Marx’s ideas on modes of production

Karl Marx was a German philosopher and sociologist. Besides, he mastered many other subjects like economics, political theory, history, etc.

In Marxism, the mode of production is a very important concept. It refers to the way in which a society is organized so as to produce goods and services. It is composed of two main aspects: forces of production which refers to the elements used in producing anything (land, raw material, labor, machinery, and capital) and relations of production which refers to the relationship between people as well as people’s relationship with the forces of production out of which crucial decisions regarding what is to be done with the output is determined. In Marxist theory, this concept was used to depict the differences among the economies of various societies.

  • Marx and Friedrich Engles (another German philosopher) considered hunter-gatherers to be a form of primitive communism wherein people would produce together and share the output among themselves equally.
  • Then was the Asiatic mode of production which comprised of the premier form of a society wherein classes (a tussle between the people who have lands and those that don’t) existed. This can be observed in many societies (until recent past) where rich landlords let tenants work on their lands and take a lot of the produce as rent.
  • Next came slavery (which was seen in the Greek and Roman city-states). There was the development of the feudal mode of production wherein the mercantile class was served by slaves (or serfs) who neither had incomes nor any upward mobility. Slavery can be seen during the colonial rule of the British who carried slaves from Africa to the USA in order to develop the production there.
  • And then developed Capitalism (due to the industrial revolution) in which people demand wages for all the labor they had been providing until then. Capitalism is such an economic system wherein private players own the means of production and they are incentivized to maximize the amount of money they earn through competing with other firms. Some capitalist countries include Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. Marx quotes the following on capitalism:

“Workers could be liberated from this experience by seizing the means of production”

  • Marx observed that the protests and revolutions led by the working class will pave the way to a communist society wherein everyone works together and distribute the products among themselves. This society stresses on the welfare of the masses in sectors like health care, housing, education, etc.

“Capitalism would be replaced by a socialistic collective where all were equal in ownership and rewards of products.”

Marx made use of this concept to explain the economic systems that could probably exist at any point in time. He also used it to mention Historical materialism (which says the structure of the society and its historical progress are determined by the material conditions of life or through their mode of production).


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