It is a term discussed by German philosopher Karl Marx and sociologist Friedrich Engels in a concept called Marxism.
According to Karl Marx a foundation is a structure and something emerges from that foundation will be superstructure. He says that the structure is a “condition of existence” and without ‘it’ (structure) it’s not possible to discuss or explain superstructure.
According to Marxist theory in a society there will be base and superstructure and both are key concept for the structure of human society. He further states that superstructure is totally man- made in which strong component of nature e.g. inanimate and animate existed. Whereas base e.g. structure manifests the planned collective labor of men women under a framework. Therefore, superstructure is evolved to interrupt, explain and justify the distribution of social surplus.
According to Marx, the way people fight for their survival in the base they become more conscious of its nature in their mind and which constitute the area of superstructure. He argues that why only a small section of society should enjoy ownership of wealth and resources while large section of people lives at the subsistence level.
The base and superstructure are the two interrupted concepts in which Karl Marx describes base as the means of production like; material and resources that helps to produce goods which society needs, whereas superstructure as all other aspects of society like religion, art, law, ideology, norms and so on, it also includes social, political and government institutions. Thus, the base and superstructure shapes and maintain each other
Marx argues that superstructure always reflects the “ruling class” beliefs and interests. Thus, superstructure is no doubt is the part of society that always ‘legitimizes’ base where the exploitation of the proletariat or working class.
Base is occupied by the bourgeoiswhich consists of the elements like means of production e.g. land, factories, raw materials etc. it also forms the relationships between the capitalize and working class.
Therefore, all elements that consists of culture are appropriate for the capitalist to establish their authority.
The base and superstructure theory appeared in Marx’s Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).