Mode of production

In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production (in German: Produktionsweise, meaning "the way of producing") is a specific combination of the following:

  • Productive forces: these include human labour power and means of production (e.g. tools, productive machinery, commercial and industrial buildings, other infrastructure, technical knowledge, materials, plants, animals and exploitable land).
  • Social and technical relations of production: 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.[1]

A precursor to this concept was Adam Smith's concept of mode of subsistence, which delineated a progression of society types based on the way in which society's members provided for their basic needs.[2]

Significance of concept

Building on the four-stage theory of human development of the Scottish Enlightenment – Hunting/Pastoral/Agricultural/Commercial Societies, each with its own socio-cultural characteristics[3] - Marx articulated the concept of mode of production: “The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life”.[4]

Marx considered 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: “men [who] produce cloth, linen, silk...also produce the ‘social relations’ amid which they prepare cloth and linen”.[5] 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.[6] 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 in a specific system of property relations, the labouring classes constantly reproduce the foundations of the social order. A mode of production normally shapes the mode of distribution, circulation and consumption and is regulated by the state. As Marx wrote to Annenkov, “Assume particular stages of development in production, commerce and consumption and you will have a corresponding social order, a corresponding organization of the family and of the ranks and classes, in a word, a corresponding civil society”.[7]

However any given mode of production will also contain within it (to a greater or lesser extent) relics of earlier modes, as well as seeds of new ones.[8] The emergence of 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.

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).[9]

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 (see also materialism) and is in contrast to an idealist analysis, (such as that criticised by Marx in Proudhon),[10] which states that the fundamental driving force behind socioeconomic change are the ideas of enlightened individuals.

Modes of Production

Tribal and neolithic modes of production

Marx and Engels often referred to the "first" mode of production as primitive communism.[11] In classical Marxism, the two earliest modes of production were those of the tribal band or horde, and of the neolithic kinship group. [12] Tribal bands of hunter gatherers represented for most of human history the only form of possible existence. Technological progress in the Stone Age was very slow; social stratification was very limited (as were personal possessions, hunting grounds being held in common);[13] and myth, ritual and magic are seen as the main cultural forms.[14]

With the adoption of agriculture at the outset of the Neolithic Revolution, and accompanying technological advances in pottery, brewing, baking, and weaving,[15] there came a modest increase in social stratification, and the birth of class[16] with private property held in hierarchical kinship groups or clans.[17]

Animism was replaced by a new emphasis on gods of fertility;[18] and a move from matriarchy to patriarchy (arguably) took place at the same time.[19]

Asiatic mode of production

The Asiatic mode of production is a controversial contribution to Marxist theory, first used to explain pre-slave and pre-feudal large earthwork constructions in 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 and village communities within a domain. It was made possible by a technological advance in data-processing – writing, cataloguing and archiving[20] - as well as by associated advances in standardisation of weights and measures, mathematics, calendar-making and irrigation.[21]

Exploited labour is extracted as forced corvee labour during a slack period of the year (allowing for monumental construction such as the pyramids, ziggurats and ancient Indian communal baths). 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, and hamlets, and all those within them) by the gods: in a typical example, three-quarters of the property would be allotted to individual families, while the remaining quarter would be worked for the theocracy.[22] 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, irrigation, and storage of goods for social benefit (granaries). Because of the unproductive use of the creamed-off surplus, such Asiatic empires tended to be doomed to fall into decay.[23]

Antique or ancient mode of production

Sometimes referred to as "slave society", an alternative route out of neolithic self-sufficiency came in the form of the polis or city-state. Technological advances in the form of cheap iron tools, coinage, and the alphabet, and the division of labour between industry, trade and farming, enabled new and larger units to develop in the form of the polis,[24] which called in turn for new forms of social aggregation. A host of urban associations – formal and informal – took over from earlier familial and tribal groupings.[25] Constitutionally agreed law replaced the vendetta[26] - an advance celebrated in such new urban cultural forms as Greek tragedy: thus, as Robert Fagles put it, “The Oresteia is our rite of passage from savagery to civilization...from the blood vendetta to the social justice”.[27]

Classical Greek and Roman societies are the most typical examples of this antique mode of production. The forces of production associated with this mode include advanced (two field) agriculture, the extensive use of animals in agriculture, industry (mining and pottery), and advanced trade networks. It is differentiated from the Asiatic mode in that property forms included the direct possession of individual human beings (slavery):[28] thus for example Plato in his ideal city-state of Magnesia envisaged for the leisured ruling class of citizens that “their farms have been entrusted to slaves, who provide them with sufficient produce of the land to keep them in modest comfort”.[29] The ancient mode of production is also distinguished by the way 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, including varying degrees of popular participation in politics.

It was not so much democracy, but rather the universalising of its citizenship, that eventually enabled Rome to set up a Mediterranean-wide urbanised empire, knit together by roads, harbours, lighthouses, aqueducts, and bridges, and with engineers, architects, traders and industrialists fostering interprovincial trade between a growing set of urban centres.[30]

Feudal mode of production

The fall of the Western Roman Empire returned most of Western Europe to subsistence agriculture, dotted with ghost towns and obsolete trade-routes[31] Authority too was localised, in a world of poor roads and difficult farming conditions.[32] The new social form which emerged in place of the ties of family or clan, of sacred theocracy or legal citizenship was a relationship based on the personal tie of vassal to lord, cemented by the link to landholding in the guise of the fief.[33] This was the feudal mode of production, which dominated the systems of the West between the fall of the classical world and the rise of capitalism (similar systems existing in most of the world as well). This period also saw the decentralization of the ancient empires into the earliest nation-states.

The primary form of property is the possession of land in reciprocal contract relations, military service for knights, labour services to the lord of the manor by peasants or serfs tied to and entailed upon the land.[34] Exploitation occurs through reciprocated contract (though ultimately resting on the threat of forced extractions).[35] The ruling class is usually a nobility or aristocracy, typically legitimated by some concurrent form of theocracy. 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 and wind-mills) and the intensification of specialisation in the crafts—craftsmen exclusively producing one specialised class of product.

The prevailing ideology was of a hierarchical system of society, tempered by the element of reciprocity and contract in the feudal tie.[36] While, as Maitland warned, the feudal system had many variations, extending as it did over more than half a continent, and half a millennium,[37] nevertheless the many forms all had at their core a relationship that (in the words of John Burrow) was “at once legal and social, military and once a way of organising military force, a social hierarchy, an ethos and what Marx would later call a mode of production”.[38]

During this period, a merchant class arises and grows in strength, driven by the profit motive but prevented from developing further profits by the nature of feudal society, in which, for instance, the serfs are tied to the land and cannot become industrial workers and wage-earners. This eventually precipitates an epoch of social revolution (i.e.: the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the French Revolution of 1789, etc.) wherein the social and political organization of feudal society (or the property relations of feudalism) are overthrown by a nascent bourgeoisie.[39]

Capitalist mode of production

By the close of the Middle Ages, the feudal system had been increasingly hollowed out by the growth of free towns, the commutation for money of servile labour,[40] the replacement of the feudal host by a paid soldiery, and the divorce of retainership from land tenure[41] - even if feudal privileges, ethics and enclaves would persist in Europe till the end of the millennium in residual forms.[42] Feudalism was succeeded by what Smith called the Age of Commerce, and Marx the capitalist mode of production, which spans the period from mercantilism to imperialism and beyond, and is usually associated with the emergence of modern industrial society and the global market economy. Marx maintained that central to the new capitalist system was the replacement of a system of money serving as the key to commodity exchange (C-M-C, commerce), by a system of money leading (via commodities) to the re-investment of money in further production (M-C-M’, capitalism) - the new and overriding social imperative.[43]

The primary form of property is that of private property in commodity form – land, materials, tools of production, and human labour, all being potentially commodified and open to exchange in a cash nexus by way of (state guaranteed) contract: as Marx put it, “man himself is brought into the sphere of private property”.[44] The primary form of exploitation is by way of (formally free) wage labour (see Das Kapital,[45] with debt peonage,[46] wage slavery, and other forms of exploitation) also possible. The ruling class for Marx is the bourgeoisie, or the owners of capital who possess the means of production, who exploit the proletariat for surplus value, as the proletarians possess only their own labour power which they must sell in order to survive.[47] Yuval Harari reconceptualised the dichotomy for the 21st Century in terms of the rich who invest to re-invest, and the remainder who go into debt in order to consume for the benefit of the owners of the means of production.[48]

Under Capitalism the key forces of production include the overall system of modern production with its supporting structures of bureaucracy, bourgeois democracy, and above all finance capital. The system’s ideological underpinnings took place over the course of time, Frederic Jameson for example considering that “the Western Enlightenment may be grasped as part of a properly bourgeois cultural revolution, in which the values and the discourse, the habits and the daily space, of the ancien régime were systematically dismantled so that in their place could be set the new conceptualities, habits and life forms, and value systems of a capitalist market society”[49] - utilitarianism, rationalised production (Weber), training and discipline (Foucault) and a new capitalist time-structure.[50]

Socialist mode of production

Socialism is the mode of production which Marx considered will succeed capitalism, and which will itself ultimately be succeeded by communism - the words socialism and communism both predate Marx and have many definitions other than those he used, however - once the forces of production outgrew the capitalist framework.[51]

In his 1917 work The State and Revolution, Lenin divided communism, the period following the overthrow of capitalism, into two stages: first socialism, and then later, once the last vestiges of the old capitalist ways have withered away, stateless communism or pure communism. Marx typically used the terms the "first phase" of communism and the "higher phase" of communism, but Lenin points to later remarks by Engels which suggest that Marx's "first phase" of communism typically equates with what people commonly think of as socialism.[52]

The Marxist definition of socialism is a mode of production where the sole criterion for production is use-value and therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning,[53] while distribution of economic output is based on the principle of to each according to his contribution.[54] The social relations of socialism are characterized by the working class effectively owning the means of production and the means of their livelihood, through one or a combination of cooperative enterprises, common ownership, or worker's self-management.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels deliberately wrote very little on socialism, neglecting to provide any details on how it might be organized on the grounds that, until the new mode of production had itself emerged, all such theories would be merely Utopian: as Georges Sorel put it, “to attempt to erect an ideological superstructure in advance of the conditions of production on which it must be built...would be un-Marxist”.[55] However, later in life, Marx pointed to the Paris Commune as the first example of a proletarian uprising and the model for a future socialist society organized into communes, observing:

The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at any time. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.... The police, which until then had been the instrument of the Government, was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen's wages. The privileges and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves.... Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the instruments of physical force of the old government, the Commune proceeded at once to break the instrument of spiritual suppression, the power of the priests.... The judicial functionaries lost that sham independence... they were thenceforward to be elective, responsible, and revocable... The Commune, was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time...Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress the people in parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people constituted in communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for workers, foremen and accountants for his business.[56]

Communist mode of production

Communism is the final mode of production, anticipated to arise inevitably from socialism due to historical forces. Marx did not speak in detail about the nature of a communist society, which he would describe interchangeably with the words socialism and communism. He did however refer briefly in the Critique of the Gotha Programme to the full release of productive forces in "the highest phase of communist society...[when] society will be able to inscribe on its banner: ‘From each according to his capacities, to each according to his needs'”.[57]

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. 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 had become the dominant one. The culture, laws and customs of that society might 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 famously described the economic development of the world as a process of uneven and combined development 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 that "[s]avages 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". 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


  1. ^ Marx, Grundrisse. (English Translation)
  2. ^ New Voices on Adam Smith, by Leonidas Montes, Eric Schliesser. Routledge, March 2006. P 295.
  3. ^ R Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage (Cambridge 1976) p. 117-9 and p. 186-8
  4. ^ Quoted in J Childers ed., The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism (New York 1995) p. 191
  5. ^ Quoted in J O’Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 115
  6. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 11
  7. ^ Quoted in J O’Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 116
  8. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 12
  9. ^ Mode of Production.
  10. ^ J O’Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 115-6
  11. ^ Scott, John; Marshall, Gordon (2007). A Dictionary of Sociology. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860987-2.
  12. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 46-7
  13. ^ J Diamond, The World Until Yesterday (Penguin 2012) p. 13-1
  14. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 47
  15. ^ G Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin 1954) p. 60-2
  16. ^ J Diamond, The World Until Yesterday (London 2012) p. 15-17
  17. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 47
  18. ^ Y Harari, Sapiens (London 2011) p. 235-7
  19. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 51
  20. ^ Y Harari, Sapiens (London 2011) p. 137 and p. 145
  21. ^ G Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin 1954) p. 117-125
  22. ^ G Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin 1954) p. 94-5
  23. ^ A R Burn, Persia and the Greeks (Stanford 1984) p. 565
  24. ^ G Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin 1954) p. 25 and 196-7
  25. ^ O. Murray ed., The Oxford History of the Classical World (Oxford 1991) p. 207-10
  26. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 51
  27. ^ R Fagles trans., The Oresteia (Penguin 1981) p. 19-21
  28. ^ “The pagan State recognised only the Masters as is assigned to the Slaves”, Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (London 1980) p. 57
  29. ^ Plato, The Laws (Penguin 1988) p. 296
  30. ^ G Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin 1954) p. 263-73
  31. ^ P Wolff, The Awakening of Europe (Penguin 1968) p. 22-3
  32. ^ R W Southern The Making of the Middle Ages (London 1993) p. 20 and p. 80
  33. ^ J M Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West (London 1964) p. 110-1 and p. 143
  34. ^ Barrington Moore Jr, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Penguin 1977) p. 419 and p. 4-5
  35. ^ "The very essence of feudal property was exploitation in its most naked form", R H Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (London 1937) p. 56
  36. ^ W Ullmann A history of Political Thought in the Middle Ages (Penguin 1965) p. 90 and p. 147
  37. ^ G C Coulton Medieval Panorama (Cambridge 1938) p. 50
  38. ^ J Burrow, A History of Histories (Penguin 2009) p. 317
  39. ^ Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy Marx, Early writings, Penguin, 1975, p425-6
  40. ^ G C Coulton Medieval Panorama (Cambridge 1938) p. 73-6 and 284-6
  41. ^ Barrington Moore Jr, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Penguin 1977) p. 5
  42. ^ M Scott, Medieval Europe (London 1964) p. 241 and p. 420
  43. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 267
  44. ^ Quoted in J O’Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 26
  45. ^ J O’Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 191
  46. ^ Y Harari, Sapiens (London 2011) p. 368-71
  47. ^ P. King, The Philosophy Book (London 2011) p. 199-200
  48. ^ Y Harari, Sapiens (London 2011) p. 390
  49. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 50
  50. ^ M Hardt ed., The Jameson Reader (Oxford 2000) p. 47-50 and p. 277-8
  51. ^ E H Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 2 (Penguin 1971) p. 11
  52. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (1917). "The State and Revolution". Lenin Internet Archive at Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  53. ^ E H Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 2 (Penguin 1971) p. 15-6
  54. ^ Marx, Karl. Critique of the Gotha Programme.
  55. ^ Quoted in E H Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 2 (Penguin 1971) p. 13
  56. ^ Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (1871). "The Civil War in France". Marx/Engels Archive at Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  57. ^ Quoted in E H Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 2 (Penguin 1971) p. 12

Further reading

  • Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism.
  • Perry Anderson, Lineages of the Absolutist State.
  • G.E.M. De Ste Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests.
  • Chris Harman, A People's History of the World.
  • Barry Hindess & Paul Q. Hirst, Pre-capitalist modes of production. London: Routledge, 1975.
  • Lawrence Krader, The Asiatic Mode of Production; Sources, Development and Critique in the Writings of Karl Marx.
  • Ernest Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory.
  • Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View.
  • George Novack, Understanding History: Marxist Essays.
  • Fritjof Tichelman, The Social Evolution of Indonesia: The Asiatic Mode of Production and its Legacy.
  • W.M.J. van Binsbergen & P.L. Geschiere, ed., Old Modes of Production and Capitalist Encroachment.
  • Charles Woolfson, The Labour Theory of Culture.
  • Harold Wolpe, ed. The articulation of modes of production.
  • Michael Perelman, Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property Rights and the Corporate Confiscation of Creativity.
Asiatic mode of production

The theory of the Asiatic mode of production (AMP) was devised by Karl Marx around the early 1850s. The essence of the theory has been described as "[the] suggestion ... that Asiatic societies were held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities".Karl Marx stressed that the Asiatic mode of production differed from all other modes of production. In his famous and widely quoted articles on India written between 1852 and 1858 he outlined basic characteristics of Asiatic mode that prevailed in India. In these articles he drew sketch of society by arguing that handloom, spinning wheel, and union between agriculture and manufacturing were the basis of Indian society before it was uprooted by British steam and science. He also described that all kinds of invasions, conquests, and famines etc. remained on its surface and never penetrated within foundations of society. Thus despite of many invasions occurred in almost three millennia but all the invading tribes and dynasties were not able to destroy its basic structure rather were absorbed by the rich culture and fertility of this land.

The theory continues to arouse heated discussion among contemporary Marxists and non-Marxists alike. Some have rejected the whole concept on the grounds that the socio-economic formations of pre-capitalist Asia did not differ enough from those of feudal Europe to warrant special designation.

Aside from Marx, Friedrich Engels was also an enthusiastic commentator on the AMP. They both focused on the socio-economic base of AMP society. Leon Trotsky in his writings on China, contradicted the idea of ‘Chinese feudalism’ rather resembled with AMP.

Capitalist mode of production

Capitalist mode of production may refer to:

Capitalist mode of production (Marxist theory)

Capitalism#As a mode of production

Capitalist mode of production (Marxist theory)

In Karl Marx's critique of political economy and subsequent Marxian analyses, the capitalist mode of production refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution within capitalist societies. Private money-making in various forms (renting, banking, merchant trade, production for profit and so on) preceded the development of the capitalist mode of production as such. The capitalist mode of production proper, based on wage-labour and private ownership of the means of production and on industrial technology, began to grow rapidly in Western Europe from the Industrial Revolution, later extending to most of the world.The capitalist mode of production is characterized by private ownership of the means of production, extraction of surplus value by the owning class for the purpose of capital accumulation, wage-based labour and—at least as far as commodities are concerned—being market-based.

Central Committee

Central Committee is the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the 20th century and of the surviving communist states in the 21st century. In such party organizations the committee would typically be made up of delegates elected at a party congress. In those states where it constituted the state power, the Central Committee made decisions for the party between congresses, and usually was (at least nominally) responsible for electing the Politburo. In non-ruling Communist parties, the Central Committee is usually understood by the party membership to be the ultimate decision-making authority between Congresses once the process of democratic centralism has led to an agreed-upon position.

Non-communist organizations are also governed by Central Committees, such as the right-wing Likud party in Israel, the Mennonite Church and Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (to war). In the United States the two major parties are administered by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee; these act as the leading bodies of those organizations at the national/administrative level, as well as local committees in a similar capacity within the local Democratic or Republican governments of individual counties and states.


In political and social sciences, communism (from Latin communis, "common, universal") is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.Communism includes a variety of schools of thought, which broadly include Marxism and anarchism (anarcho-communism), as well as the political ideologies grouped around both. All of these share the analysis that the current order of society stems from its economic system, capitalism; that in this system there are two major social classes; that conflict between these two classes is the root of all problems in society; and that this situation will ultimately be resolved through a social revolution.

The two classes are the working class—who must work to survive and who make up the majority within society—and the capitalist class—a minority who derives profit from employing the working class through private ownership of the means of production.

The revolution will put the working class in power and in turn establish social ownership of the means of production, which according to this analysis is the primary element in the transformation of society towards communism.

Critics of communism can be roughly divided into those concerning themselves with the practical aspects of 20th century communist states and those concerning themselves with communist principles and theory.Marxism-Leninism and democratic socialism were the two dominant forms of socialism in the 20th century; democratic socialism advocates economic reform through gradual democratic legislative action rather than through revolution.

Das Kapital

Das Kapital, also called Capital. A Critique of Political Economy (German: Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, pronounced [das kapiˈtaːl kʁɪˈtiːk deːɐ poˈliːtɪʃən økonomˈiː]; 1867–1883) by Karl Marx is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics and politics. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. While Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Das Kapital is the most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950.

Europe and the People Without History

Europe and the People Without History is a book by anthropologist Eric Wolf. First published in 1982, it focuses on the expansion of European societies in the modern era. "Europe and the people without history" is history written on a global scale, tracing the connections between communities, regions, peoples and nations that are usually treated as discrete subjects.

Feudal fascism

Feudal fascism, also revolutionary-feudal totalitarianism, were official terms used by the post-Mao Zedong Communist Party of China to designate the ideology and rule of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution.

Historical materialism

Historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, is a methodology used by some communist and Marxist historiographers that focuses on human societies and their development through history, arguing that history is the result of material conditions rather than ideas. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the "materialist conception of history." It is principally a theory of history which asserts that the material conditions of a society's mode of production or in Marxist terms, the union of a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Historical materialism is an example of Marx and Engel's scientific socialism, attempting to show that socialism and communism are scientific necessities rather than philosophical ideals.Historical materialism is materialist as it does not believe that history has been driven by individual's consciousness or ideals, but rather ascribes to the philosophical monism that matter is the fundamental substance of nature and henceforth the driving force in all of world history; this drove Marx and other historical materialists to abandon ideas such as rights (e.g. "right to life, liberty, and property" as liberalism professed). In contrast, idealists believe that human consciousness creates reality rather than the materialist conception that material reality creates human consciousness. This put Marx in direct conflict with groups like the liberals who believed that reality was governed by some set of ideals, when he stated in The German Ideology: "Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence".Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life. It posits that social classes and the relationship between them, along with the political structures and ways of thinking in society, are founded on and reflect contemporary economic activity. Since Marx's time, the theory has been modified and expanded by some writers. It now has many Marxist and non-Marxist variants. Many Marxists contend that historical materialism is a scientific approach to the study of history: scientific socialism.

Marx's theory of alienation

Karl Marx's theory of alienation describes the estrangement (Entfremdung) of people from aspects of their Gattungswesen ("species-essence") as a consequence of living in a society of stratified social classes. The alienation from the self is a consequence of being a mechanistic part of a social class, the condition of which estranges a person from their humanity.

The theoretical basis of alienation within the capitalist mode of production is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine life and destiny when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define relationships with other people; and to own those items of value from goods and services, produced by their own labour. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realized human being, as an economic entity this worker is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie—who own the means of production—in order to extract from the worker the maximum amount of surplus value in the course of business competition among industrialists.

In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (1932), Karl Marx expressed the Entfremdung theory—of estrangement from the self. Philosophically, the theory of Entfremdung relies upon The Essence of Christianity (1841) by Ludwig Feuerbach which states that the idea of a supernatural god has alienated the natural characteristics of the human being. Moreover, Max Stirner extended Feuerbach's analysis in The Ego and its Own (1845) that even the idea of "humanity" is an alienating concept for individuals to intellectually consider in its full philosophic implication. Marx and Friedrich Engels responded to these philosophic propositions in The German Ideology (1845).


Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Marxism uses a methodology, now known as historical materialism, to analyze and critique the development of class society and especially of capitalism as well as the role of class struggles in systemic economic, social, and political change. According to Marxist theory, in capitalist societies, class conflict arises due to contradictions between the material interests of the oppressed and exploited proletariat—a class of wage labourers employed to produce goods and services—and the bourgeoisie—the ruling class that owns the means of production and extracts its wealth through appropriation of the surplus product produced by the proletariat in the form of profit.

This class struggle that is commonly expressed as the revolt of a society's productive forces against its relations of production, results in a period of short-term crises as the bourgeoisie struggle to manage the intensifying alienation of labor experienced by the proletariat, albeit with varying degrees of class consciousness. In periods of deep crisis, the resistance of the oppressed can culminate in a proletarian revolution which, if victorious, leads to the establishment of socialism—a socioeconomic system based on social ownership of the means of production, distribution based on one's contribution and production organized directly for use. As the productive forces continued to advance, Marx hypothesized that socialism would ultimately be transformed into a communist society: a classless, stateless, humane society based on common ownership and the underlying principle: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs".

Marxism has developed into many different branches and schools of thought, with the result that there is now no single definitive Marxist theory. Different Marxian schools place a greater emphasis on certain aspects of classical Marxism while rejecting or modifying other aspects. Many schools of thought have sought to combine Marxian concepts and non-Marxian concepts, which has then led to contradicting conclusions. However, lately there is movement toward the recognition that historical materialism and dialectical materialism remains the fundamental aspect of all Marxist schools of thought. Marxism has had a profound impact on global academia and has influenced many fields such as archaeology, anthropology, media studies, political science, theater, history, sociology, art history and theory, cultural studies, education, economics, ethics, criminology, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, film theory, critical psychology and philosophy.

Means of labor

Means of labor is a concept in Marxist political economy that refers to "all those things with the aid of which man acts upon the subject of his labor, and transforms it." (Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., 1957) Means of labor include tools and machinery (the "instruments of production"), as well as buildings and land used for production purposes and infrastructure like roads and communications networks and so forth. Labor, Itself defines "work, especially hard physical work."

The means of labor are one of three basic factors of the production process (Marx, 1967, p 174), along with human labor, and the subject of labor (the material worked on).

In some formulations, the means of labor and human labor (including the activity itself, as well as the skills and knowledge brought to the production process) comprise the productive forces of society (e.g., Sheptulin, 1978), other formulations define productive forces more narrowly as the union of instruments of production and the workers who wield them (e.g., Institute of Economics, 1957).

Means of production

In economics and sociology, the means of production (also called capital goods) are physical and non-financial inputs used in the production of economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services. In the terminology of classical economics, the means of production are the "factors of production" minus financial and human capital.

The social means of production are capital goods and assets that require organized collective labor effort, as opposed to individual effort, to operate on. The ownership and organization of the social means of production is a key factor in categorizing and defining different types of economic systems.

The means of production includes two broad categories of objects: instruments of labor (tools, factories, infrastructure, etc.) and subjects of labor (natural resources and raw materials). People operate on the subjects of labor using the instruments of labor to create a product; or stated another way, labor acting on the means of production creates a good. In an agrarian society the principal means of production is the soil and the shovel. In an industrial society the means of production become social means of production and include factories and mines. In a knowledge economy, computers and networks are means of production. In a broad sense, the "means of production" also includes the "means of distribution" such as stores, the internet and railroads (Infrastructural capital).


The proletariat ( from Latin proletarius "producing offspring") is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power (how much work they can do). A member of such a class is a proletarian.

In Marxist theory, a dictatorship of the proletariat is for the proletariat, of the proletariat, and by the proletariat. On the Marxist view, this will endow the proletarian with the power to abolish the conditions that make a person a proletarian and, thus, build communism.

Relations of production

Relations of production (German: Produktionsverhältnisse) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in Das Kapital. It is first explicitly used in Marx's published book The Poverty of Philosophy, although Marx and Engels had already defined the term in The German Ideology.

Some social relations are voluntary and freely chosen (a person chooses to associate with another person or a group). But other social relations are involuntary, i.e. people can be socially related, whether they like that or not, because they are part of a family, a group, an organization, a community, a nation etc.

By "relations of production", Marx and Engels meant the sum total of social relationships that people must enter into in order to survive, to produce, and to reproduce their means of life. As people must enter into these social relationships, i.e. because participation in them is not voluntary, the totality of these relationships constitute a relatively stable and permanent structure, the "economic structure" or mode of production.

The term "relations of production" is somewhat vague, for two main reasons:

The German word Verhältnis can mean "relation", "proportion", or "ratio". Thus, the relationships could be qualititative, quantitative, or both. Which meaning applies can only be established from the context.

The relations to which Marx refers can be social relationships, economic relationships, or technological relationships.Marx and Engels typically use the term to refer to the socioeconomic relationships characteristic of a specific epoch; for example: a capitalist's exclusive relationship to a capital good, and a wage worker's consequent relation to the capitalist; a feudal lord's relationship to a fief, and the serf's consequent relation to the lord; a slavemaster's relationship to their slave; etc. It is contrasted with and also affected by what Marx called the forces of production.

Scientific socialism

Scientific socialism is a term coined in 1840 by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his What is Property? to mean a society ruled by a scientific government, i.e. one whose sovereignty rests upon reason, rather than sheer will: Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is inversely proportional to the stage of intellectual development which that society has reached; and the probable duration of that authority can be calculated from the more or less general desire for a true government, — that is, for a scientific government. And just as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat before the steady advance of justice, and must finally be extinguished in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields to the sovereignty of the reason, and must at last be lost in scientific socialism.

Later in 1880, Friedrich Engels used the term to describe Karl Marx's social-political-economic theory.

Although the term socialism has come to mean specifically a combination of political and economic science, it is also applicable to a broader area of science encompassing what is now considered sociology and the humanities. The distinction between Utopian and scientific socialism originated with Marx, who criticized the Utopian characteristics of French socialism and English and Scottish political economy. Engels later argued that Utopian socialists failed to recognize why it was that socialism arose in the historical context that it did, that it arose as a response to new social contradictions of a new mode of production, i.e. capitalism. In recognizing the nature of socialism as the resolution of this contradiction and applying a thorough scientific understanding of capitalism, Engels asserted that socialism had broken free from a primitive state and become a science. This shift in socialism was seen as complementary to shifts in contemporary biology sparked by Charles Darwin and the understanding of evolution by natural selection—Marx and Engels saw this new understanding of biology as essential to the new understanding of socialism and vice versa.

Similar methods for analyzing social and economic trends and involving socialism as a product of socioeconomic evolution have also been used by non-Marxist theoreticians, such as Joseph Schumpeter and Thorstein Veblen.

Single-camera setup

The single-camera setup, or single-camera mode of production, also known as Portable Single Camera, is a method of filmmaking and video production.

The single-camera setup originally developed during the birth of the classical Hollywood cinema in the 1910s and has remained the standard mode of production for cinema; in television, both single cameras and multiple-camera productions are common.

Socialist mode of production

In Marxist theory, the socialist mode of production, also referred to as lower-stage of communism or simply socialism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that emerge from capitalism in the schema of historical materialism. The Marxist definition of socialism is an economic transition where the sole criterion for production is use-value and therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning while distribution of products is based on the principle of "to each according to his contribution". The social relations of socialism are characterized by the proletariat effectively controlling the means of production, either through cooperative enterprises or by public ownership or private artisanal tools and self-management so that social surplus goes to the working class and hence society as a whole.The Marxian conception of socialism stands in contrast to other early conceptions of socialism, most notably early forms of market socialism based on classical economics such as mutualism and Ricardian socialism. Unlike the Marxian conception, these conceptions of socialism retained commodity exchange (markets) for labour and the means of production seeking to perfect the market process. The Marxist idea of socialism was also heavily opposed to utopian socialism. Although Marx and Engels wrote very little on socialism and neglected to provide any details on how it might be organized, numerous social scientists and neoclassical economists have used Marx's theory as a basis for developing their own models of socialist economic systems. The Marxist view of socialism served as a point of reference during the socialist calculation debate.

Marx himself did not use the term socialism to refer to this development, but he rather called it a communist society that has not yet reached its higher-stage. The term socialism in reference to this societal organization was popularized during the Russian Revolution by Vladimir Lenin. This view is consistent with and helped to inform early conceptions of socialism where the law of value no longer directs economic activity and therefore monetary relations in the form of exchange-value, profit, interest and wage labour would not operate and apply to Marxist socialism.

World revolution

World revolution is the Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. These revolutions would not necessarily occur simultaneously, but where and when local conditions allowed a revolutionary party to successfully replace bourgeois ownership and rule, and install a workers' state based on social ownership of the means of production. In most Marxist schools, such as Trotskyism, the essentially international character of the class struggle and the necessity of global scope are critical elements and a chief explanation of the failure of socialism in one country.

The end goal of such internationally oriented revolutionary socialism is to achieve world socialism, and later, stateless communism.

Marxist phraseology and terminology
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