mode of production

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mode of production

(MARXISM) a particular combination of a specific set of RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION and FORCES OF PRODUCTION to form an historically specific way of organizing economic production. In recent years this has been an important concept for structuralist Marxists influenced by ALTHUSSER. See FEUDAL MODE OF PRODUCTION, ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION, PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM, CAPITALISM, MARX.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mode of Production


the historically determined method of producing the material goods required by man for productive use and personal consumption; the mode of production represents the unity of productive forces and production relations.

The two aspects of the mode of production are joined in an inner reciprocity. Productive forces are predominant, since the character of production relations depends on the level of development of productive forces. Changes in property relations, in the character of the relationship between the labor force and the means of production, in the forms assumed by the relations between producers, in the class structure of society, and in the motivations and goals of economic activity—changes that are specific to each mode of production—are ultimately dictated by the development of productive forces, which themselves reflect the degree of man’s dominion over nature.

The mode of production is decisive for the conditions of the life of society. “The mode of production of material life,” noted Marx, “conditions the social, political, and intellectual life in general” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13, p. 7). A certain superstructure takes shape in dependence on the existing mode of production. The history of human society has known five modes of production: the primitive-communal mode of production, the slaveholding mode of production, the feudal mode of production, the capitalist mode of production, and the communist mode of production (the first phase of which is socialism). The question of whether it is correct to distinguish an Asiatic mode of production is debated in Marxist literature.

The interrelationship between the two aspects of social production and the dependence of the character of production relations on the level of development of productive forces are expressed in the law of correspondence between production relations and the character and level of development of the productive forces; this law explains the succession of historically determined modes of production. Production relations, which are a form of the development of productive forces, in turn actively influence productive forces, either accelerating or slowing their progress. Moreover, the interaction of productive forces and production relations is subject to the reciprocal influence by the superstructure (seeBASE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE), which is possessed of a relative independence.

At a certain stage of development, productive forces come into conflict with production relations. Within certain limits, production relations have the capability to adapt, within the framework of a given mode of production, to the requirements of the productive forces, without change in their own qualitative distinctiveness. However, such adaptation is achieved at the expense of growing inner contradictions within the existing mode of production, in which the material preconditions of the new social order are taking shape and the social forces capable of carrying out fundamental socioeconomic transformation are growing. In a class-antagonistic mode of production, the conflict between productive forces and production relations leads, as a result of social revolutions, to the replacement of one mode of production by another.

The communist mode of production affirms the planned organization of production on the basis of the predominance of public property. Thus are opened possibilities for limitless improvement of productive forces and increases in the effectiveness of social production. The contradictions that arise under socialism between the growth of productive forces and production relations are by no means antagonistic; such contradictions are resolved through improved production relations achieved through the conscious management of social processes.


Marx, K. Naemnyi trud i kapital. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 6.
Marx, K. Iz ekonomicheskoi rukopisi 1857–1858 godov. (Introduction.) Ibid., vol. 12.
Marx, K. K kritikepoliticheskoi ekonomii. (Foreword.) Ibid., vol. 13.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20, sec. 2, ch. 1; sec. 3.
Lenin, V. I. Chto takoe “druz’ia naroda” i kak oni voiuiut protiv sot-sial-demokratov? Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1.
Lenin, V. I. Ekonomicheskoe soderzhanie narodnichestva i kritika ego v kn. g. Struve. Ibid.
Kronrod. Ia. A. Zakony politicheskoi ekonomii solsializma. Moscow, 1966.
Kuz’minov, I. I. Ocherki politicheskoi ekonomii solsializma. Moscow, 1971.
Pravotorov, G. B. Stoimostnye kategorii i sposob proizvodstva. Moscow, 1974.


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