Superstructure is a term from Marxist social analysis. Superstructure is central to the materialist concept of history and social development.
In the social production of the their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces.
The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real basis, on which rises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness - Karl Marx in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.
It is argued that Marx's attempt to conceptualize social structure cannot be reduced to the base/superstructure model.
Marx shows that the economic structure or base is not a structure of people. It is an abstract and empty structure of the relations between the productive forces in the economy. The actual persons or forces play no part of the structure.
Taken out of the actual world, and into the empty, abstract domain of the economic structure, a power is simply the ability to perform a particular action. Taken in aggregate, the economic structure would be a set of these abilities, and the positions with more abilities consequently become the dominant class.
In this structure there are no normative constraints, there is simply material possibilities, and enabling powers. The normative image of relations of production only appears after the actors and forces are placed in the structure, and the superstructure is placed over the top.
Base and Superstructure
in Marxist Cultural Theory - Raymond Williams
Marx and Economic