(fwd from David Siar) Base-superstructure, or: the concept of capitalist society

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Thu Apr 11 09:57:29 MDT 2002

[ Non-member submission from ["Siar, David" <siard at wssu.edu>]]

Julian asked: "...is the existence of classes pretty much irrelevant
to the existence of a capitalist society because the economic sphere
can exercise dominance without them?

	Although Marx didn't use the word "class" in every other line of his
writing, the concept is *fundamental* to any kind of analysis that could
even vaguely lay claim to the label "Marxist."  Class isn't the same as the
bourgeois concept of "status"; it's the *structural position* that one
occupies in a given mode of production.  For Marx, there are two basic
positions within capitalism: that of the owners of and that of the workers.
A person can of course occupy a "contradictory position" within a capitalist
social formation by working for wages (and thus being exploited, since
surplus value is extracted from the worker by the capitalist) while at the
same time owning stock in one or more companies; however, within capitalism
as a whole, the vast majority of workers do not fit into this "petty
bourgeois" class, as Marx labeled it.

	And as to your point about the "relative automy" of this, that, and
the other thing, I suggest you take a look at David Harvey's _Postmodern
Condition_, which is very good at showing how all sorts of things in the
social world that might seem to be "relatively automous" from the economy
have the trademark of capitalism branded them in places that you wouldn't
think of looking.  In other words, the very air we breathe is saturated with
"capitalism," as any attentive and painstaking Marxist can show.

	David Siar

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