Material Production, Sphere of

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Material Production, Sphere of


the economic sphere that embraces all the branches of material production in which material goods are created for the satisfaction of certain human needs, both personal and social. The differences between the sphere of material production and the nonproduction sphere are fundamental. A clear distinction between the various branches of the sphere of material production and all other types of activity is essential, for otherwise the volume of the total social product and national income cannot be correctly determined.

National income is generated in the various branches of material production. In the socialist countries, it is calculated on the basis of production data for the various branches of the sphere of material production. Expenditures for the upkeep of the nonproduction sphere are made at the cost of the surplus product created by the labor of workers in the sphere of material production—first, through the state budget (for example, for such activities as education, public health, and administration) and, second, at the cost of the personal incomes of the working people, who in exchange for part of their income receive a special use value—services.

The labor of workers employed in the sphere of material production is productive labor.

Soviet statistics include, within the sphere of material production, industry, agriculture, forestry, construction, transportation and communications (that part that provides services to material production), trade and public catering, material and technical supply and marketing, procurement, and other branches of material production, such as publishing, motion pictures, sound recording, designing, the procurement of scrap metal and other usable waste, hunting, and the harvesting and primary processing of wild plants, fruits, mushrooms, seeds, and grasses.

In the other socialist countries, the system used to classify the various branches of the sphere of material production has certain unique features, which have to do primarily with the inclusion within material production of those forms of activity that are services for consumers but that possess the features typical of productive labor. In some socialist countries, for example, the sphere of material production includes not only freight transport but also passenger transport and communications that provide services to the populace. In order to obtain comparable data, therefore, the Classification of Branches of the National Economy of Member Countries of COMECON, adopted in 1966, classifies passenger transport and all communications as material production.

Science is a special case. With the scientific and technological revolution, science is becoming a key production factor and a direct productive force. Scientific activity lies within the nonmaterial sphere; however, its basic achievements are introduced into production, changing the qualitative and quantitative makeup of the means of production and thus assuring growth in the productive forces of society. Only some scientific activity is included in the sphere of material production—namely, that portion of scientific activity that the labor of scientific workers embodies in material goods: product-designing and project-making organizations, comprehensive and sectoral agricultural stations, experimental and test-production stations attached to the scientific institutions that produce commodity output, experimental industrial enterprises, and a series of scientific institutions that provide services directly to production activity. These facilities are distributed throughout the appropriate branches of the sphere of material production—for example, biological stations and biological laboratories that provide services to agriculture, forest soil laboratories, designing and surveying organizations that provide services to construction, and organizations involved in deep exploratory drilling for petroleum and natural gas.

Bourgeois economics makes no distinction between the sphere of material production and the nonproduction sphere. The capitalist countries, therefore, calculate national income as the sum of personal incomes received in both spheres of activity, in so doing treating the labor of military personnel, police, and government workers and the activities of religious organizations as productive labor. This scheme of classification makes it possible to conceal the exploitative character of the structure of society.

The makeup of the various branches in the national economy is by no means static. As a result of the development of material production, technical progress, and the social division of labor, new branches of the national economy come into being, and the relationship between the sphere of material production and the nonproduction sphere change.


Marx, K. Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti (vol. 4 of Kapital). In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 1.
Kvasha, Ia. B. “O granitsakh material’nogo proizvodstva.” Uch. zap. po statistike, 1961, vol. 6.
Medvedev, V. A. Obshchestvennoe proizvodstvo i sfera uslug. Moscow, 1968.
Gur’ev, V. I. Klassifikatsiia otraslei narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR. Moscow, 1971.


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