Semisimple module

Semisimple module

In mathematics, especially in the area of abstract algebra known as module theory, a semisimple module or completely reducible module is a type of module that can be understood easily from its parts. A ring which is a semisimple module over itself is known as an artinian semisimple ring. Some important rings, such as group rings of finite groups over fields of characteristic zero, are semisimple rings. An artinian ring is initially understood via its largest semisimple quotient. The structure of artinian semisimple rings is well understood by the Artin–Wedderburn theorem, which exhibits these rings as finite direct products of matrix rings.



A module over a (not necessarily commutative) ring with unity is said to be semisimple (or completely reducible) if it is the direct sum of simple (irreducible) submodules.

For a module M, the following are equivalent:

  1. M is a direct sum of irreducible modules.
  2. M is the sum of its irreducible submodules.
  3. Every submodule of M is a direct summand: for every submodule N of M, there is a complement P such that M = N ⊕ P.

For 3 \Rightarrow 2, the starting idea is to find an irreducible submodule by picking any x\in M and letting P be a maximal submodule such that x \notin P. It can be shown that the complement of P is irreducible.[1]

Semisimple is stronger than completely decomposable, which is a direct sum of indecomposable submodules.


  • If M is semisimple and N is a submodule, then N and M/N are also semisimple.
  • If each Mi is a semisimple module, then so is \bigoplus_i M_i.
  • A module M is finitely generated and semisimple if and only if it is Artinian and its radical is zero.

Endomorphism rings

Semisimple rings

A ring is said to be (left)-semisimple if it is semisimple as a left module over itself. Surprisingly, a left-semisimple ring is also right-semisimple and vice versa. The left/right distinction is therefore unnecessary, and one can speak of semisimple rings without ambiguity.

Semisimple rings are of particular interest to algebraists. For example, if the base ring R is semisimple, then all R-modules would automatically be semisimple. Furthermore, every simple (left) R-module is isomorphic to a minimal left ideal of R.

Semisimple rings are both Artinian and Noetherian. From the above properties, a ring is semisimple if and only if it is Artinian and its radical is zero.

If an Artinian semisimple ring contains a field, it is called a semisimple algebra.


  • If k is a field and G is a finite group of order n, then the group ring k[G] is semisimple if and only if the characteristic of k does not divide n. This is Maschke's theorem, an important result in group representation theory.
  • By the Artin–Wedderburn theorem, a unital ring R is semisimple if and only if it is (isomorphic to) M_n(D_1) \times M_n(D_2) \times \dots \times M_n(D_r), where each Di is a division ring and Mn(D) is the ring of n-by-n matrices with entries in D.
  • An example of a semisimple non-unital ring is M_{\infty}(K), the row-finite, column-finite, infinite matrices over a field K.

Simple rings

One should beware that despite the terminology, not all simple rings are semisimple. The problem is that the ring may be "too big", that is, not (left/right) Artinian. In fact, if R is a simple ring with a minimal left/right ideal, then R is semisimple.

Classic examples of simple, but not semisimple, rings are the Weyl algebras, such as Q<x,y>/(xy-yx-1) which is a simple noncommutative domain. These and many other nice examples are discussed in more detail in several noncommutative ring theory texts, including chapter 3 of Lam's text, in which they are described as nonartinian simple rings. The module theory for the Weyl algebras is well studied and differs significantly from that of semisimple rings.

Jacobson semisimple

A ring is called Jacobson semisimple (or J-semisimple or semiprimitive) if the intersection of the maximal left ideals is zero, that is, if the Jacobson radical is zero. Every ring which is semisimple as a module over itself has zero Jacobson radical, but not every ring with zero Jacobson radical is semisimple as a module over itself. A J-semisimple ring is semisimple if and only if it is an artinian ring, so semisimple rings are often called artinian semisimple rings to avoid confusion.

For example the ring of integers, Z, is J-semisimple, but not artinian semisimple.

See also



  1. ^ Nathan Jacobson, Basic Algebra II (Second Edition), p.120


  • Jacobson, Nathan (1989), Basic algebra II (2nd ed.), W. H. Freeman, ISBN 978-0-7167-1933-5 
  • Lam, Tsit-Yuen (2001), A First Course in Noncommutative Rings (2nd ed.), Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-95325-0, MR1838439 
  • R.S. Pierce. Associative Algebras. Graduate Texts in Mathematics vol 88.

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