Fundamental Economic Law

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fundamental Economic Law


the law of the motion and operation of the economy of a socioeconomic formation. The fundamental economic law expresses the particular, historically determined character and mode of the connection between the direct producers and the means of production within the framework of a given socioeconomic formation, the fundamental relation of production corresponding to the particular stage of development of the productive forces, and the social form of the production and appropriation of the surplus product and the necessary product. Thus, the fundamental economic law reflects the chief goals, motive forces, and fundamental processes of development in social production under a given system of production relations. In exploitative social formations the essence of the fundamental economic law is characterized primarily by the social form of surplus labor, which is appropriated by the ruling classes. In nonexploitative social formations, it is characterized by the social form of labor and leisure time necessary for the reproduction and development of the toiling masses.

The fundamental relation of production and the fundamental economic law determine the entire character of a mode of production, unite all the economic laws of a particular formation into a single stable system, and constitute the basis of the formation’s political structure and the most essential element in its social structure, whether it is a class structure or a classless one. In its transmuted forms the fundamental economic law serves as a regulator of social production and consequently, of the distribution, exchange, and consumption of material and cultural values in a particular society. It expresses the fundamental tendencies of a society’s development. The manifestations of the fundamental economic law differ at every stage in the development of a social formation, reflecting the dialectics of the fundamental relation of production, as well as the contradictions within a social formation.

In primitive society, before there was a stable, permanent surplus product, the fundamental relation of production between the group (clan, tribe, community, or family) and each of its members was characterized by a collective form of production and consumption.

The fundamental economic laws of the slaveholding, feudal, and capitalist formations are shaped by the antagonistic production relations between slave and master, serf and lord, and wage laborer and capitalist. Under these circumstances social progress is, to a great extent, achieved at the price of enslavement, exploitation, and oppression; deteriorating conditions; and sometimes the outright degradation and destruction of individuals, entire social strata, and national groups. In such social formations the fundamental economic law, as the law of motion of the society, is expressed with increasing force through the class struggle. The development and functioning of the communist social formation are governed by a fundamental economic law that is new in principle—the fundamental economic law of socialism.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, pp. 10, 229.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 2. Ibid., vol. 24, pp. 43–44.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2, pp. 354, 452.
Marx, K. Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti (vol. 4, Das Kapital). Ibid., vol. 46, part 1, pp. 26–36, 43, 476, 478–82; vol. 46, part 2, pp. 33–35, 154–55, 216–17.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20, p. 324.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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