A term coined by Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser in his essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)."

The Repressive State Apparatuses (or RSAs, as Althusser refers to them in his essay) are those systems and structures in a society that control the relations of production through mainly repressive, physical means. Althusser claims that these structures are necessary (in conjuction with Ideological State Apparatuses, or ISAs) to maintain the reproduction of the relations of production, or in other words, to keep the labourers labouring for the State and the bourgeois society.

The RSAs include the following:
In history, these Repressive State Apparatuses were used almost exclusively to keep a population "in line", often resorting to true violence and physical repression. Monarchies and feudal governments often used brute force instead of ideological force to contain the working folk (with exception of the ideological force of the Church, mind you).

Today, we see that the Ideological State Apparatuses are much more effective in the reproduction of the relations of production, and that the Repressive State Apparatuses are reserved for those moments when the ideology has failed to reach full saturation (such as during protests, governmental changes or inter-State conflicts).


Sources:

Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)." In Mapping Ideology. London: Verso, 1994.

http://home.triad.rr.com/siar/WorldLit/base.html

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