The superstructure consists of the political formations which keep the economy in place through the exercise of state power, plus the corresponding culture, including ideology, which enforces the whole set-up by manufacturing consent and exerting pressure to comply.
The state is not just the government. It is not just the repressive apparatuses. It comprises all the social institutions which exert political power. The state is not neutral. It enforces the domination and the interests of the class it represents. It has several main functions:
· regulating economic activity (exchange)
· mediating conflict within the ruling class(es)
· managing relations between classes (i.e.: suppressing threats)
· protecting private property and the process of accumulation
· defining and administering public political rights
The government creates and enforces laws, and administers various functions in service to the dominant economic form. The government, or the individuals that serve as state functionaries, can change while the state apparatus itself remains constant. That’s why a tyrant can be overthrown but afterwards life stays pretty much the same.
The armed forces include the military and police. The state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, which allows it to violently pursue global economic interests while enforcing class domination and repressing opposition domestically. This monopoly allows, for example, the police to throw someone in jail for setting an SUV on fire, but we are not allowed to jail the owners of a corporation that pollutes a river. It allows ICE to imprison people who move across borders to find work, but we are not allowed to imprison people whose collapsing mines and exploding oil rigs kill workers.
The culture of a society is comprised of its shared ideas, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and practices. It includes everything said, painted, sung, dreamt, and cried about. It includes the cute stuffed bear you give to your kid, your lovemaking techniques, what you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, whom you pray to, and whether you consider a belch rude or complimentary.
The prevailing set of ideas, or ideology, of a system arises from, and corresponds to, the economic and political formations, and in turn reinforces the stability and strength of both.
The ruling class exerts ideological hegemony over its subjects. It employs every gear in its colossal propaganda machine— from pre-school to television to peer pressure to product design—to convince us that the way of life associated with their economic system is normal, sane, virtuous and delightful.