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base and superstructure


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


The concept of base and superstructure was first employed by Karl M arx and Frederick E ngels in The German Ideology (1845) ( 1976 ), to posit the theory that the forces and relations of labor (the base) within a society determine its social consciousness (the superstructure) and class system, all of which in turn shape the entity of the state for the good of its ruling class. The concept is defined in this passage from Marx's Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) ( 1976 ): In the social production of 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 forces . The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of a society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines consciousness. ( Marx, 1976 , p. 3) In terms of the elements of the superstructure, Marx and Engels identify law, politics, religion, A esthetics , and A rt as “definite forms of social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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