Althusser defines the State as “a machine of repression, which enables the ruling classes to ensure their domination of the working class, thus enabling the former to subject the latter to the process of surplus-value extortion.” (Althusser 60) Along with “RSA’s” there are also “ISA’s” which are associated more with the private domain such as churches, parties, newspapers etc. (Althusser 61). Both forces are strongly depicted in The Hunger Games. The RSA, also known as the Capitol, is more dominant in pushing ideologies within the film and as a result, a desire for a revolution is produced. The Hunger Games clearly shows that rebellion will occur in case the RSA is too domineering with its citizens. Class stratification and unequal segregation is also enforced through the RSA which is why there is ultimately a revolution. Class is separated based each districts’ resource and production value which again is also enforced through the Capitol’s power.
“Given the fact that the ruling class in principle holds State power, and therefore has at its disposal the Repressive State Apparatus, we can accept the fact this this same ruling class is active in the Ideological State Apparatuses”(Altusser 62). The Capitol seems to have complete control over every branch, organization, institute etc. Enforcing the Hunger Games as an annual event for every district keeps every citizen in their place and reluctant to revolt. President Snow essentially acts as a dictator by using aggression and fear to incite obedience. Snow’s force is further established through the reaping, the live recording of the games, as well as the other ceremonies that lead up to the games itself. All of these mentioned act as an ISA due to the Capitol’s complete control.
According to Althusser, “no class can hold State power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State Ideological Apparatus.”(Althusser 62) By unequal class stratification, the Capitol holds its hegemony over Panem. The capitol enforces this system of injustice through the exploitation of each District and their resource. Every district gives some sort of resource from coal to steel to textiles, without receiving any compensation in return. Another resource not directly observed in the movie is the resource of youth. Children are produced for the protection of the RSA, they are produced only to have the mentality that they may one day sacrifice their life in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games as a form of entertainment acts as an ISA to ensure fear and death within the districts. It’s very likely that the children are produced for exploitation. Althusser states “the mechanism which reproduce this vital result for the capitalist regime are naturally covered up and concealed by a universally reigning ideology of the School.” (Althusser 63). Instead of the School, there is the media of the Capitol that showcases the Hunger Games, glamorizes the tributes and conceals the games as a ceremony of honor.
As mentioned before, class stratification is maintained through the exploitation of every district. For example, the Districts with more favorable and luxurious resources (District One) are higher in the class system and any child born into this district automatically has a higher privilege than others. As a result of their privilege, the tributes of District One receive training to win the Hunger Games. This “training” acts as an ISA for those to see the Hunger Games as an act of honor and a privilege in itself to be in one. This is just another example of class stratification through the use of ISA’s and RSA’s. The winners of the games tend to be the wealthier districts that have stronger ties to the Capitol and as a result, Snow’s hegemony is protected.
The Hunger Games is symbolic of the Capitalist society Althusser and Marx critique and dislike. Through the Capitol acting as an RSA and the actual games as an ISA when seen as entertainment, class stratification and the Snow hegemony is constructed and protected. Yet we see a shift in power when Katniss challenges these ideologies through formation of her own ISA that is later depicted in the series. This exemplifies how the destruction of an RSA is stimulated through the introduction of new ideologies through a current ISA.
Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation).” Multicultural Film: An Anthology. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2013. N. page. Print.
Abbie Garcia is a Queer content creator with a knack for events and community engagement! Current projects include Spoon Live Streams, Thoughts On That Podcast, Lifestyle Themed Youtube Videos, and LGBTQ+ Events. In their spare time, they like to cycle, sing, hike, and empower others through the education of social justice issues.