Base and Superstructure

Jack Cooper
Jack Cooper

Can Marxists explain this to me? The idea that a society's ideology and government is economically determined by the mode of production makes no sense to me. I can make various objections:

Pro-capitalist governments doing things against capitalist interests like regulations, taxes, bad relations with other states

The government being captured by religious extremists, military generals or democratic socialists who don't care at all for capitalists

The fact that capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies in all those different capitalist countries

The fact that many political and social institutions in capitalism predate capitalism

Etc.

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socialistalternative.org/it-doesnt-have-to-be-like-this/the-family-under-capitalism/
mega.nz/#F!DpAz2IgQ!nW7bPNnpJFk5CAV3ypiaHw
youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ

Justin Miller
Justin Miller

one example - our current structures of marriage and the family are heavily linked to capitalism

socialistalternative.org/it-doesnt-have-to-be-like-this/the-family-under-capitalism/

Wyatt Rodriguez
Wyatt Rodriguez

Pro-capitalist governments doing things against capitalist interests like regulations, taxes, bad relations with other states
They don't exist in a vacuum. Class struggle still happens and to prevent revolt or something they must make concessions.
The government being captured by religious extremists, military generals or democratic socialists who don't care at all for capitalists
Could you expand on this?
The fact that capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies in all those different capitalist countries
They're all still fundamentally capitalist with capitalist ideology
The fact that many political and social institutions in capitalism predate capitalism
Doesn't mean that they're not morphed or changed to better suit capitalism.

Josiah Taylor
Josiah Taylor

Expand
Yea how can the government only serve capitalist interests when people can take over who don't care for their interests? Like the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or the Military Juntas in several African states? Or Chavez in Venezuela. Obviously it seems possible that the government dorsi always serve the capitalist class.

How come USA has shitty regulations but EU is so much better? Both are capitalist?

Thomas Clark
Thomas Clark

Isn't this just a random speculation made by Engels?

Joseph Brooks
Joseph Brooks

See
They don't exist in a vacuum. Class struggle still happens and to prevent revolt or something they must make concessions.

Jason Adams
Jason Adams

Which point are you responding to?

Nicholas Sullivan
Nicholas Sullivan

Nevermind. I'm mixing up my words and misreading shit.
What exactly is it you want to know?

Jeremiah Adams
Jeremiah Adams

What exactly is it you want to know?

Yea how can the government only serve capitalist interests when people can take over who don't care for their interests? Like the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or the Military Juntas in several African states? Or Chavez in Venezuela. Obviously it seems possible that the government doesn't always serve the capitalist class.

Caleb Jenkins
Caleb Jenkins

The concept is meant to be dogmatic. Any kind of deterministic outlook always require a dogma to be upheld.
That being said, that doesn't mean that the antecedent economic factors are irrelevant to the way society is set up, just that the economic factors exist in a constant flux with other relevant, co-extensive factors.

Eli Sanders
Eli Sanders

If anything I feel the base is the state and everything else is subordinated to state security including economic and cultural factors.

Logan Campbell
Logan Campbell

I also reason that the state (government) came before economic organisation because security must precede economic activity for there to be any economic activity. Any economic activity would then be subordinated to the government's security making political power the base.

Joseph Peterson
Joseph Peterson

^^^^ this hasn't been answered either

Asher Wilson
Asher Wilson

I also reason that the state (government) came before economic organisation
Think harder: in a primitive classless society with little to no rigorous division of labor everyone has to work towards basic subsistence. Only when agricultural / material conditions develop past a certain productivity can a large enough surplus be produced for a state to form and a rupture of society into classes

Josiah Rogers
Josiah Rogers

the culture cannot operate outside the boundaries of its political economy, it is not entirely dictated by the economy in the way you're thinking, but economic base does affect how culture is expressed (for example, the growth of prosperity gospel and the subversion of the church into a vociferously pro-capitalist institution.

it should be remembered that conservatism originally was opposed to unfettered capitalism, in favor of the old feudal order. there is still a great deal of this in conservative rhetoric, but it is distorted due to a lack of any coherent conservative theory and a shit ton of propaganda. in practice, the old aristocracy and the liberals basically joined forced during the 20th century and rule the West as a de facto one party system, but the conservative masses aren't really in favor of "capitalism" so much as they're in favor of some idealized notion of property and liberty that doesn't actually work in the real world. when you look at the infantile notions conservatives have to fix the economy (so that it's some supposedly good capitalism), the prescriptions are ridiculously naïve, and that demonstrates what Marx was talking about - someone could invent some ideas about restructuring the economy to fix capitalism and make it work in some idealized way, but those solutions don't work for a reason as long as you retain the Law of Value, commodities, money, and so on (and the Law of Value is necessary so long as humans engage in market exchange and so long as large quantities of human labor are a politically useful form of power). likewise, if someone just decided to ban market exchange right away and force a planned economy, it would not stick just because of wishes and unicorns - markets materialize for a reason, they aren't just something baked into the human brain nor are they the work of nefarious Jews or what have you. that we have the means today to operate a planned economy is not in of itself enough, things do not materialize just because the technology is there, but technology is necessary to make the leap from capitalism to a centrally planned socialist economy, for the idea of socialism to be materially realized.

Samuel Davis
Samuel Davis

Your existence is determined by how you obtain and secure your means of subsistence (water, food, shelter). In a society, the means of subsistence are produced through labor. An economic system determines what and how these means are produced and distributed. Your existence is determined by the economic system you are a part of. Everything else is secondary (culture, identity, myth, superstructure). You can't just imagine your means of subsistence into existence. Things like cultural beliefs and practices can have some influence on planning and adjusting economic activity, but only insofar as it remains benign or reinforces the current paradigm.
A capitalist government or the State serves capitalist interests. You can have government without capitalism, it's just management of labor and resources.
All sorts of economic systems exist (black markets are an obvious one) that do not fall under the purview of a government or State. Economic activity, labor, and production all existed prior to government and State. A government is used to manage and optimize economic activity.

Noah Parker
Noah Parker

not every capitalist country is wholly given over to the capitalist ideology. i'd dare say there are very few politicians for whom capitalism is the absolute end unto itself. the closest ideology to "pure capitalism" would actually be progressive liberalism. the conservative ideology isn't pure capitalism, it's an hodgepodge of feudalist mores, social Darwinism, theology, and some complete nonsense. there is a reason why conservatives have to more or less accept the liberals as a fact of life, however much conservatives rail against liberalism and talk shit about how they want things to be like the good old days.

the governments, even those that nominally stand against unfettered capitalism, have to work within a capitalist framework so long as we're doing things through generalized commodity exchange with limited or no central planning and with the expectation of property rights being a thing). that's why Chavez couldn't just nationalize everything, and why America can't mint a $20 trillion coin to solve debt and tell the banks to piss off.

i think there is some confusion on this because so many socialists do buy into a moralistic or spooky notion of what capitalists do, like the spirit of capitalism is doing all of this. it's not that at all, it's the material conditions and the existence property as a fact of reality - not because private property is an innate property of humanity or the universe, but so long as there are antagonistic interests within a society, there is going to be some concept of "mine". socialism doesn't seek to abolish "mine" but instead places the means of production in the hands of society as a whole in a free association of workers, removing the superfluous role of the capitalist owner. that much can be done through struggle. the notion that a capitalist is necessarily going to fight to the death and employ the Samson option if defeat looms over them is just moralism and workerism. historically, the ruling (neo)liberal order formed not from an uninterrupted string of radical bourgeoisie seizures, but from a gradual alliance between the conservative and liberal blocs and the final admission that feudalism is dead, more or less completed by the start of the 20th century.

Easton Thompson
Easton Thompson

“In the trusts, freedom of competition changes into its very opposite — into monopoly; and the production without any definite plan of capitalistic society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialistic society. Certainly, this is so far still to the benefit and advantage of the capitalists. But, in this case, the exploitation is so palpable, that it must break down. No nation will put up with production conducted by trusts, with so barefaced an exploitation of the community by a small band of dividend-mongers.

In any case, with trusts or without, the official representative of capitalist society — the state — will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. [4] This necessity for conversion into State property is felt first in the great institutions for intercourse and communication — the post office, the telegraphs, the railways.

If the crises demonstrate the incapacity of the bourgeoisie for managing any longer modern productive forces, the transformation of the great establishments for production and distribution into joint-stock companies, trusts, and State property, show how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are for that purpose. All the social functions of the capitalist has no further social function than that of pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another of their capital. At first, the capitalistic mode of production forces out the workers. Now, it forces out the capitalists, and reduces them, just as it reduced the workers, to the ranks of the surplus-population, although not immediately into those of the industrial reserve army.

But, the transformation — either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into State-ownership — does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious. And the modern State, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine — the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution.

This solution can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, and therefore in the harmonizing with the socialized character of the means of production. And this can only come about by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces which have outgrown all control, except that of society as a whole. The social character of the means of production and of the products today reacts against the producers, periodically disrupts all production and exchange, acts only like a law of Nature working blindly, forcibly, destructively. But,with the taking over by society of the productive forces, the social character of the means of production and of the products will be utilized by the producers with a perfect understanding of its nature, and instead of being a source of disturbance and periodical collapse, will become the most powerful lever of production itself.”
t. Engels

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Lincoln Sanders
Lincoln Sanders

There wouldn't be economic divisions before the state creates them though.

Isaiah Turner
Isaiah Turner

Subsistence comes after security though. You can't get an economy going under foreign invasion or civil war. The state must exist which then creates class divisions which result in economic disparity. Then the economy changes over time. Then culture perhaps adapts to the security and economy. I see that as a more realistic view of the Base and Superstructure.

Nolan Moore
Nolan Moore

The state doesn't create the social divisions, it is a cause of it (which is why anarchist theory remains to be somewhat lacking). Take the Neolithic Revolution for example - once domestication and agriculture was invented, division of labour stratified. Men were better as fieldhands and warriors (war was invented with agriculture since it made land into territory, the latter has a social aspect to it), women better as housekeepers, so the family was invented. The same mechanics applied to the entire tribe which eventually turned into a town with specific profession, and eventually a royal and a priest class arises. From these social relations, the state formed as an overarching structure and bureaucracy to keep the mills of society running and disruptions down. The oldest form of states were the slave kings of Mesopotamia and Africa.

Cameron Mitchell
Cameron Mitchell

To add on to that, the state grows as divisions of labour become more complex. In the classical antiquity division of labour between countryside and town arose, and today, in the modern era, we even have a division of labour between entire countries, which is why supranational organisations claim more and more competences - if you would remove a single aspect of production from this finely tuned system, it would be close to a catastrophe, which is why neolibs keep preaching the "no alternatives!!!" narrative.

Lincoln Phillips
Lincoln Phillips

Pro-capitalist governments doing things against capitalist interests like regulations, taxes, bad relations with other states
These are a good thing when you're the capitalist doing it and bad when your not. Guess which one of them has state control
The government being captured by religious extremists, military generals or democratic socialists who don't care at all for capitalists
Mostly a reaction to the inherit flaws in capitalism and the class/national conflicts between different nations and classes
The fact that capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies in all those different capitalist countries
Still capitalism and all still fight for global influence
The fact that many political and social institutions in capitalism predate capitalism
And the ones which suited Capitalism were kept the ones which could evolve to suit it better did and others which could do neither were eliminated Feudalism,industrialized slavery,child labor etc

Cameron Kelly
Cameron Kelly

Pro-capitalist governments doing things against capitalist interests like
regulations
Regulations are not against capitalist interests. They either serve one group of local capitalists' interests against another's (e.g. Monstanto vs. Nestle), or serve the local capitalists interests against foreign ones (the latter might be even socialist), e.g. embargoes.
taxes
Taxes are not against capitalist interests. There is, however, an undeniable push by capitalists to shift the burden from capital to wage laborer's taxes (see: USA; flat rate tax). In any case, from taxes the infrastructure, healthcare, education is covered – all of which are absolutely necessary for the functioning of capital.
bad relations with other states
States are not people. Bad relations between states are not due to one state fucking another's gf, behind its back. Name one war that was not due to economic interests.

The government being captured
(It's called a coup.)
by religious extremists
How do they finance themselves before and after the coup? If you look at ISIS it's basically a weird mixture between capitalist and feudal relations.
military generals
Always they are instated on behalf of local (coup) or foreign (colonial coup) capital.
democratic socialists who don't care at all for capitalists
I mean, look at Venezuela. To say that they've done away with capitalism is ridiculous – the majority of the economy is still in private hands.

capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies
From the POV of class struggle these differences are minute. Either get raped by leaders elected through bourgeois elections or military generals. Compare the upheavals in Egypt with the Yellow Vests in France.

Thomas Johnson
Thomas Johnson

The fact that capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies in all those different capitalist countries

It always struck me that they're all remarkably the same. Throughout history you had incredibly varied governmental forms. Today everything is the same old parliamentary democracy type thing, even dictatorships.

Nicholas Thompson
Nicholas Thompson

based and superstructure pilled

Leo Cooper
Leo Cooper

How long were you waiting to say that?

Adrian Brooks
Adrian Brooks

Read Marx retard, you’re just speculating wildly and infecting yourself with all sorts of idealistic thought about the “purpose of the state”

Hudson Bailey
Hudson Bailey

So something you need to understand to understand Marxism is that capitalism is not simply the bourgeoisie ruling unopposed. Capitalism stimulates class struggle, and as workers and colonized people struggle against the bourgeoisie and imperialists, their struggle produces concessions, and sometimes creates an uneasy equilibrium. In other cases they oppressed class wins the struggle and takes power. I’ll go through each one of your cases and explain how this played out.
Like the Islamic Republic of Iran?
This was a case where an oppressed group rebelled against the ruling class and overthrew them. It was a class struggle which went well for the oppressed, who in this case were Iranians as a nation, who were rebelling against imperialism. Imperialism generated opposition, and the opposition was successful.
Or the Military Juntas in several African states?
How do they oppose capitalist interests? Usually these kinds of dictators are staunch defenders of capitalist and imperialist interests, letting foreign corporations exploit their countries in exchange for support for their regime.
Or Chavez in Venezuela.
Again, this is an example of successful class struggle on the part of the oppressed class.
Obviously it seems possible that the government dorsi always serve the capitalist class.
That’s because Venezuela and Iran are both cases where the capitalist or imperialist class was overthrown by an oppressed class or people.

Michael Ward
Michael Ward

Pro-capitalist governments doing things against capitalist interests like regulations, taxes, bad relations with other states
Regulations and taxes are totally in capitalist interests. Capitalists do not always benefit the most from the most free-market option, that's a retarded lolbert understanding of economics. Why do you think people like Zucc campaign for UBI?

The government being captured by religious extremists, military generals or democratic socialists who don't care at all for capitalists
Religious extremists, military generals or democratic socialists regularly work in capitalist interests. Case in point Franco, Pinochet, most African and South American dictators.

The fact that capitalism exists in many different countries with totally different governments and social ideologies in all those different capitalist countries
Can you give some examples? Because pretty much all modern "liberal democracies" are almost exactly the same shit. American pop culture, conservative-liberal-socdem political trifecta and civic nationalism.

The fact that many political and social institutions in capitalism predate capitalism
All of these institutions have been transformed by capitalism. Religion and ritual was commercialized, family was reduced from extended to nuclear, not a single institution currently functions exactly like it did during feudalism.

Jason Clark
Jason Clark

Bruv you don’t even need to read Marx here. Liberal economists, historians, and anthropologists will tell you that your conjectures about the state aren’t based in reality. The state as you understand it is a relatively recent occurrence. Production for use and for exchange have been around for thousands of years. Economic systems didn’t just suddenly appear by decree of legislation. They were preexistent and came under regulation by beureacratic institutions much later.

Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor

It is a cause of it
Do you mean effect? Saying the state causes economic divisions is what I'm saying. Your point about early agriculture doesn't make sense to me. If the society was stateless and technology was primitive, economic productivity among each person would roughly the same with no economic division. However if a state is created, those with state power can disposses those without state power of their land. This then creates economic division: between the landowners and landless.

Eli Ward
Eli Ward

These are good
I don't accept unilaterally that taxes and regulations are good. Why then does the ruling always call for tax cuts and deregulation? How does America doing sanctions on tons of countries preventing corporations from accessing foreign sales markets help capitalists?

Also, I don't see how industrialised slavery and child labour were unsuitable to capitalism. Capitalists didn't give those up, they were forced to by democratic movements.

Jose Watson
Jose Watson

Your post seems extremely contrived and takes an unusually dogmatic approach toward economic determinism. Every war is economically driven? You believe that? ISIS is capitalist? Coups are done on behalf of capital? Come on, this is about power not money. In that sense I think anarchists are closer to the truth here.

Just to elaborate on Venezuela. I gave it as an example of how the state doesn't always serve the interests of capital not as an example of capital being abolished as you imply. Venezuela shows exactly the point I'm making; the state doesn't simply exist for private property owners.

Luis Baker
Luis Baker

watch manufacturing consent

Isaac Fisher
Isaac Fisher

I believe Marx is speculating wildly on this point and I'm being more empirical. There seem countless examples of the state not serving capital but directly subordinating it to other interests. Also the idea the state was formed by private property owners again makes no sense. Private property is a creation of the state.

Joshua Hall
Joshua Hall

Subsistence comes after security though
the social contract and division of labor predate the state and have been observed in the absence of a central power to keep people in mutual awe

Landon Cox
Landon Cox

I see what you're saying and I think you make some very good points but ultimately you're bringing it down to struggles for power (like Iran and military Juntas) rather than the struggle if economic class.

Xavier Brown
Xavier Brown

I mentioned before that taxes and regulations always favouring capital is overly simplistic and doesn't make sense given how capital fights back against those things.

Religious extremists, military Juntas and socialists may regularly work with the interests of capital but I never denied it. I made the point that they don't just serve the economic base as Marxism suggests.

Jacob Gutierrez
Jacob Gutierrez

No the state is ancient and goes back to the very first civilisations in Mesopotamia. I see no way how large economic disparities could have emerged in stateless societies. Nor can I imagine how economic activity would have come far enough to produce economic disparity without their bring centralised order creating the stable conditions for planned economic activity in the first place.

Jackson Robinson
Jackson Robinson

One thing on the state and culture here. Norway and Saudi Arabia both have the same economy: big oil, generous welfare state. How come such utterly different state types and utterly different cultures? Doesn't this just blatantly fly in the face of the economic base determining the Superstructure? Because even when you hold the economic base almost the same you get two opposite Superstructures.

Hunter Bennett
Hunter Bennett

Could you expand on this?

Tyler Rodriguez
Tyler Rodriguez

Hobbes was wrong about mankind's state of nature. The social contract (in the form of productive division of labor and relative harmony) predates the state. According to Hobbes, the state would have had to predate or have emerged in tandem with the social contract. Modern anthropology has found that this theory of state formation is incorrect.
People got along fine in relatively stable and productive societies perfectly fine without states when the material conditions allowed for it.

You should read the book in the PDF. It's about this subject precisely. It's also a quick read, just a few hours.

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

they are not different enough to transcend capitalism, and the nature of capitalism is such that both of those states have to bend to certain realities that they can't will away. an example: no parliament or king can just unilaterally abolish markets by dictate, however much they want to do so, and force socialism from above. if someone wanted to push through and implement socialism by dictate, it doesn't work that way.

the way we do things impacts what is possible for the superstructure to be. if someone started spouting free market rhetoric in the middle ages, it wouldn't have held - feudal lords wouldn't give up their noble privileges and title to land for some grubby merchants, and as it turned out liberalization was a drawn out process that didn't happen overnight. we didn't just decide "oh hai we're doing capitalism now". rather, economists in the 18th century noted the behavior of markets and capital that was inherent in the nature of exchange, and policy prescriptions were made around this observation of the market and political economy (or critiques were made against the whole system). whether or not this political economy was formalized by economists, capitalism would have developed along similar lines.

Logan Reed
Logan Reed

Muh humanist sociological studies.
Where is the real human economical progress?

Adam White
Adam White

but ultimately you're bringing it down to struggles for power (like Iran and military Juntas) rather than the struggle if economic class.
They’re the same thing m8. The ruling class has power because it controls the means of production. The state forms around the interest of the ruling class as a tool of preserving their property. You should read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality.”

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