Necessary Product

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Necessary Product


the portion of social product created by workers engaged in material production that is necessary for the normal reproduction of their physical and cultural capacities and those of their families, given existing socioeconomic conditions. The time required to produce necessary product is called necessary labor-time, and the labor expended during this time is called necessary labor.

Necessary product can be measured both as aggregate social product and as the proportion established within the latter between necessary product and surplus product. In social formations where class relations are antagonistic, the latter measure is exploitative, as the ruling classes try to enlarge surplus product by intensifying exploitation of the worker and reducing necessary product. Under the slaveholding system and feudalism, the amount of necessary product was determined by the low level of labor productivity and by actual relations of exploitation, while the dominance of a natural economy limited surplus labor, and thus surplus product, to a more or less narrow range of needs (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 247).

The goal inherent in the development of capitalist production is the creation and acquisition of surplus value. Capitalists try to reduce the level of necessary product required to reproduce labor-power as a commodity and in this way to enlarge surplus product. With the development of capitalism, a decrease in the relative share of necessary product within aggregate social product is caused by the rising productivity of social labor. This holds primarily for the consumer goods sector, but also for the production of the means of production used in the consumer goods sector. But alongside such factors leading toward a decrease in the proportion of necessary product, opposing tendencies also appear, including above all the struggle of the working class in capitalist countries for increased wages and social rights. The growing intensification of labor makes it necessary to increase expenditures intended to compensate for additional exertions of physical, emotional, and mental energy by the worker. Finally, under conditions of the present-day scientific and technological revolution, expenditures for raising the educational level and vocational-technical training of the working class also rise.

Under socialism, with planned social production and social ownership, the antagonism between necessary and surplus product is eliminated. The reproduction of necessary product is not restricted to the needs of reproducing labor-power but is subordinate instead to the goal of comprehensive development of the cultural and physical capacities of the workers. One part of necessary product is distributed for consumption according to work, while the other is allocated through social consumption funds in the form of additional payments and services. Necessary product is thus expended for individual needs, such as food and clothing, and in the form of collective consumption, such as schools, libraries, and medical institutions.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, chs. 8, 9. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3, chs. 1, 9, 10. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2.
Marx, K. Kritika Gotskoi program my. Ibid., vol. 19.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring, sec. 3, ch. 4. Ibid., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. Zamechaniia na vtoroi proekt program my Plekhanova. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 232.
Lenin, V. I. K chetyrekhletnei godovshchine Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Ibid., vol. 44.


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