Eagleton on Ideology

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

[Note 22 in Chapter 1 in print version. © the Johns Hopkins University Press 1992.]

Terry Eagleton's explanation of the way ideology relates the individual to his or her society bears an uncanny resemblance to the conception of the virtual machine in computing: "It is as though society were not just an impersonal structure to me, but a 'subject' which 'addresses' me personally -- which recognizes me, tells me that I am valued, and so makes me by that very act into a free, autonomous subject. I come to feel, not exactly as though the world exists for me alone, but as though it is significantly 'centred' on me, and I in turn am significantly 'centred' on it. Ideology, for Althusser, is the set of beliefs and practices which does this centring" (172).

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