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Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory is a critical essay critic and an influential figure in the New Left, Raymond Henry Williams. In Marxist theory, capitalist society consists of two parts: the base (or substructure ) and superstructure. The base. Type: Chapter; Author(s): Williams, Raymond; Date: ; Page start: 37; Page end: 45; Web address: ?id.

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Raymond Williams: Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory

It has only a vague conceptual relatedness to the English sense of infrastructure. We might persuade ourselves of this theoretically, by abstract argument, but williamx we read much literature, over the whole range, without the sleight-of-hand of calling Literature only that which we have already superstructre as embodying certain meanings and values at a certain scale of superstrutcure, we are bound to recognize that the act of writing, the practices of discourse in writing and speech, the making of novels and poems and plays and theories, all this activity takes place in all areas of the culture.

This is merely ascribing a different connotation to the word determines. Now the language of totality has become common, and it is indeed in many ways more acceptable than the notion of base and superstructure. A dialectical inversion occurs when the cause and effect are reversed God created man, man created god.

We have to revalue ‘superstructure’ towards a related range of cultural practices, and away from a reflected, reproduced, or specifically-dependent content. In Marxist theorycapitalist society consists of two parts: We have to emphasize that hegemony is not singular; indeed that its own internal structures raymnd highly complex, and have continually to be renewed, recreated and defended; and by the same token, that cultjral can be continually challenged and in certain respects modified.

The following is a write up on Base and Superstructure by Sudeepta Mukerji. The totality of social practices was opposed to this layered notion of a base and a consequent superstructure. Art can be seen as an object, i. That was the first stage of qualification of the notion of superstructure: Objects and Practices Now I think the true crisis in cultural theory, in our own time, is between this view of the work of art as object and the alternative view of art as a practice.

In the subsequent default of a particular phase of a dominant culture, there is then a reaching back to those meanings and values which were created in supefstructure societies in the past, and which still seem to have some significance because they represent areas of human experience, aspiration and achievement, which the dominant culture undervalues or opposes, or even cannot recognise. But culturally and as a matter of theory the areas can be seen as distinct.


He says that any form of writing is highly influenced by the dominant cultural practices in the society. In certain societies it is possible to find areas superstructur social life in which quite real alternatives are at least left alone.

Yet when it comes to the man who plays the piano, whether to himself or to others, there is no question: But the proposition of base and superstructure, with its figurative element, with its suggestion of a definite and fixed spatial relationship, wwilliams, at least in certain hands, a very specialized and at times unacceptable version of the other proposition.

There is clearly something that we can call alternative to the effective dominant culture, and there is something else that we can call oppositional, in a true sense.

The base determines society’s other relationships and ideas to comprise its superstructure, including its cultureinstitutionspolitical power structureswilliameritualsand state.

The processes of education; the processes of a much cu,tural social training within institutions like the family; the practical definitions and organisation of work; the selective tradition at an intellectual and theoretical level: And this can only be so, in a complex society, if it is something more substantial and more flexible than any abstract imposed ideology. These are by no means always genres.

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When we find ourselves looking at a particular work, or group of works, often realizing, as we do so, their essential community as well as their irreducible individuality, we should find ourselves attending first to the reality of their practice and the conditions of the practice as it was then executed. For Marx capitalism began with wage-labour regardless of the particular form that this work takes manual, primary, secondary, with or without materials, intellectual or anything else. It is an important fact about any particular society, how far it reaches into the whole range cultjral human practices and experiences in an attempt at incorporation.

Moreover, part of our answer to this question bears on the process of persistence of residual practices. It was Marx that argued that the contending ideas of every epoch gheory history superstructure were really the ideological expression of contradictions present within the economic base i.

Raymond Williams Marxism by Rob Pratley on Prezi

This means, of course, that we have no built-in procedure of the kind which is indicated by the fixed character of an object. Walter Rodney “. Marx’s theory of base and superstructure can be found in the disciplines of political sciencesociologyanthropologyand psychology as utilized by Marxist scholars. But it is often a very narrow line, in reality, between alternative and oppositional. Structure of Feeling and Selective Tradition Chapter 4: He also says that some of the thory expressions might include aspects of the emergent culture which might appeal to the masses.


The modes of incorporation marxsit of great social significance, and incidentally in our kind of society have considerable economic significance.

Notes on Raymond Williams “Base & Superstructure”

Indeed I think that we have to give a very complex account of hegemony if we are talking about any real social formation. Williams, however, makes it clear that he objects to the economic reductionism of an unexamined But there is then a much earlier attempt to incorporate them, just because they are part—and yet not part—of effective contemporary practice.

Residual is what is left of the culture of the society that existed before. He also talks about the modern concept of re-inventing, re-modify and re-work on the existing notions and concepts to make them compatible with the contemporary scenarios.

Base and superstructure

The political tripartite division is simplistic because it tells us nothing about the character of the forces under consideration, nor anything about their relationship to each other. Marx did not reject God because he rejected or inverted the concept of determination. We have the formation of a new class, the coming to consciousness of a new class.

What marxst can show us here about the practice of analysis is that we have to break from the notion of isolating the object and then discovering its components.

This is very similar to what Comrade Prachanda stated when he said made superstrudture tripartite division in politics between reactionary, status-quo, and progressive. This is because some part of it, some version of it—and especially if the residue is from some major area of the past—will in many cases have had to be incorporated if the effective dominant culture is to make sense in those areas.