The State as a ‘machine’ of repression

Taking Sides

In an essay published in 1970 and titled “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation),” discussing some of the ways in which, according to Marxist theory, capitalist society ‘disciplines and controls’ its ‘citizens,’ Louis Althusser writes a brief and condensed summary of the essential purpose or function of the bourgeois or capitalist state.  The summary, to my mind, despite its brevity, does indeed nicely capture the pith of the reality:

The State

The Marxist tradition is strict, here: in the Communist Manifesto and the Eighteenth Brumaire (and in all the later classical texts, above all in Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune and Lenin’s on State and Revolution), the State is explicitly conceived as a repressive apparatus. The State is a ‘machine’ of repression, which enables the ruling classes (in the nineteenth century the bourgeois class and the ‘class’ of big landowners) to ensure their…

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In Defense of Smokers

Tales from the Conspiratum


As a doctor, I’m well aware of the negative health effects of smoking. Studies show a life time of smoking subtracts an average of ten years from your life expectancy. I’m also aware of the considerable health costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and stroke.

Yet other studies suggest that non-smokers actually generate higher health care costs because they live ten years longer. This research receives limited publicity. The Center for Disease Control prudently chooses not to promote the cost savings associated with premature death.

Owing to a chronic sinus condition, I’m also painfully aware of the effects of second hand smoke.

The Stigmatization of Smokers

However, as an organizer and civil libertarian, I’m also extremely wary the increasing stigmatization of smokers – especially when I read that employers are using “smoker status” as a justification for not hiring people. In this regard, I…

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