Concept of economic base and superstructure sociology essay

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely [the] relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.

Concept of economic base and superstructure sociology essay

This is one of the most important aspects of Marxist theory for literary and cultural studies, especially as it relates to the theory of ideology and the role of art in the production of ideology. Marxism aspires to bring about a classless society which is anchored in the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

It is in loggerheads with the notion of capitalism, which views the pursuit of individual self-interest as a vehicle for the economic and social benefits to the whole of society. The simplest Marxist model of society sees it as constituted by a base and a superstructure. The base contains the forces and relations of production, such as employer-employee work conditions, the technical division of labour and property relations, into which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life.

These relations have an effect on the superstructure of the society, which includes its culture, institutions, political power structures, rituals, philosophy and morality. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. Marx offers a critique of capitalism as it is based on the private ownership of the means of production, something to which he was opposed to, as he believed in the collective ownership.

In a capitalistic society, an owner exploits his workers by draining them of their self-worth. A worker gets paid only for his sustenance as the product he works on gets sold by the capitalists in interests of creating a profit.

Hence, he just becomes a thing in the ultimate balance sheet under the sub-header of labour force. This social relationship is inherently antagonistic in nature and will give rise to class struggle that will eventually lead to the collapse of capitalism.

Hence, according to Marxism, capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction. Consciousness is how a human being defines themselves. A person who is born in the lowest of classes will experience a consciousness that is closer to those of similar class distinction to them, as opposed to someone of a different, presumably higher, class.

For Marx, history is an unfolding of this dialectic between the haves and the have nots. Therefore, the existence of a human being is ultimately chained to his socio- economic reality which shapes his consciousness. This belief about culture, known as economic determinism, is a central part of traditional Marxist thinking.

Base and superstructure - Wikipedia

The orthodox Marxist thinkers accorded a straightforward mechanical causality to the relationship between the base and superstructure. According to this argument, a feudal economic order will inevitably produce the particular forms of government, law, art, religion, etc.

But this straightforwardly mechanistic understanding of the relationship between base and superstructure is seen as too simplistic by most contemporary Marxist critics. They argue that just as the base influences the superstructure, the superstructure also influences the base.

Secondly, he says that the base is never static but can be seen as a continuous process — an entity which is dynamic. Therefore, to consider culture to be a plain reflection of the base is a flawed approach. This combination of totality and hegemony would help us to consider the asymmetrical and exploitative aspects of the society, as hegemony links social inequalities to culture as these influence and conditions cultural practices.

Much recent Marxist thinking of literature has been influenced by the work of the French Marxist theoretician, Louis Althusser. He introduced the notion of overdeterminism, which basically means to be an effect which arises from a variety of causes acting together.


This concept undermines the simplistic notions of a one-to-one correspondence between the base and superstructure. Also, he introduced the notion of relative autonomy which believes in the degree of independence for art from economic forces, despite the relationship between culture and economics.

This also posits that a superstructure is not entirely determined by the nature of the economic base. To conclude, the model of Base and Superstructure has been held as an indispensible tool in Marxist theory, influencing various fields such as art and literature, but is used with caution in present times.

Base and Superstructure- Raymond Williams.1. The base is the whole of productive relationships, not only a given economic element, e.g. The working class 2. Historically, the superstructure varies and develops unevenly in society's different activities; for example, art, politics, economics, etc.

Essay on Social Structure The term social structure denotes a more or less enduring pattern of social arrangements within a particular society, group, or social organization.

Nonetheless, despite its widespread usage, there is no single agreed concept of social structure that exists in sociology or related disciplines.

The inescapable criticism that the base and superstructure metaphor reduces cultural theory to a linear form of economic determinism was prevalent from its very inception (olssen), and I would argue that the persistent, simplistic economic determinist logic is a major problem with the base .

Analysis of the Main Strengths and Weaknesses of Marx’s Sociological Thought “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” Marx and Engels (, p). Base and Superstructure are two linked theoretical concepts developed by Karl Marx 'Since for most Marxists and even for the sociology of knowledge the theoretical key to culture or 'superstructural' phenomena lies in investigating the conflicts/contradictions of the social-economic 'base' that supposedly subordinates culture to the.

Concept of economic base and superstructure sociology essay

This concept undermines the simplistic notions of a one-to-one correspondence between the base and superstructure. Also, he introduced the notion of relative autonomy which believes in the degree of independence for art from economic forces, despite the relationship between culture and economics.

Ch. 1) Ideology and economics in class society: Base and superstructure | Liberation School