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  The dualism of base and superstructure was popularized by Stalin as a simplistic means of explaining the distinction between a society\'s economy (the \'base\') and the political, legal, religious and artistic institutions and ideologies that corresponded to a particular economic base (the \'superstructure\').

The question of base and superstructure has been a favourite target for critics of Marxism. In its crudest forms, the base/superstructure distinction encouraged an economic determinism whereby the shape of social, political and cultural relations was narrowly determined by economics. This critique is widely accepted today, among Marxists and non-Marxists, perhaps because such a crude conceptual distinction has little if any basis in Marx\'s writing or that of most Marxist scholars. This distinction has never had a significant effect in geography. Although he never referred to base and superstructure, Marx did argue that in capitalist societies the economic logic of capital accumulation held considerable sway over the direction of social, political and cultural change. This becomes especially clear during periods of economic crisis, or among Third World populations in perpetual crisis, where the social and political possibilities of many peoples\' lives are severely circumscribed by economic constraints. But the relationship between economy and society is not causal or deterministic but dialectical, and it is precisely the point of Marx\'s critique that the economic logic of capitalist expansion has to be suspended as any kind of determinant of social relations. (NS)



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