1. A Repressive State Apparatus is a structure that controls behavior by weaponizing fear against us. It is called repressive because the existence of the apparatus (EG, prison) is a social deterrent to breaking the rules that are forced upon us as members of a community (EG, American citizens). The threat of violence or punishment is a threat to our well-being, so we fear it and mostly act within constructed rules to avoid that at all costs. For example, I may not want to pay taxes, but I do so because I fear the threat of legal and financial repercussions if the government finds out I have not paid them.
2. Ideological State Apparatuses play on our fear of being a member of a societal out group. We so want to have communities, be accepted, and be seen as normal, that we control our own actions to remain within the already acceptable range of behavior (the “status quo”). Here, we are trained by mechanisms like school what the community’s expectations are, and we are exposed to the threat of being kicked out of the group. We are taught that there are established social hierarchies that we must submit to in order to gain acceptance, and there is no room for criticism of the system or that authority because to criticize it would be to risk losing in-group privileges.
3. While Repressive State Apparatuses are explicitly violent and motivate us through our own fear, Ideological State Apparatuses are insidious and teach social compliance through education and exposure to extant hierarchy.
This scene from Mean Girls is an example of ideological apparatuses. There is a strict social hierarchy in place when Cady joins the school, and she desires to be a member of a group so badly that she complies with Janis’s requests that she infiltrate the more popular group. Eventually she ends up enjoying the popularity, and modifies her behavior even further in order to continue to fit in. This movie is all about social compliance and the lengths we will go to in order to appear normal, regardless of our self-interest.