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production, in economics, all those activities that have to do with the creation of commodities, by imparting to raw materials utility, added value, or the ability to satisfy human wants. The farmer who grows wheat, the miller who grinds the wheat into flour, and the baker who transforms flour into bread are examples of producers who, each in his own way, impart utility to a natural or partially processed material. Production was the major thrust of industry until at least the beginning of the 20th cent., when sales and marketing began to be considered equally important in the transference of commodities from producers to consumers. Today, the prevailing mode of production is called mass production, with cottage industry accounting for only a minor portion of the market in most areas of the world.
Many historians place the beginnings of mass production around 1800, with Eli Whitney's firearms factory approximating the labor process of modern industrial production. The mass production method, generally involving the piecing together of standardized, interchangeable parts by a number of workers, reached its apex in the automobile manufacturing of the early 20th cent. Increasing automation, with attendant increases in the division of labor, allowed manufacturers to hire unskilled or semiskilled labor, which would repeatedly perform small tasks in the ultimate production of a commodity. Hence, mass production often took the form of an assembly line, in which a continuous flow of products moves steadily forward toward completion.
For most kinds of production in modern society, large amounts of capital in the form of machinery are required. Equally essential are land and its natural resources, from which the raw materials are obtained, and labor, which, with the aid of capital, extracts and transforms the raw materials. To these three primary factors of production is sometimes added a fourth: the entrepreneur who organizes the forces of production and assumes the risks. Since under capitalism production is for a market, an important function of the entrepreneur is to anticipate as accurately as possible the economic demands for goods and to produce the kind and quantity of goods that will meet that demand. In order to meet the great expenses of mass production, particularly the capital necessary in most industries, groups of speculators often take on the risks of production, and the individual entrepreneur has become less significant.
Another late 20th-century trend has been toward greater computerization of the production process; increasingly, computers are not only being integrated into the machinery of production but are replacing much of the human labor as well. Computerization has made assembly lines faster and more accurate and has given them more flexibility. Through computerized instructions, the design and manufacture of many mass-produced products can easily be modified to suit the needs of the individual customer.
(material production), the process of creating the material goods necessary for the existence and development of society; the transformation and “acquisition of the objects of nature by an individual within the limits of and by means of a certain social form” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 12, p. 713).
Production, which is a natural condition of human life and the material basis for other types of activity, exists in all the stages of development of human society. The content of production determines the process of labor, which presupposes three aspects: a purposeful activity, or labor itself; an object of labor, or something at which purposeful human activity is directed; and the means of labor, especially the instruments of labor—the machines, equipment, and tools by which man transforms the objects of labor, adapting them to satisfy his needs. The products of material production are material goods—a combination of a natural substance and labor.
Material goods satisfy the needs of man and society directly, as means of subsistence and as consumer goods, and indirectly, as means of production. Consumer goods, which are used only for personal consumption, satisfy people’s natural needs for food, clothing, and housing, as well as their cultural and intellectual needs. The means of production, which include the objects and means of labor, are used only for productive consumption.
Material production differs from other types of human activity, including nonmaterial production. The main criterion of material production is its effect on nature through the means of labor.
Production is primarily an attitude of people toward nature, but people do not produce material goods in isolation. They create them jointly, entering into certain production relations. Thus, the production of material goods is always social production. There are two aspects of production: the productive forces and production relations. The productive forces express society’s relationship to natural forces and objects, the mastery of which provides people with material goods. The term “production relations” means the relationship of people to each other in production. Viewed as an entity consisting of the productive forces and the production relations, production is the mode of producing material goods, which determines the character of a particular society.
Social production encompasses the direct process of producing material goods, as well as the exchange, distribution, and consumption of these goods. Dialectical relationships and mutual interactions are characteristic of this entity, but production has primacy over the other elements. Bourgeois political economy separates the elements of social production as a whole, isolating distribution from production, for example. Criticizing bourgeois economists, Marx wrote: “Distribution in the most superficial sense operates as the distribution of products and, therefore, seems remote from production and supposedly independent of it. However, before distribution is the distribution of products, it is (1) the distribution of the instruments of production, and (2) what is a further definition of the same relation—the distribution of the members of society in the various types of production” (ibid., vol. 12, p. 722). Marx emphasized that this type of distribution, which is the initial aspect of production, determines the distribution of the products of labor.
Social production consists of two major subdivisions: the production of the means of production (subdivision I) and the production of consumer goods (subdivision II; see). Production develops in accordance with the operation of objective economic laws, of which the determining one is the basic economic law inherent in each mode of production. Capitalist production, which is based on private ownership of the means of production and on the exploitation of wage labor by capital, develops in conformity with spontaneously operating economic laws. It is interrupted by economic crises and is subordinate to the aim of extracting the maximum profit, which is taken by the capitalists.
In socialist society, production is based on social ownership of the means of production and develops rapidly in conformity with a plan. Under socialism, the aims of production are the satisfaction of the ever-increasing material and cultural needs of all members of society and the comprehensive development of the individual.
According to the conventional classification, in the USSR material production includes many sectors of the national economy: industry, agriculture, forestry, water management, freight transportation, communications serving the enterprises of the production sphere, construction, trade and public catering, material and technical supply and marketing, and procurements. Sectors such as trade and public catering, as well as material and technical supply and marketing, are considered part of material production because they involve primarily production operations.
Modern production is developing under the conditions of the scientific and technological revolution, the chief effect of which is automation, or the transfer of the functions of control to machines. As a result, the technical basis of production rises to a qualitatively new level, and it is freed from virtually all restrictions, which are associated with the natural potential of the labor force. Consequently, automation ensures an unlimited growth of labor productivity. It also radically changes man’s role in production, as well as the character of his labor. Labor shifts from direct involvement in the process of production to the functions of control and regulation. “Instead of being the chief agent of the production process, the worker stands next to it” (ibid., vol. 46, part 2, p. 213). The scientific and technological revolution also means a change in the energy basis for production and in the character of the objects of labor. In modern production, science has become a direct productive force.
REFERENCESMarx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Marx, K. Iz rukopisnogo nasledstva, ibid., vol. 12.
Metodicheskie ukazaniia k sostavleniiu gosudarstvennogo plana razvitiia narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR. Moscow, 1969.
Kiperman, G. Ia. Klassifikatsiia otraslei narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR. Moscow, 1964.
Zapol’skaia, V. V. Neproizvodstvennaia sfera v SSSR i perspektivy ee dal’-neishego razvitiia. Voronezh, 1966.
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Solodkov, M. V., T. D. Poliakova, and L. N. Ovsiannikov. Teoreticheskie problemy uslug i neproizvodstvennoi sfery pri sotsializme. Moscow, 1972.
M. V. SOLODKOV