Althusser on the "invention" of free will
Analysts of agency have found the theorist Louis Althusser helpful in thinking through these issues. Althusser argued that the subject is a subject of ideology -not in the narrow sense of propaganda but in the broad sense of the pervasive cultural formations of the dominant class. Althusser recognized the power of coercive state intitutions to conform subjects to particular behaviors, beliefs, and identities -institutions such as the military and the police. He also recognized that there are less overtly coercive institutions - social services, educational institutions, the family, literary and artistic institutions- that "hail" subjects who enter them. By "hailing" Althusser meant the process through which subjects become interpelled, become what institutional discourses and practices make of them. They are "subjected." Most important, individuals understand themselves to be "naturally" self-produced because the power of ideology to hail the subject is hidden, obscured by the very practices of the institution. In this way, people are invested in and mystified by their own production as subjects, by their own "subjection." That is, they have "false consciousness": they collude in their own lack of agency by believing that they have it. It is not enough, then, to say that people exercise free will. The concept of "free will" is itself embedded in a discourse about the Enlightment individual, a historically specific discourse through which subjects understand themselves as intellectually mature and free to make their own choices. To claim that all humans have something called "free will" in this way is to misunderstand an ideological concept as a "natural" aspect of existence.
- Smith, Sidonie and Watson, Julia. Reading Autobiography. 2001. University of Minessota Press. (42-43)
O sea, víctimas de los sistemas somos.