The Gold and the Dross: Althusser for Educators

The Gold and the Dross: Althusser for Educators

by David I. Backer


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In the last decade, there has been an international resurgence of interest in the philosophy of Louis Althusser. New essays, journalism, collections, secondary literature, and even manuscripts by Althusser himself are emerging, speaking in fresh ways to audiences of theorists and activists. Althusser is especially important in educational thought, as he famously claimed that school is the most impactful ideological state apparatus in modern society. This insight inspired a generation of educational researchers, but Althusser’s philosophy—unique in a number of ways, one of which was its emphasis on education—largely lost popularity.

Despite this resurgence of interest, and while Althusser’s philosophy is important for educators and activists to know about, it remains difficult to understand. The Gold and the Dross: Althusser for Educators, with succinct prose and a creative organization, introduces readers to Althusser’s thinking. Intended for those who have never encountered Althusser’s theory before, and even those who are new to philosophy and critical theory in general, the book elaborates the basic tenets of Althusser’s philosophy using examples and personal stories juxtaposed with selected passages of Althusser’s writing. Starting with a beginner’s guide to interpellation and Althusser’s concept of ideology, the book continues by elaborating the epistemology and ontology Althusser produced, and concludes with his concepts of society and science. The Gold and the Dross makes Althusser’s philosophy more available to contemporary audiences of educators and activists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789004391253
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 02/07/2019
Series: Brill Guides to Scholarship in Education Series , #1
Pages: 82
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

David I. Backer, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Foundations of Education. His work on school in its social context can be found in Harvard Educational Review, Educational Theory, Issues in Teacher Education and elsewhere. Based in Philadelphia, he is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Table of Contents



 General Plan and Purpose of This Book

 Althusser’s Context

 Althusser’s Life

 Author’s Context

 Note on Passages

1 A Beginner’s Guide to Interpellation

 Getting in Trouble

 At School

 Get with the Program

 Not Anything Impactful

 I Don’t Remember What I Learned in School


 Where Did My Friends Go?

 Falling in Love

 Is Interpellation Passive?

 Ideology = Imagined Relations to Real Conditions


 Race and Gender





 Being Guided

 Interpellation Machine



 A Grain of Sand


 A Play

 Our Society: Capitalism and Democracy

2 The Law of Dislocation

 Concrete-Real vs. Concrete-in-Thought

 Snakes, Ropes, and Concepts

 The Gold and the Dross

 Straying from Dislocation: Empiricism and Surplus Value

 Petty, Laplace, and Capital Vol. 1

 Leaves, Monads, and Other Simple Internal Essences

 Shades of Hegel

 Expressivism: (Dig Here)

 Human Nature

 Concepts behind ‘Words’

 A Theory of Reading: Listening to Silence

3 The Law of Uneven Development

 Every Thing Is a Mess

 The dsa

 Theory of Combination

 Theory of Formation

 Theory of Relative Autonomy

 Theory of Determination

 The Wrong Side of History


 Teleology on the Train

 Concepts of Structure: Captain Planet vs. Voltron

 The Two Laws: Three Reflections

4 Theory of Social Formations

 Geology as Analogy for Society

 Forces, Elements, and Variations in Society: Overview

 Economic Region

 Ideological Region

 Culture and Agency

 Repressive Region


 The Three Social Forces: Productive, Reproductive, Repressive

 The Hut and the Theater

 Naked Capitalism

 Home Ownership


 An Allegory for Social Structure

 In the Last Instance: Theory of Moveable Types

5 Conclusion: Ideology, Truth, Science


 Truth as Correctness


 Science as Sweet Science

Afterword: Studying the Dross

 Tyson E. Lewis



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