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superstructure

superstructure Like the term base, that of superstructure was imported into Marxist discourse on the authority of Marx's reference to the sphere of production as being the ‘real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness’, which appears in his Preface to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (1859). Conventionally, therefore, the superstructure of a society comprises its political and cultural (or ideological) realms. Issues such as how the superstructure relates to the base, precisely what it consists of and the nature of its internal dynamics, were discussed by Marx when he spoke of ideology and the fetishism of commodities. Since Marx's time these issues have been approached through such concepts as hegemony and discourse. The net result has been that the architectural metaphor upon which the distinction between the base and the superstructure conventionally rests is no longer an adequate summary of the complex relations that are now understood to obtain between the economic and the other realms of society. Arguably, as commentators such as G. A. Cohen have recently observed, Marx himself did not intend such a crude view of unidimensional and unidirectional causality. See also MODE OF PRODUCTION; SOCIAL FORMATION.

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superstructure

su·per·struc·ture / ˈsoōpərˌstrəkchər/ • n. a structure built on top of something else. ∎  the parts of a ship, other than masts and rigging, built above its hull and main deck. ∎  the part of a building above its foundations. ∎  a concept or idea based on others. ∎  (in Marxist theory) the institutions and culture considered to result from or reflect the economic system underlying a society. DERIVATIVES: su·per·struc·tur·al / ˌsoōpərˈstrəkchərəl/ adj.

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