Materialism, Matter and Materiality in the Work of Althusser

Warren Montag

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Over a decade ago, a number of philosophers declared that the time of what they called “the linguistic turn,” that is, a philosophical orientation to language as the sole medium through which reality could be apprehended, had come to an end, having foundered on its own contradictions. In its place, they proposed a turn to objects or things, that is, that to which we were previously told we could gain access only through language or consciousness, insofar as they reflected or represented reality from a position outside of it. Thus, they established the materiality of objects, but at the expense of a dematerialization of language. One of the principal targets of the new materialism was the concept of ideology, to them a realm of ideas, not things. In his famous essay, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” published in 1970, Althusser preempted the arguments of the new materialism by asserting that ideology does not consist of ideas but exists in the materiality of apparatuses, practices and rituals. Just as importantly, discourse too possessed a materiality and a reality which was the necessary condition of its functions, including the production of meaning.

Montag W. Materialism, Matter and Materiality in the Work of Althusser. Síntesis, Rev filos.. 2021;4(2): 19-33. Disponible en: doi:10.15691/0718-5448Vol4Iss2a357 [Accessed 25 May. 2022].
Montag, W. (2021). Materialism, Matter and Materiality in the Work of Althusser. Síntesis. Revista de Filosofía, 4(2), 19-33. doi:


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