Professor Paula Baron on ‘Althusser’s Mirror: Lawyer Distress and the Process of Interpellation’

In a recent article in the Griffith Law ReviewProfessor Paula Baron, Chair of Common Law at La Trobe Law School examines lawyer distress, self-management and the interpellation of the ‘good’ citizen-lawyer.


In this paper, I propose that Althusser’s theory of interpellation can explain why law students and lawyers so readily accept the proposition that the causes of, and solutions to, lawyer distress lie with the individual. Interpellation, according to Althusser, is the process by which ideologies address the individual. The process of interpellation simultaneously confers upon the individual the status of subject; and ensures the individual voluntarily assumes subjugation. In Althusser’s view, interpellation occurs through so-called ‘Ideological State Apparatuses’, such as the family, media and, most importantly, education.

Specifically, I argue that interpellation instils in law students the notion that the ‘good’ citizen-lawyer self-manages their distress through, firstly, recognition and acknowledgement of the problem; and, secondly, the adoption of a variety of techniques aimed at self-management of their distress. The process of interpellation, however, serves to perpetuate the cycle of distress and draws attention away from unhealthy workplace cultures.

Marc Trabsky