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Althusser's term to describe a mechanism whereby the human subject is ‘constituted’ (constructed) by pre-given structures (a structuralist stance). By being named or ‘hailed’ as a member of a group, a person is led to see themselves as an ideological subject. For example, when a politician addresses a crowd as ‘citizens’, or a teacher addresses a class as ‘students’, the people in those situations are being asked to adopt a certain subject position or social role that is conducive to the maintenance of the social order. The situation would be different if they were addressed as ‘comrades’. This concept is used by Marxist theorists to explain the ideological function of mass-media texts. According to this view, the subject (viewer, listener, reader) is constituted by the text, and the power of the mass media resides in their ability to ‘position’ the subject in such a way that their representations are taken to be reflections of everyday reality. Such framings reflect a stance of structural or textual determinism which has been challenged by contemporary social semioticians who tend to emphasize the ‘polysemic’ and ‘multiaccentual’ nature of texts, together with the diversity of their uses. See also ideological state apparatus.

Subjects: Media studies

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