A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied both to physical structures like buildings, bridges or ships and to conceptual structures as well (e.g., in social sciences). The word superstructure is a combination of "super" (Latin for "above, in addition") with the word "structure" (also from Latin, meaning "to build" or "to heap up").


In order to improve seismic performance of buildings and bridges, a superstructure may be separated from its basement or footing, called here a substructure, with a system of earthquake protective devices called base isolation.


As stated above, superstructure is material which projects above the main deck. However, the term "superstructure" should be used carefully, as this only applies to structure which stretches for the full breadth of the vessel; otherwise the structure is known as a "deck house." Superstructure can have many implications on ships, as it can greatly alter its structural rigidity and a vessel’s displacement, which can be detrimental to a ship’s performance if considered incorrectly. The superstructure on a vessel also affects the amount of freeboard that a vessel requires. Very broadly, the more superstructure a ship has (as a fraction of length), the less freeboard is needed.


In mathematics, the superstructure over a set "S" is used in one of the approaches to non-standard analysis.huh The notion is also used in the construction of a universal set.

Social sciences

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 rationalized 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.

Marxist concept

Within Marxist social theory, superstructure is the particular form through which human subjectivity engages with the material substance of society.

ee also

*Earthquake Protector
*structuralism and post-structuralism
*Michel Foucault
*Franz Jakubowski
*Gerald Cohen


*Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). "Studying Popular Music". Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-15275-9.

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  • superstructure — [ sypɛrstryktyr ] n. f. • 1872; « élément inutile » 1764; de super et structure 1 ♦ Partie (d une construction) située au dessus du sol, d un niveau. Superstructure d un pont. Ensemble des travaux exécutés hors de terre. Les superstructures d une …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Superstructure — Su per*struc ture, n. [Cf. F. superstructure.] 1. Any material structure or edifice built on something else; that which is raised on a foundation or basis; esp. (Arch.), all that part of a building above the basement. Also used figuratively.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • superstructure — index building (structure) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • superstructure — 1640s, from SUPER (Cf. super ) + STRUCTURE (Cf. structure) …   Etymology dictionary

  • superstructure — ► NOUN 1) a structure built on top of something else. 2) the part of a building above its foundations. 3) the parts of a ship, other than masts and rigging, above its hull and main deck. 4) a concept or idea based on others …   English terms dictionary

  • superstructure — [so͞o′pərstruk΄chər] n. 1. a structure built on top of another: sometimes used figuratively 2. that part of a building above the foundation 3. that part of a ship above the main deck …   English World dictionary

  • superstructure — Like the term base , that of superstructure was imported into Marxist discourse on the authority of Marx s reference to the sphere of production as being the ‘real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Superstructure — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Une superstructure, partie d une construction. La superstructure, concept philosophique chez Karl Marx. Les superstructures, partie d un bateau Catégorie  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • superstructure — (su pèr stru ktu r ) s. f. 1°   Dans les ponts et chaussées, superstructure d un pont, la construction de la partie au dessus d une rivière, d un canal, d un chemin de fer. 2°   Structure superflue et inutile à l édifice.    Fig. Ce qui est… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • superstructure — [[t]su͟ːpə(r)strʌktʃə(r)[/t]] superstructures N COUNT: usu sing The superstructure of a ship is the part of it that is above its main deck. We might try to clear up some of the cabins in the superstructure …   English dictionary

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