In social sciences, superstructure is the set of socio-psychological feedback loops that maintain a coherent and meaningful structure in a given society, or part thereof. It can include the culture, institutions, power structures, roles, and rituals of the society. It is that which, through conditioned behaviors (both interpersonal and situational), enforces a set of constraints and guidelines on human activity in a stable and effective fashion, such that it engenders a society's characteristic organization, and it is that characteristic organization itself.

By most sociological schema, superstructure does not refer to the specific materials of an organization, such as a school or a store, but rather to the set of psychological or semantic configurations whereby that structure is rationalised and reproduced in human experience. That is, it is the "invisible force" behind or within the structure, or perhaps, it is the anthropocentric "reason" for the structure.

According to one sociological perspective, superstructure may be revealed by examining the direct interpersonal engagements that take place within canonical (typical) settings or situations, through the hermeneutic of sociobiology.

Within Marxist social theory, superstructure is the particular form through which human subjectivity engages with the material substance of society. The form is to an extent objective and to an extent subjective. The relationship between superstructure and base is considered to be a dialectical one, not a distinction between actual entities 'in the world'.

see also: sociology, structuralism, post-structuralism, Michel Foucault Franz Jakubowski

In engineering, superstructure refers to parts of a construction that project above a baseline: in building works, above the foundations, in shipbuilding, above the main deck.

Related topics