(I actually wrote this before the lecture, I just didn’t get to type it up b/c I was out of town and computerless!)
Detangling of some terms:
“Contradiction” in the Hegelian dialectic is “simple” (103). Based on passed reading of Hegel, I would describe this contradiction as between the internal consciousness, “Spirit,” and the external lived reality. Althusser echoes this and points out the implications: “…the reduction…to one principle of internal untiy,…possible on the absolute condition of taking the concrete life of a people for the externalization-alienation” (103).
This Hegelian contradition is related to the “superstructure,” which is basically the State. Hegel describes the mission of this apparatus as being: “to consummate itself in art, religion, and philosophy,” to be “the ‘truth of’ civil society” (110). In other words, the state externalizes the internal experience of civil society; it is an expression of the Spirit.
For Marx, “contradiction” is historical and is described as the basis of revolution. As series of historical contradictions; their “accumulation and exacerbation” caused “the weakness of Tsarist Russia” (95). For Engles, “superstructure” is composed of “various elements” of “the political forms of the class struggle and its results [such as] constitutions,…, juridical forms…, regligious views and their further development into systems of dogmas..”(112). This seems to encompass the State, which is placed as one of many elements of civil society (rather than the superstructure, as in the case of Hegel).
Yet for Marx/Engles, the state is very different: it is “an instrument of coercion in the service of the ruling exploiting class” (110). It is just one of many superstructures through which “History ‘asserts itself’,” or really, through which the economy, or mode of production asserts itself.