The readings for this week explored the complexity of the ‘base and the superstructure’ as proposed by Marx, mainly focusing on the material and positivistic aspects of these two proposition. I often wonder if Marx actually had such a reductionistic view of these two proposition, or if the Marxists which followed him, in an effort to understand or apply his theories, fell in a reductionist approach. This week, Williams and Hall explore the complexity of culture within the framework of these two aspects.
Stuart Hall proposes two paradigms, which I’m assuming are “culturalism” or “structuralism” in an effort to decipher the what he calls the ‘breaks’ to the critical analysis of understanding tradition or history. Hall further provided an overview of the emergency of the field of Cultural Studies from the three main texts responsible for giving birth to this field. Hall proposes two ways of conceptualizing culture which enable us to conceptualize its complexity. He proposes that “Culture is not a practid3; nor is it simply the descriptive sum of the ‘mores and folkways’ of societies. It is threaded through all social practices, and is the sum of their inter-relationship.” (p.96) Hall further explores the connection of the base and superstructure as a part of the vulgar materialism and economic determinism in Marx. To resolve this issue he further offers the analysis of the ‘whole ways of life’ and the issue of ‘determination’ to the study of culture within a Cultural Studies framework. Furthermore, Hall cites Levi-Strauss theory of structuralism to highlight the ideological aspect of culture, also with Althusser’s work to minimize or straight out avoid a reductionistic perspective. I was not very clear however, on Foucault’s concept of ‘concrete analysis’ to this structuralist concept. It also seemed unclear what he was referring towards the end of this article when he discusses the required of field of study?
Raymond Williams essays follow a more logical analysis of the ‘base and superstructure’ as well as all the other aspects related to these. I thought his explanation of ‘determination’ was very clear, on the one hand, it sets limits, and the other exerts or pressures, depending on the context used. I really liked the fluidity of each chapter which continued to explain the topics from the ones before. I thought his analysis of hegemony was very thorough and clear as well. What seemed unclear to me was the study of ‘structure of feeling’ and ‘the sociology of culture’ as both seemed to be dealing more with ideology and to be difficult to quantify. Williams in his essay titled “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” explains the complexity of the base and provides great examples of base and superstructure in his piano analogy. Overall, though I think I understand these two aspects, there are some questions I would like to clarify in class.