Base and Superstructure


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. 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 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. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces, these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead, sooner or later, to the transformation of the whole, immense, superstructure. In studying such transformations, it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic, or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. From Marx’s Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

At the moment in the US politics, in the everyday use of the word, is a joke.  The people we have the option to vote for do, and can only do, nothing of any real value.  If politics is part of the superstructure which relies on the base, then this lack of value makes sense.  Because the base, or our relations to productions, is where, at the moment, we have NO control.  Businesses are run like a monarchy.  Democracy (at least in some form) is good enough for our towns and country, but not for our businesses.  So the superstructure, reflecting this, is set up as an illusion of control.  It has to be on illusion, because we cannot have control in the superstructure (in this case politics) when we lack it in the base (that is, our relations to production).

This is also why working within the government will do us no good.  Because it is not that we lack control in our “politics” but rather that we lack control over the means of production.  Thinking that we can change the system though the government/politics, and ignore our relation to the means of production, is like, thinking that our appearance in the mirror is our real appearance rather than that of ourselves, and trying to change our appearance in our refection while not changing it on ourselves.  This is, of course, absurd.

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History of the German Labor Movement OR more on working within (and without) the system.

“In accordance with the changes in the social structure of the population in the Federal Republic the Social Democratic Party has changed from a closed party representing a specific class, into a party seeking to appeal to and represent various sections of the population. As a result of this process of change in the party, […]

Read more "History of the German Labor Movement OR more on working within (and without) the system."