Economic Category

Economic Category


a theoretical (abstract) expression of actual production relations. The economic category as a means of reflecting the objective world through a system of scientific concepts was first analyzed scientifically by Marxism. In the methodology of political economy, economic categories are treated as stages in the cognition of production relations; they express phenomena and processes characteristic of each historical stage in the development of social production.

Economic categories form a system comprising three sets of categories: (1) general economic categories characteristic of all modes of production, such as the categories division of labor and necessary product; (2) particular economic categories common to a few modes of production, such as the categories of commodity-money relations—commodity, value, and price; and (3) specific economic categories that pertain to a specific mode of production only, such as the categories feudal rent, capital, surplus value, conformity to plan, or fixed capital.

Economic categories are also differentiated according to degree to which they reflect production relations—that is, whether they express the essence of economic processes or phenomena that are nearer the surface of economic life. Examples are value and price, surplus value and profit, conformity to plan and planning, distribution according to labor, and specific forms of wages.

Economic categories are used in the analysis of the parties specific to social production, which are treated in political economy as an embodiment or personification of objective production relations. In commodity production based on the private ownership of the means of production, a reification of production relations takes place, expressed in commodity fetishism: economic categories create a distorted view of reality in which relations between human beings act as relations between things.

Production relations manifest themselves as economic interests in any society. The scientific delineation and analysis of economic categories presupposes their use in studying the interaction and realization of economic interests in a given society.

Economic categories occupy a prominent place in the cognition and application of economic laws, especially under socialism, in which the spontaneous regulation of production through competition is replaced by the planned and conscious use of economic laws in conjunction with the planned management of the national economy.

Political economy as a science and a course of study develops a total and internally consistent system of economic categories and laws for a given mode of production. It is of great importance to delineate and differentiate the initial and basic economic category; this was done with respect to the analysis of the capitalist mode of production by K. Marx, whose ideas were further developed by V. I. Lenin, notably in his theory of imperialism. Marxist scholars in the socialist countries are engaged in working out the economic categories of socialism.


Marx, K. Nishcheta filosofii. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadiia kapitalizma. Poln. sobr. soch., 5thed., vol. 27.
Rumiantsev, A. M. O kategoriiakh i zakonakh politicheskoi ekonomii kommunisticheskoi formatsii. Moscow, 1965.
O sisteme kategorii i zakonov politicheskoi ekonomii. Edited by N. A. Tsagolov. Moscow, 1973.


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