base1 / bās/ • n. 1. the lowest part or edge of something, esp. the part on which it rests or is supported: she sat down at the base of a tree. ∎ Archit. the part of a column between the shaft and pedestal or pavement. ∎ Bot. & Zool. the end at which a part or organ is attached to the trunk or main part: a shoot is produced at the base of the stem. ∎ Geom. a line or surface on which a figure is regarded as standing: the base of the triangle. ∎ Surveying a line of known length used in triangulation. 2. a conceptual structure or entity on which something draws or depends: the town's economic base collapsed. ∎ something used as a foundation or starting point for further work; a basis: uses existing data as the base for the study. ∎ a group of people regarded as supporting an organization, for example by buying its products: a client base. 3. the main place where a person works or stays: she makes the studio her base. ∎ chiefly Mil. a place used as a center of operations by the armed forces or others; a headquarters: he headed back to base. ∎ a place from which a particular activity can be carried out: a base for shipping operations. 4. a main or important element or ingredient to which other things are added: soaps with a vegetable oil base. 5. Chem. a substance capable of reacting with an acid to form a salt and water, or (more broadly) of accepting or neutralizing hydrogen ions. Compare with alkali. ∎ Biochem. a purine or pyrimidine group in a nucleotide or nucleic acid. 6. Electr. the middle part of a bipolar transistor, separating the emitter from the collector. 7. Linguistics the root or stem of a word or a derivative. ∎ the uninflected form of a verb. 8. Math. a number used as the basis of a numeration scale. ∎ a number in terms of which other numbers are expressed as logarithms. 9. Baseball one of the four stations that must be reached in turn to score a run. • v. [tr.] 1. (often be based) have as the foundation for (something); use as a point from which (something) can develop: the film is based on a novel by Pat Conroy. 2. situate as the center of operations: a research program based at the University of Arizona. PHRASES: get to first base inf. achieve the first step toward one's objective. first base , second base, third base inf. used to refer to progressive levels of sexual intimacy. off-base inf. mistaken: the boy is way off-base. touch base(s) inf. briefly make or renew contact with (someone). base2 • adj. (of a person or a person's actions or feelings) without moral principles; ignoble: the electorate's baser instincts of greed and selfishness. ∎ (of coins or other articles) not made of precious metal. DERIVATIVES: base·ly adv. base·ness n.
Since the 1960s, most of the discussion of the term has revolved around two questions: namely, ‘What is the composition of this base?’ and ‘What is its relation to the superstructure?’ Marx himself wrote that the base comprised ‘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’. What has been at issue is the meaning of ‘correspond’ and the composition of the ‘relations of production’.
Earlier generations of Marxists tended to understand correspond as meaning determine, and to regard the composition of the relations of production as purely economic in the commonsense meaning of the term; that is, material production itself. By contrast, their more recent successors have not only softened the sense of determination implied by ‘correspond’, but have also reversed the direction of any determining current so that it flows from the relations to the forces of production (see, for example, the writings of Louis Althusser). Furthermore, they have pushed the question about the nature of the relations one step back, by asking whether it is correct to suppose that economic relations in the commonsense meaning can ever be understood as purely matters of material production, when they necessarily also involve (at a minimum) both managerial power relations and ideological relations (see, for example, Michael Burawoy , The Politics of Production, 1985
As regards the relation of the base to the superstructure, here too, earlier generations were prone to assume that the former more or less unproblematically determined the latter. Again, by contrast (and this time taking their cue from some clarificatory comments made by Marx and Engels themselves), their successors have tended to emphasize what has been termed the relative autonomy of the various aspects of the superstructure, and their capacity to react back on the base—while nevertheless still maintaining that, in Althusser's words, ‘the economic is determinant in the last instancey’. Examples here would include Ernesto Laclau , Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (1977)
and Bob Jessop , The Capitalist State (1982)
. Needless to say, this terminology has prompted endless and acrimonious debate (mostly between Marxists and their critics but also, to a lesser extent, within Marxism itself), about how—precisely—these propositions ought to be interpreted. In other words, how much autonomy is implied by the term ‘relative’, and what (or when) is ‘the last instance’?
In a controversial defence of Karl Marx 's Theory of History (1978), the philosopher G. A. Cohen has argued that base and superstructure refer to explanans and explanandum in what was, at least in Marx's hands, a functional explanation. Although opinions vary, it is at least arguable that this puts an end to the debate about the explanatory priority of forces and relations of production, and accommodates arguments for the relative autonomy of superstructures—at least in so far as deciding what Marx meant is concerned. See also IDEOLOGY; MODE OF PRODUCTION; SOCIAL FORMATION.
1. Anything on which an object rests, the term is given primarily to the foot or lowest member of a colonnette, column, or pier on which the shaft or mass of construction sits. The base of a column is therefore that part between the bottom of the shaft and the pavement, pedestal, or plinth. Bases differ according to the Order used, although the Attic base is commonly used on all Orders except the Greek Doric (which has no base) and the Tuscan (except in impure Tuscan Orders). Greek Ionic Asiatic bases are embellished with horizontal reeds and other mouldings. Typical bases of the Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite Orders are also referred to by the term spira. Bases of pilasters are usually identical to those of the columns used in the same portico or building, and may continue with the same profile when used as a continuous skirting or wallbase, but the bases of antae may differ (though not usually). Medieval bases have far greater variety: pier bases, for example, are invariably set on a circular, polygonal, or square plinth, and have many mouldings.
2. Lowest, thickest part of a wall, such as a plinth or a skirting, or the lowest visible element of a building, like a platform, plinth, or podium called the basement.