Sociology Index


Capitalist society consists of two parts: the base or substructure and superstructure. In Marxist theory, capitalist society consists of two parts: the base or substructure and superstructure. Base is a concept from Marxism that refers to the mode of production of a society: the social and technical organization of its economy. The relationship between superstructure and base is considered to be a dialectical one, not a distinction between actual entities. The base is the whole of productive relationships, not only a given economic element, example being the working class.

The base–superstructure relationship is reciprocal, and the base determines the superstructure only in the last instance. Karl Marx argued that it is upon this base that the superstructure of the society, that is, its institutions and culture, are built. While the social institutions and culture of society are shaped by this base, at the same time, they help to maintain and reproduce the mode of production and may, in certain conditions contribute to its transformation.

'In the social production of the their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real basis, on which rises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness' - K. Marx in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

The Structure of the Social 
Jonathan Joseph, Simon Kennedy. This article seeks to develop the Marxist conception of social structure by incorporating developments within critical realist philosophy. It rejects forms of economic determinism such as the base and superstructure model and those reconstructions–like Cohen's–that attribute primacy to productive forces in explaining history and society. It argues instead that society is the product of complex, often contradictory combinations of many different structures and mechanisms.

Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory - Raymond Williams.

Any modern approach to a Marxist theory of culture must begin by considering the proposition of a determining base and a determined superstructure. From a strictly theoretical point of view this is not, in fact, where we might choose to begin.

The proposition of base and superstructure, with its figurative element, with its suggestion of a definite and fixed spatial relationship, constitutes, at least in certain hands, a very specialized and at times unacceptable version of the other proposition. Yet in the transition from Marx to Marxism, and in the development of mainstream Marxism itself, the proposition of the determining base and the determined superstructure has been commonly held to be the key to Marxist cultural analysis.