In Marxist terminology, what is the difference between infrastructure and superstructure?
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Marx believed that in order to understand the nature of a society, one had to understand its economic base. The word "infrastructure" essentially refers to this base, which Marx defined as the relationship of people to the means of production. Under a capitalist system, the "infrastructure" was private ownership of the means of production by the bourgeoisie, which, due to relentless mechinization and other developments, forced more and more people into wage labor. "Superstructure" is a Marxian term referring to culture, including systems of belief, societal mores, and even some aspects of government and law not directly related to property relations. Marxists argue, to varying degrees, that the superstructure is determined by (and, from an academic perspective, explained by) the economic relations that lay at the heart of the base, or infrastructure. So from the standpoint of literary criticism, a work itself cannot really be understood on its own, but as part of a web of cultural relations that constituted a superstructure, that is in turn affected by the infrastructure.
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