believe that this way of conceiving of ideology effectively prevents agency for ordinary people, because they are inevitably deluded and controlled by the ideological state apparatuses. For example, Kevin B. Anderson writes that Althusser’s theory is incapable of registering the existence of “a rebellious individual subject whose rebellion touches off wide support within an entire subjected group,” for example, someone like Rosa Parks. 9 However, Althusser states very clearly that the ISAs are not permanent or stable; their ability to produce ideological practices is always limited and threatened by a basic contradiction: class struggle. In fact, Althusser’s entire project is rooted in the recognition and advocacy of organized struggle against oppression and exploitation, and the means by which class struggle appears in less economically based forms of oppression and subject formation. Jeanne Theoharis has shown that Rosa Parks’s rebellion was not the product of a spontaneous individual moment of freedom, but the consequence of an entire conscious mass movement. 10 This can be understood in Althusserian terms as the appearance of class struggle in ideology. Effects of class struggle appear within ideology, and class struggle presents the possibility of a complete overthrow of bourgeois ideology. In an appendix to On the Reproduction of Capitalism , Althusser responds to the criticism of his work that it is merely descriptive and “functionalist”; that his analysis tends to make everything explained and reified by apparatuses. In response, Althusser insists that his entire theory depends on the primacy of class struggle. In fact, there would be no need for ISAs at all if resistance and struggle were not always present and in need of pacification.
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