ideological state apparatuses. A description introduced by the French Marxist philosopher, Louis Althusser (1918-90). The concept develops Antonio Gramsci's emphasis upon the operation of ideology in civil society and has been extremely influential on a range of work within literary, film and cultural studies. Althusser distinguishes between two kinds of State Apparatus: Repressive State Apparatuses (or RSAs: for example, the penal system, police and army) and Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs, including religion, the legal system, education, the family, culture and communication). The first are coercive in their operation while the second function to unify society through ideology and reproduce a regime through consent. The latter are relatively independent of the state, though they serve to ratify and legitimize it and to function, says Althusser, 'beneath the ruling ideology which is the ideology of "the ruling class."Most importantly for Althusser, Ideological State Apparatuses therefore simultaneously comprise ideas and material forms. This perception was welcomed since it appeared to re-articulate Marx's classic distinction between the economic base and the ideological superstructure so as to free it from a mechanistic and deterministic interpretation. In Althusser's view of'the social formation, ideas and ideological forms have a relative autonomy and the economy, while determining, is determining 'in the last instance'. This formulation was seen to acknowledge the specificity and critical ideological potential of culture.