Introducing Western Sociologists

Introducing Western Sociologists


What are the various components of a mode of production ?

Various components of a mode of production :

(i) A broad system of Production : Marx’s conception of the economy was based on the notion of a mode of production, which stood for a broad system of production associated with an epoch or historical period. Primitive communalism, slavery, feudalism and capitalism were all modes of production. At this general level, the mode of production defines an entire way of life characteristics of an era.

(ii) Specific Level of Production : At a more specific level, we can think of the mode of production as being something like a building in the sense that it consits of a foundation or base, and a superstructure or something erected on top of the base.

(iii) Factor of Production : The base — or economic base — is primarily economic and includes the productive forces and production relations. Productive forces refer to all the means or factors of production such as land, labour, technology, sources of energy (such as electricity, coal, petroleum and so on).

(iv) Economic relationship and form of organisation : Production relations refer to all the economic relationships and forms of labour organisation which are involved in production. Production relations are also property relations, or relationships based on the ownership or control of the means of production.

(v) Primitive Communism : For example, in the mode of production called primitive communism, the productive forces consisted mostly of nature — forests, land, animals and so on — along with very rudimentary forms of technology like simple stone tools and hunting weapons. Production relations were based on community property (since individual private property did not yet exist) and included tribal forms of hunting or gathering which were the prevalent forms of labour organisation.

(vi) Productive forces and relations of productions : The economic base thus consisted of productive forces and relations of production. On this base rested all the social, cultural and political institutions of society. Thus, institutions like religion, art, law, literature or different forms of beliefs and ideas were all part of the ‘superstructure’ which was built on top of the base. Marx argued that people’s ideas and beliefs originated from the economic system of which they were part.

(vii) Relation between ideas and material life : How human beings earned their livelihood determined how they thought — material life shaped ideas, ideas did not shape material life. This argument went against the dominant ways of thinking in Marx’s time, when it was common to argue that human beings were free to think whatever they wanted and that ideas shaped the world.

(viii) Economic structure and Process : Marx placed great emphasis on economic structures and processes because he believed that they formed the foundations of every social system throughout human history. If we understood how the economy works and how it has been changing in the past, he argued, we can learn how to change society in the future. But how can such change be brought about ? Marx’s answer : through class struggle.

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