The Mode Of Production in Marxism

Marxist Theory on Creating Goods and Services

Statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Berlin, Germany
Statue of Karl Marx. Image Source/Getty Images

The mode of production is a central concept in Marxism and is defined as the way a society is organized to produce goods and services. It consists of two major aspects: the forces of production and the relations of production.

The forces of production include all of the elements that are brought together in production – from land, raw material, and fuel to human skill and labor to machinery, tools, and factories. The relations of production include relationships among people and people’s relationships to the forces of production through which decisions are made about what to do with the results.

In Marxist theory, the mode of production concept was used to illustrate the historical differences between different societies' economies, and Karl Marx most commonly commented on Asiatic, slavery/ancient, feudalism, and capitalism.

Karl Marx and Economic Theory

The ultimate end-goal of Marx's economic theory was a post-class society formed around principles of socialism or communism; in either case, the mode of production concept played a key role in understanding the means through which to achieve this goal.

With this theory, Marx differentiated various economies throughout history, documenting what he called historical materialism's "dialectical stages of development." However, Marx failed to be consistent in his invented terminology, resulting in a vast number of synonyms, subsets and related terms to describe the various systems.

All of these names, of course, depended upon the means through which communities obtained and provided necessary goods and services to one another. Therefore relationships between these people became the source of their namesake. Such is the case with communal, independent peasant, state and slave while others operated from a more universal or national standpoint like capitalist, socialist and communist.

Modern Application

Even now, the idea of overthrowing the capitalist system in favor of a communist or socialist one that favors the employee over the company, the citizen over state, and the countryman over country, but it's a hotly contested debate.

To give context to the argument against capitalism, Marx argues that by its very nature, capitalism can be viewed as "a positive, and indeed revolutionary, economic system" who's downfall is its dependence on exploiting and alienating the worker. 

Marx further argued that capitalism is inherently doomed to fail for this very reason: the worker would eventually consider itself oppressed by the capitalist and start a social movement to change the system to a more communist or socialist means of production. However, he warned, "this would occur only if a class-conscious proletariat organized successfully to challenge and overthrow the domination of capital."