Modes of Production – Concept, slavery, feudalism and capitalism

We explain what are the modes of production, the forces and relations of production. Also, the feudal, capitalist and other modes.

modes of production economy marximo
Each mode of production depends on the available resources and the social structure.

What are the modes of production?

According to the Marxist perspective of the economic history of the human being, known as Historical Materialism, the modes of production are the specific ways in which economic activity is organized within a society specific human, for the satisfaction of their needs for goods and services.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels discussed this concept for the first time in their book German ideology. It was written between 1845 and 1846, published posthumously in 1932. Marxist theory proposes that an analysis of the modes of production from the beginning of civilization until today, allows us to understand the way in which the economy has changed over time.

These changes depend, on the one hand, on the productive possibilities of the moment, such as technology, the availability of resources, the development of knowledge, etc. However, they are also affected by the social and political ordering of the society that this model produced.

To understand them, a distinction is made between two important factors:

  • The productive forces. Where the human actors who put into practice their workforce are considered, that is, their body and their time to work, and the set of organized knowledge and tools necessary to produce, known collectively as means of production.
  • The relations of production. The relationships that exist between the different productive forces and that organize society based on relationships between people and their work objects, as well as between different social classes.

According to Marx’s theories, the ability to produce and the participation of the different social classes in the productive cycle determine the mode of production of a society. These modes can be read in a diachronic or evolutionary way to understand how the changes occur between one and the next.

Production relationships

The relations of production, as mentioned before, have to do with the place that individuals and social classes occupy within the productive circuit, especially with the control and ownership of the means of production. It is, then, a type of relationship between men, but with respect to things. They may be:

  • Ownership and control relationships legally validated, with respect to real estate, assets or machines used in production.
  • Labor Relations or distribution of labor, including domestic work.
  • Socioeconomic dependencies between individuals according to their participation in the production cycle.
  • Quantitative proportions of social actors in the productive circuit and in obtaining its benefits.

Primitive mode of production

The first mode of production that Marxism contemplates is the primitive one, also known as primitive communism. Typical of prehistoric times, prior to the so-called Neolithic Revolution that produced agriculture and livestock.

Primitive communism It occurs in the absence of a State and a social hierarchy, as well as social classes, distinguishing at the time of distributing the work only in the physical capacities of each person. It is a limited production model, with a very low level of development, which barely allows the community to survive.

Slave production mode

modes of production economy marximo slavery slavery
Slaves are treated as the property of other human beings.

The slave mode of production, as its name implies, is sustained in the submission of other human beings and its reduction to the condition of property, at most third-rate citizens, whose wills are subject to a private master or to the State itself.

Slaves give up all their work capacity, without participating in the distribution of profits obtained from it, except for the minimum essential to guarantee their survival and continuous work. This was the model for the classical societies of antiquity, such as Greece and Rome.

Feudal mode of production

The feudal production model reigned in many ancient agricultural societies and in medieval Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire to the European Renaissance and the entry into Modernity.

It was characterized by a decentralized political order, in which the different kingdoms recognized the local authority of the feudal lords, landowners from the military nobility. These, in turn, ruled over the commoner peasantry.

The feudal lords took a high percentage of the production that the peasants obtained from their lands. In return, they offered order, stability, military protection, and permission to inhabit and feed on the harvest. It was an eminently rural production model.

Capitalist mode of production

modes of production economy marximo capitalism
According to Marxism, capitalism is the exploitation of wage earners.

It is the model of production after mercantilism and the rise of merchants as the ruling class, rather than the nobility. It arose with the bourgeois revolutions that put an end to the Middle Ages and later to monarchical absolutism.

As money displaced land tenure in importance, and science and technology displaced faith in religion, a new world took its first steps toward an industrial society. The peasant serfs migrated en masse to the cities and became laborers.

This is the current model in most countries in the world today. According to the Marxist reading, consists in the exploitation of the labor power of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, owners of the means of production, in exchange for a salary.

Thus, the bourgeoisie keeps the surplus value, which is the added value that the workers contribute to the final price of the product, and which is always higher than the salary that is granted to them.

Continue in: Capitalist mode of production

Socialist mode of production

Proposed by Marx and Engels as the transitory model between capitalism and classless utopian society, it consists of a society whose production is orchestrated according to the use and needs of the community, instead of accumulation and monetary gain.

For this, the State has to organize the productive forces, abolishing private property to some extent and preventing the unequal distribution of wealth. This type of mode has never been successfully implemented anywhere. Marx and Engels themselves did not write down how it could happen or be produced.