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Title: Marx's Conception of Basis and Superstructure
Author: Furner, James
ISNI:       0000 0001 3485 685X
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2007
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This study begins with a critique of G. A. Cohen's power-oriented account of the economic 'basis' and his claim that the 'superstructure' is functionally explained. Thereafter, Marx's writings are interrogated in chronological order, focusing on The German Ideology, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and the Capital volumes and drafts. An alternative interpretation of the basis and superstructure metaphor is proposed in light of a three-way distinction, first outlined in The German Ideology, between material production, customary consciousness and non-economic labour. Material production, the system of interactional production relations, sustains a kind of linguistic reflection by economic agents on their practice which imposes limits on non-economic labour. The 'idealistic superstructure', a term which Marx adopts in response to Stirner's account of 'hierarchy', consists of the formulation and implementation of 'universal' notions. It arises once material production is 'autonomised', only disappearing entirely in 'developed' communism. One may distinguish between the technical autonomisatlon of material production, individuals' perpetuated engagement in a division of labour, and their formal autonomisation, the confinement to an economic class. Technical autonomisation establishes a 'contradiction' between particular and common·interests, which results in conflict, at the same time as it sustains customary beliefs in 'universal' notions whose organised assertion may hold this conflict in check. In the case of modern society, the only specific case Marx outlines, the generalisation of commodity exchange is the root of customary notions of abstract equality and individualistic freedom which provide the resources for the construction of a 'Rechtsstaat'. The French state under Bonaparte is a kind of worst-case scenario of the modem 'Rechtsstaat'
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available