A lot of people are already familiar with the base and superstructure concept in Marxism, but for those who aren’t I thought I’d write up a quick and dirty primer on it, mainly because it will help people better understand Cultural Marxism and its current influence on society. I’m not going to rewrite Das Kapital here, so this will necessarily be incomplete, but hopefully it’s less tedious than the Wikipedia entry. For those who are familiar with this concept and for those who find this kind of thing boring, I’m going to throw in pictures of hot cosplay chicks like Nariko here.
In Marxist theory the base is the economic system (called the means or mode of production in Marxist terms.) The base that Marx was agitating against was industrial capitalism, owned and run by the class of individuals known as the bourgeoisie. Since the bourgeoisie can be anyone from the guy who owns the corner taco truck to Bill Gates, think Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie for simplicity’s sake.
The class struggle in Marxism is based on ownership and control of the base. In Marx’s context, the battle is between the bourgeoisie and the class of workers, the proletariat.
But here’s Poison Ivy.
The superstructure is the culture created to keep the ruling class in control of the base. It includes religion, popular culture, the political structure, and just about every other form of cultural expression. Marxists are in disagreement as to whether or not the superstructure is controlled completely by the base or if the superstructure influences the base, but that’s not something I want to get into on a Sunday afternoon. Think of the superstructure as an expression of the base. One example would be Protestant Christianity and the fabled Protestant work ethic as an expression of entrepreneurial capitalism.
My personal favorite Marxist example is the rise of the novel as the dominant form of literary entertainment. The theory goes that as the bourgeoisie grew to prominence, they began looking for forms of entertainment that mirrored their own values that picaresque romances about knights and ladies just didn’t fulfill. Thus, we have rags to riches stories like Robinson Crusoe, Jane Eyre and Pamela that reflect values of virtuousness, hard work and determination.
Well, so what? That’s a nineteenth century political theory from a dead white guy.
Cammie and Chun-Li will explain.
Cultural Marxism (also called Cultural Studies) takes the basic model but uses multiple cultural bases instead of an economic one. The most common bases are white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and now, increasingly, cis-normativity (God help us.) The job of the cultural Marxist critic is to ferret out examples of the above in the superstructure. Religion is probably the easiest place to find examples of these, hence the hostility to obvious targets like the Catholic Church, but the critic gains much more prestige finding examples of the new cultural bases in places where they aren’t obvious. A Lefty Facebook friend of mine posted an article stating that it was racist for people to criticize Rihanna for going back to Chris Brown because no one was criticizing Madonna for dating Sean Penn, even though the latter example happened around thirty years ago.
This is what Jody Rosen was doing when he beclowned himself. Sexism is not as big of a sin as racism in the victimhood hierarchy, so Rosen had to outdo the Miley Cyrus “slut-shaming” nonsense by accusing the young featherhead of being a modern Al Jolson.
I mentioned this before, but at the academic level people have no problem admitting their indebtedness to Marx, but outside of that cloistered environment most Americans don’t want to be associated with Marxism. This is why groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center loudly object to people pointing out the obvious debt that Left Wing groups owe to groups like the Frankfurt School. In Berkeley it might not matter, but it won’t fly so well in Omaha.
We’ll round this out with a bandit from Fallout 3.
Update: Reblogged from Purgatory by Dead Richard Nixon. Everyone is on this Internet thing.
Update II: Reblogged at That Mr. G Guy’s Blog.
Update III: Remind me to send a box of chocolates to The Political Hat.
Update IV: Linked at Regular Right Guy. Quite a party over here.
Update V: Linked at The Political Hat, who posted this to Reddit and helped contribute to an amazing traffic streak.