Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses in Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

The Idealogical and Repressive State Apparatuses RSA are social practices; which are imposed on individuals in a society and inform of the limits of the people. The ISA seeks to shape the norms through positive reinforcement. The RSA uses negative reinforcement and punishment to push and shape a society’s values. 

One of the first prominent pieces of writing to be generated out of the French Revolution was Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. Written in 1790, Burke’s piece gave his opinion of a Revolution that was still very much in its infancy. His piece, discussing the ISA of government, was written in colloquialism that made his target audience the elite upper class, and the arguments beneath the wording also drew this crowd. His background as a protestant Whig caused him to absolutely believe in the necessity and goodness of a monarchy. He also clearly stated his belief that the ruled people had absolutely no right to suddenly rise up and overthrow this governing body, even if it was oppressive. He identified the popular argument of the “rights of man” and saw it simply as an overused and abused concept to justify tyranny. He did recognize the possibility for a need of change in a society but believed that this change should “be carefully formed upon analogical precedent, authority, and example” (Burke 117).  So how and where do ISA and RSA fit into Burke’s opinions of The French Revolution? His overwhelming desire to diminish the need for an appearance of the RSA is clear throughout his writing. He calls for peaceful transition in order to facilitate needed change and that through this slowly but surely method, the Ideologies would eventually budge and shift according to the desire and needs of the people. This is a naïve perception of the flexibility of ideology. Ideological State Apparatus, in its very definition, is a structure that governs a generation for generations, and the way in which these ideologies are perceived is how they are shaped by the ruling class. It is not often that the voice of the lower class is heard enough to evoke change, as long as the upper class is still living comfortably


Burke, Edmund. “Reflections on the Revolution in France”. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. New York: Longman, 2010. 113-122.