Mode of Life

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mode of Life


a concept used in the social sciences to characterize the distinctive features of people’s everyday life in a given society.

A mode of life is defined by the essential features of the particular socioeconomic formation. Thus, for example, one speaks of a bourgeois móde of life or a socialist mode of life. Within a given formation, in turn, it is possible to distinguish characteristic features of the mode of life of a given class, of a social stratum, and of the urban or rural population. All the existing social differences in a society—between classes and social strata, city and countryside, people, engaged in mental labor and those who perform physical labor, skilled workers and unskilled workers— are reflected in the modes of life of these people. This provides grounds for speaking of different varieties (or subvarieties) of the mode of life of each society, some of which may even be opposed to each other; for example, under capitalism the parasitic mode of life of the bourgeoisie, especially the rentier, is opposed to the mode of life of the working person and the urban mode of life is opposed to “the idiocy of rural life.”

A mode of life includes conditions and occupations typical of a given society, class, or social stratum. These conditions and occupations derive, above all, from the mode of production. “The mode of production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their lives, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. Hence what individuals are depends on the material conditions of their production” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 19). In a similar sense the classic works of Marxism-Leninism often use the concept “life structure” (uklad zhizni), which can be understood as the totality of objective components of the mode of life.

A mode of life embraces all the essential spheres of human activity: labor and the forms of its social organization, daily life, people’s use of their free time, their participation in political and social life, the forms through which they satisfy their material and intellectual needs, and the norms and rules of behavior that enter into everyday living. Therefore it is not only economic relations that affect the mode of life but also sociopolitical structure, culture, and people’s world views. In turn, people’s modes of life decisively influence their modes of thought.

Mode of life is a sociological category, broader than the economic category “standard of living,” which is expressed primarily in quantitative indicators. The standard of living generally includes the level of wages and the average per capita income, the cost of consumer goods, mean norms of per capita consumption, and so forth. Mode of life embraces not only these quantitative characteristics but also the qualitative characteristics of conditions and occupations of people.

Certain bourgeois sociologists replace the concept of mode of life with that of “style of life,” which they regard as the object of a person’s individual choice. According to the American sociologist A. Toffler, the age of the scientific and technological revolution is characterized by a growing diversity of styles of life. “Thus the stranger launched into American or English or Japanese or Swedish society today must choose not among four or five class-based styles of life, but among literally hundreds of diverse possibilities” (A. Toffler, Future Shock, London, 1970, p. 306). Other bourgeois sociologists assert that the growing uniformity of modes of life (both the rich and the poor supposedly dress alike, smoke the same cigarettes, and so forth) leads to the obliteration of class antagonisms. Hidden behind the external opposition of these viewpoints is an attempt to separate the mode of life from people’s class affiliation. Nonetheless, in a society divided into antagonistic classes, there is not, and cannot be, a unified way of life. In this regard, as V. I. Lenin put it, “every social stratum has its own way of life, its own habits and inclinations” (Poln. sobr. Soch., 5th ed., vol. 25, p. 342).

The deep differences in ways of life consolidate class differentiation. “Insofar as millions of families,” wrote Marx, “live under economic conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests, and their culture from those of the other classes, they form a class” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8, p. 208).

Organic features of the bourgeois mode of life include the profound opposition between the people who own the means of production and those who do not; the opposition between wealth and poverty; exploitation of labor; discrimination by sex, age, and nationality; the constant threat of unemployment, which becomes a reality for some workers; and class and property barriers in obtaining an education. All this engenders uncertainty in the future among working people and abases human dignity. The predominance of private ownership of the means of production and the cultivation of profits and material success as ideals and measures of human beings give rise to individualism, competition, and dissension. Crime, drug addiction, and pornography have assumed threatening dimensions. Another characteristic feature of the bourgeois mode of life is the barring from active participation in public life of the broad masses of working people, who obtain and broaden their democratic rights only in the struggle against capitalism and the monopolies. To the ideologies of consumption inculcated by the propagandists of the bourgeois mode of life, the working class counterposes the struggle for the genuine dignity of the working man, the demands for guaranteed employment, and the possibility of mastering the achievements of science and culture.

The socialist mode of life overcomes and transforms life structures inherited from the past. It is characterized by the predominance of public ownership of property, the emancipation of labor from exploitation, and the unity of the fundamental interests of the working class, peasantry, and intelligentsia of all nations and nationalities. Society develops on the basis of a unified state plan; the socialist economic system guarantees the absence of crises and unemployment. Labor becomes the measure of the honor and worth of a person and dictates his position in society; the right to work and just compensation for work are included among the most important principles of socialist society. Under the conditions of socialism in the USSR, there is a free system of secondary and higher education, and stipends are paid to all undergraduates in good standing. People are guaranteed free medical care. The USSR is first in the world in its supply of medical personnel.

The important differences that still exist under socialism between city and countryside, physical and mental labor, and workers with different skills are being overcome successfully to meet the goal of creating equal opportunities for the development of the abilities of all members of society. An important role is played in this by the growing funds for social consumption. These funds help equalize the conditions necessary for human development, such as the possibility of receiving an education, raising children, protecting one’s health, and utilizing the benefits of culture. The socialist mode of life harmoniously combines the growth of material well-being with the development of people’s intellectual needs and the growth of industrial potential with arrangements for the protection of the environment. It enriches people’s lives immeasurably, permeates life with creative content, and promotes the establishment of new norms and values, such as collectivism, humanism, and internationalism. It condemns disregard for the public good, the striving for gain, avarice, egoism, and philistinism. An active struggle is waged against prejudices and the vestiges of the past. The socialist mode of life is characterized by the perfecting of socialist democracy, the growing role of the broad masses of working people in all spheres of public activity, and the conscious participation of the masses in politics and in the management of all the affairs of the state.

The psychology of people in socialist society is characterized by social optimism, which results from the certainty all have in their future, the mutual concern of the society for each person and each person for the society, and the feeling that one is master of the country.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
But I cannot forget the length of her visit to the Mainwarings, and when I reflect on the different mode of life which she led with them from that to which she must now submit, I can only suppose that the wish of establishing her reputation by following though late the path of propriety, occasioned her removal from a family where she must in reality have been particularly happy.
Write to me in fullest detail, both concerning your mode of life, and concerning the people who live with you, and concerning how you fare with them.
Another cause of a pompous and artificial mode of life, among those who could afford it, was that the example was set by the royal governors.
To this she would reply that unless he changed his mode of life, she would certainly outlive him.
But in spite of his habitually dissipated mode of life, his inferior grade in the service, and his comparative youth, he occupied the honorable and lucrative position of president of one of the government boards at Moscow.
Why have you encouraged me, sir, to an expenditure and mode of life to which we have no right or title?'
"Then tell me, Haidee, do you believe you shall be able to accustom yourself to our present mode of life?"
As for being discontented, a man who would not be discontented with such surroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute.
The outlaws, whom the severity of the forest laws had reduced to this roving and desperate mode of life, were chiefly peasants and yeomen of Saxon descent, and were generally supposed to respect the persons and property of their countrymen.
But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and where the state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the use of such things.
Even those who had heard the most evil things against him-- and from time to time strange rumours about his mode of life crept through London and became the chatter of the clubs-- could not believe anything to his dishonour when they saw him.
'Twas too brief an enjoyment, and La Ramee felt that the gayety of heart he had regarded as the cause of health (of which it was perhaps rather the result) would not long survive such a mode of life.