Mode of production

Mode of production

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In the writings of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and the Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 theory of historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

, a mode of production (in German: Produktionsweise, meaning 'the way of producing') is a specific combination of:
  • productive forces
    Productive forces
    Productive forces, "productive powers" or "forces of production" [in German, Produktivkräfte] is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism....

    : these include human labour power and available knowledge given the level of technology in the means of production
    Means of production
    Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

     (e.g. tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land).
  • social and technical relations of production
    Relations of production
    Relations of production is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism, and in Das Kapital...

    : these include the property, power and control relations governing society's productive assets, often codified in law, cooperative work relations and forms of association, relations between people and the objects of their work, and the relations between social classes.


Marx regarded productive ability and participation in social relations as two essential characteristics of human beings and that the particular modality of these relations in capitalist production are inherently in conflict with the increasing development of human productive capacities.

Significance of concept



According to Marx, the combination of forces and relations of production means that the way people relate to the physical world and the way people relate to each other socially are bound up together in specific and necessary ways. People must consume to survive, but to consume they must produce, and in producing they necessarily enter into relations which exist independently of their will.

For Marx, the whole 'secret' of why/how a social order exists and the causes of social change must be discovered in the specific mode of production that a society has. He further argued that the mode of production substantively shaped the nature of the mode of distribution, the mode of circulation and the mode of consumption, all of which together constitute the economic sphere. To understand the way wealth was distributed and consumed, it was necessary to understand the conditions under which it was produced.

A mode of production is historically distinctive for Marx, because it constitutes part of an 'organic totality' (or self-reproducing whole) which is capable of constantly re-creating its own initial conditions, and thus perpetuate itself in a more or less stable ways for centuries, or even millennia. By performing social surplus labour
Surplus labour
Surplus labour is a concept used by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. It means labour performed in excess of the labour necessary to produce the means of livelihood of the worker . According to Marxian economics, surplus labour is usually "unpaid labour"...

 in a specific system of property relations, the labouring classes constantly reproduce
Reproduction (economics)
In Marxian economics, economic reproduction refers to recurrent processes by which the initial conditions necessary for economic activity to occur are constantly re-created...

 the foundations of the social order. Normally a mode of production shapes the mode of distribution, circulation and consumption, and is regulated by the state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

.

New productive forces will cause conflict in the current mode of production. When conflict arises the modes of production can evolve within the current structure or cause a complete breakdown.

The process of socioeconomic change


The process by which social and economic systems evolve is based on the premise of improving technology. Specifically, as the level of technology improves, existing forms of social relations become increasingly insufficient for fully exploiting technology. This generates internal inefficiencies within the broader socioeconomic system, most notably in the form of class conflict. The obsolete social arrangements prevent further social progress while generating increasingly severe contradictions between the level of technology (forces of production) and social structure (social relations, conventions and organization of production) which develop to a point where the system can no longer sustain itself, and is overthrown through internal social revolution that allows for the emergence of new forms of social relations that are compatible with the current level of technology (productive forces).

The fundamental driving force behind structural changes in the socioeconomic organization of civilization are underlying material concerns - specifically, the level of technology and extent of human knowledge and the forms of social organization they make possible. This comprises what Marx termed the materialist conception of history
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

(see also: materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

), and is in contrast to an idealist analysis
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

, which states that the fundamental driving force behind socioeconomic change are the ideas of enlightened individuals.

The modes of production in history


In a broad outline, Marxist theory recognizes several distinctive modes of production characteristic of different epochs in human history:

Primitive communism


Human society is seen as organized in traditional tribe
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 structures, typified by shared values
and consumption of the entire social product. As no permanent surplus product
Surplus product
Surplus product is a concept explicitly theorised by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. Marx first began to work out his idea of surplus product in his 1844 notes on James Mill's Elements of political economy...

 is produced, there is also no possibility of a ruling class
Ruling class
The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy - assuming there is one such particular class in the given society....

 coming into existence. As this mode of production lacks differentiation into classes, it is said to be classless. Palaeolithic and Neolithic tools, pre- and early-agricultural production, and rigorous ritualized social control have often been said to be the typifying productive forces of this mode of production. However, the foraging mode of production still exists, and often typified in contemporary hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

 societies. Past theories of the foraging mode of production have focused on lack of control over food production. More recent scholarship has argued that hunter-gatherers use the foraging mode of production to maintain a specific set of social relations that, perhaps controversially, are said to emphasize egalitarianism and the collective appropriation of resources.

Asiatic mode of production


This is a controversial contribution to Marxist theory, initially used to explain pre-slave and pre-feudal large earthwork constructions in China, India, the Euphrates and Nile river valleys (and named on this basis of the primary evidence coming from greater "Asia"). The Asiatic mode of production is said to be the initial form of class society, where a small group extracts social surplus through violence aimed at settled or unsettled band communities within a domain. Exploited labour is extracted as forced corvee
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

 labour during a slack period
Float (project management)
In project management, float or slack is the amount of time that a task in a project network can be delayed without causing a delay to:* subsequent tasks * project completion date...

 of the year (allowing for monumental construction such as the pyramid
Pyramid
A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge at a single point. The base of a pyramid can be trilateral, quadrilateral, or any polygon shape, meaning that a pyramid has at least three triangular surfaces...

s, ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

s, ancient Indian communal baths or the Chinese Great Wall). Exploited labour is also extracted in the form of goods directly seized from the exploited communities. The primary property form of this mode is the direct religious possession of communities (villages, bands, hamlets) and all those within them. The ruling class of this society is generally a semi-theocratic aristocracy which claims to be the incarnation of gods on earth. The forces of production associated with this society include basic agricultural techniques, massive construction and storage of goods for social benefit (granaries).

Antique mode of production


Similar to the Asiatic mode, but differentiated in that the form of property is the direct possession of individual human beings. Additionally, the ruling class usually avoids the more outlandish claims of being the direct incarnation of a god, and prefers to be the descendants of gods, or seeks other justifications for its rule. Ancient Greek and Roman societies are the most typical examples of this mode. The forces of production associated with this mode include advanced (two field) agriculture, the extensive use of animals in agriculture, and advanced trade networks.

Feudalism


The feudal mode of production is usually typified by the systems of the West between the fall of the classical European culture and the rise of capitalism, though similar systems existed in most of the earth. The primary form of property is the possession of land in reciprocal contract relations: the possession of human beings as peasants or serfs is dependent upon their being entailed upon the land. Exploitation occurs through reciprocated contract (though ultimately resting on the threat of forced extractions). The ruling class is usually a nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 or aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

. The primary forces of production include highly complex agriculture (two, three field, lucerne fallowing and manuring) with the addition of non-human and non-animal power devices (clockwork, wind-mills) and the intensification of specialisation in the crafts—craftsmen exclusively producing one specialised class of product.

Early Capitalism


The introduction of the capitalist mode of production
Capitalist mode of production
In Marx's critique of political economy, the capitalist mode of production is the production system of capitalist societies, which began in Europe in the 16th century, grew rapidly in Western Europe from the end of the 18th century, and later extended to most of the world...

 spans the period from Mercantilism
Mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

 to Imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 and is usually associated with the emergence of modern industrial society. The primary form of property is the possession of objects and services through state guaranteed contract. The primary form of exploitation is wage labour
Wage labour
Wage labour is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer, where the worker sells their labour under a formal or informal employment contract. These transactions usually occur in a labour market where wages are market determined...

 (see Das Kapital
Das Kapital
Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie , by Karl Marx, is a critical analysis of capitalism as political economy, meant to reveal the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production, and how it was the precursor of the socialist mode of production.- Themes :In Capital: Critique of...

, wage slavery
Wage slavery
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a negatively connoted term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning and employing a person...

 and exploitation
Exploitation
This article discusses the term exploitation in the meaning of using something in an unjust or cruel manner.- As unjust benefit :In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for...

). The ruling class is the bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

, which exploits the proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. Capitalism may produce one class (bourgeoisie) who possess the means of production for the whole of society and another class who possess only their own labour power, which they must sell in order to survive. The key forces of production include the overall system of modern production with its supporting structures
Base and superstructure
In Marxist theory, human society consists of two parts: the base and superstructure; the base comprehends the forces and relations of production — employer-employee work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations — into which people enter to produce the necessities and...

 of bureaucracy
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

, and the modern state, and above all finance capital
Financial capital
Financial capital can refer to money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or provide their services or to that sector of the economy based on its operation, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc....

.

Late Capitalism


State capitalism
State capitalism
The term State capitalism has various meanings, but is usually described as commercial economic activity undertaken by the state with management of the productive forces in a capitalist manner, even if the state is nominally socialist. State capitalism is usually characterized by the dominance or...

 and Corporate capitalism
Corporate capitalism
Corporate capitalism is a term used in social science and economics to describe a capitalist marketplace characterized by the dominance of hierarchical, bureaucratic corporations, which are legally required to pursue profit....

 (also known as Monopoly capitalism), is a universal form encompassing all recent actually existing economic forms based on the nation state and global process of capital accumulation
Capital accumulation
The accumulation of capital refers to the gathering or amassing of objects of value; the increase in wealth through concentration; or the creation of wealth. Capital is money or a financial asset invested for the purpose of making more money...

, whether avowedly capitalist or socialist, which was known only in its more or less pure capitalist forms in Marx and Engels time. Today this form predominates in the so-called modern mixed economy
Mixed economy
Mixed economy is an economic system in which both the state and private sector direct the economy, reflecting characteristics of both market economies and planned economies. Most mixed economies can be described as market economies with strong regulatory oversight, in addition to having a variety...

 based largely on oligarchial
Monopoly Capital
Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order is an essay from 1966 by Paul Sweezy and Paul A. Baran. It made a major contribution to Marxist theory by shifting attention from the assumption of a competitive economy to monopolistic aspects of giant corporations that dominate...

 multinational corporations with its highly socialized and globalized system of production. In particular, the failed centrally-planned economic systems of the defunct communist bloc nation states are not to be confused with communism as an actually existing mode of production in spite of, or more to the point as a result of, their (failed) realization of central planning. Fredrick Engels hypothesized that state capitalism would emerge as the final form of capitalism before the contradictions reach a point where capitalism cannot sustain itself and socialism emerges as its successor.

The hallmark of late capitalism is consumerism
Consumerism
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen...

 and financialization
Financialization
Financialization is a term sometimes used in discussions of financial capitalism which developed over several decades leading up to the 2007-2010 financial crisis, and in which financial leverage tended to override capital and financial markets tended to dominate over the traditional industrial...

, a process whereby "making money
Money creation
In economics, money creation is the process by which the money supply of a country or a monetary region is increased due to some reason. There are two principal stages of money creation. First, the central bank introduces new money into the economy by purchasing financial assets or lending money...

", literally, becomes the dominant industry - both of these practices are a means to sustain the flow and accumulation of capital.

Socialism (Lower-stage communism)


The socialist mode of production is the post-capitalist economic system that emerges when the accumulation of capital is no longer sustainable due to falling rates of profit in (real) production, and social conflict arising from the contradictions between the level of technology and automation in the economy with the capitalist form of social organization. A socialist society would consist of production being carried out, organized in a manner to directly satisfy human needs, with the working-class cooperatively or publicly owning the means of production.

Communism (Upper-stage communism)


The ideal of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 did and does refer to a hypothetical future state of affairs where the good of all is obtained by scientific
Scientific management
Scientific management, also called Taylorism, was a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management...

 management (whence the name "scientific socialism
Scientific Socialism
Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its...

") to obtain democratically determined social goals
Social order
Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. It refers to a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce "normal" ways of relating and behaving....

. Karl Marx made a distinction between "lower stage communism" and "upper-stage communism", with the former usually being called socialism.

Prefiguring forms of communism can be seen in communes
Commune (intentional community)
A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become...

 and other collective living experiments. Communism is meant to be a classless society, with the management of things replacing the management of people. Particular productive forces are not described, but are assumed to be more or less within the reach of any contemporary capitalist society. Despite the imminent potential for communism, some economic theorists have hypothesized that communism is more than a thousand years away from full implementation and of course it is the position of anti-communists and those who have "buried" socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 that it will never be realized at all, that the capitalist mode is the end to which historical development drives and halts having reached its "perfect and eternal" form. Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 and Marxist doctrine identify the emergence of communism as the reciprocal process to the "withering away" of the nation-state and the class system it supports.

Articulation of modes of production


In any specific society or country, different modes of production might emerge and exist alongside each other, linked together economically through trade and mutual obligations. To these different modes correspond different social classes and strata in the population. So, for example, urban capitalist industry might co-exist with rural peasant production for subsistence and simple exchange and tribal hunting and gathering.
Old and new modes of production might combine to form a hybrid economy.

However, Marx's view was that the expansion of capitalist markets tended to dissolve and displace older ways of producing over time. A capitalist society was a society in which the capitalist mode of production
Capitalist mode of production
In Marx's critique of political economy, the capitalist mode of production is the production system of capitalist societies, which began in Europe in the 16th century, grew rapidly in Western Europe from the end of the 18th century, and later extended to most of the world...

 had become the dominant one. The culture, laws and customs of that society might however preserve many traditions of the preceding modes of production.
Thus, although two countries might both be capitalist, being economically based mainly on private enterprise for profit and wage labour, these capitalisms might be very different in social character and functioning, reflecting very different cultures, religions, social rules and histories.

Elaborating on this idea, Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

 famously described the economic development of the world as a process of uneven and combined development
Uneven and combined development
Uneven and combined development is a Marxist concept to describe the overall dynamics of human history. It was originally used by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky around the turn of the 20th century, when he was analyzing the developmental possibilities that existed for the economy and...

of different co-existing societies and modes of production which all influence each other. This means that historical changes which took centuries to occur in one country might be truncated, abbreviated or telescoped in another. Thus, for example, Trotsky observes in the opening chapter of his history of the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 that "Savages throw away their bows and arrows for rifles all at once, without travelling the road which lay between these two weapons in the past. The European colonists in America did not begin history all over again from the beginning", etc. Thus, old and new techniques and cultures might combine in novel and unique admixtures, which cannot be understood other than by tracing out the history of their emergence.

See also

  • Capitalist mode of production
    Capitalist mode of production
    In Marx's critique of political economy, the capitalist mode of production is the production system of capitalist societies, which began in Europe in the 16th century, grew rapidly in Western Europe from the end of the 18th century, and later extended to most of the world...

  • Crisis (Marxian)
  • Economic system
    Economic system
    An economic system is the combination of the various agencies, entities that provide the economic structure that defines the social community. These agencies are joined by lines of trade and exchange along which goods, money etc. are continuously flowing. An example of such a system for a closed...

  • Means of production
    Means of production
    Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

  • Relations of production
    Relations of production
    Relations of production is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism, and in Das Kapital...

  • Socialist mode of production
    Socialism (Marxism)
    In Marxist theory, socialism, or the socialist mode of production, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that eventually supersede capitalism...

  • Social system