Most readers of Louis Althusser first enter his work through his writings on ideology. In an important new essay Étienne Balibar, friend and colleague of Althusser, offers an original reading of Althusser’s idea of ideology, drawing on both recently published posthumous writing and Althusser's work on the Piccolo Teatro di Milano. Balibar’s essay uncovers the intricate workings of interpellation through Althusser’s essays on the theater. If debates on dialectical materialism belong to a distant history, Balibar suggests, the question of ideology remains crucial for thinking the present.
The issue includes commentaries on Balibar’s essay from five influential scholars who engage critically with Althusser’s philosophy: Judith Butler, Banu Bargu, Adi Ophir, Warren Montag, and Bruce Robbins. This issue reanimates Althusser’s concept of ideology as an analytic tool for contemporary cultural and political critique.