Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Superstructure is a term used mainly in Marxist analysis to refer to the institutions and practices that sustain and legitimate the existing social order embodied in the infrastructural relations of production.

explanatory context

The legal system, schools, media, armed forces, etc. are all part of the superstructure.

analytical review

Elwell's Glossary of Sociology (undated) defines superstructure as:

A general term used in sociocultural materialism to refer to the symbolic universe--the shared meanings, ideas, beliefs, values, and ideologies that people give to the physical and social world. The superstructure, of course, can be divided into cultural and mental components

associated issues


related areas

See also



Researching the Real World Section

Critical Social Research Section 2.2


Elwell's Glossary of Sociology, undated, available at, ©Frank Elwell, last updated January 1998, page not available 20 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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