Understanding Visual Culture- Part 1- Base and Superstructure

For this exercise we had to look at a section from Daniel Chandler’s Marxist Media Theory and answer questions on it.


What did Marx mean by ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’?

Base is all the things that are required for everyday living such going to work and keeping a home.

Superstructure is more about the environmental factors that govern everyday living such as politics, cultural and social norms, people’s roles, religion and education, amongst other things.

I believe that the two go hand in hand, a change in the base can effect the superstructure and vice versa. For example, if someone lost their job it would have an effect on roles within the home, not being able to afford the things you usually brought or going out. Another example would be when a new political party comes to power and make changes that could result in your job changing or being lost.

Of the different ways of looking at the subject outlined by Chandler, which makes the most sense to you and why?

Chandler outlines a number of different ways of looking, however I feel that Althesserian Marxists view makes the most sense to me. Within the article Chandler quotes

“the relative autonomy of the superstructure with respect to the base… [and] the reciprocal action of the superstructure of the base” (Althusser, cited in Lapsley & Westlake 1988; my emphasis)

My understanding of this is that when the base is healthy, the superstructure is important in its own right and that its actions can affect the base. This is similar to what I mentioned in the previous question.

Does your understanding of the base and superstructure vary depending on whether you are looking at society in general of the media and the arts?

No as the basic principles of base and superstructure are the same. The ‘base’ has to be there before the ‘superstructure’ as it determines the superstructure. Only from there can the superstructure have an effect on the base.


About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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