Sociology / Marx- Mode of production.



The Mode of Production is the unity of the productive forces and the relations of production. Production begins with the development of its determinative aspect – the productive forces – which, once they have reached a certain level, come into conflict with the relations of production within which they have been developing. This leads to an inevitable change in the relations of production, since in the obsolete form they cease to be indispensable condition of the production process. Therefore, the change in the Mode of Production comes about not through people’s choice, but by virtue of the correspondence between the productive relations to the character and level of development of the productive forces.


According to Marx –“The first historical act is the production of material life”. Mode of production theory of Marx makes some attempts to determine the direction of the history of mankind. It advocated that all human societies necessarily pass through successive stages of development. In Marx’s writings, the stages of social history are differentiated not by what human beings produce but by how, or by what means, they produce the material goods for subsistence. In this way, we can say that historical periods are founded and differentiated on the basis of the modes of material production. Marx has given four different modes of production, namely;


  • Primitive society
  • No classes
  • Structured around kinship
  • Very low division of labour
  • No private property
  • All worked together for common good.


  • Aristocracy and slaves
  • Ancient Greece and Rome
  • Salves did most of the work
  • Concept of private property started to develop.


  • Dark ages of European society
  • Feudal lords and vessels came to forefront
  • Exploitation of peasant class
  • Changing technology
  • Renaissance came into being.


  •   Discussed in detail below

In his communist manifesto, Marx believes that history of all existing societies is the history of class struggle. Thus class conflict is determined by peoples association with a given mode of production and its necessary consequence. While discussing mode of production Marx advocates that any historical mode of production is an integral unity between the;

  • FORCES OF PRODUCTION: include means of production and labour power. The forces of production express the degree to which human being control nature. The more advanced the productive forces are, greater is their control over the natural and vice versa. We can say the forces of production are the ways in which material goods are produced. They include the technological knowhow, the types of equipment in use and goods being produced, for example; tools, machinery, labour, and levels of technology are all considered to be the forces of production.
  • RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION: are the social relations of production. As such, they include both, the relations between the direct producers or workers and their employers or those who control their labour, and the relations between the direct producers themselves. Relations of production is not merely the ownership of means of production. The employer’s relation to the workers is one of domination and the workers relation with co-worker is one of cooperation. Thus the relations of production can influence the momentum and direction of the development of the productive forces.

Therefore ‘forces’ and ‘relations’ of production are strongly interrelated. The development of one leads to a growing incompatibility or contradiction with the other. In fact, the contradictions between the two aspects of production ‘act as the motor of history’. The forces of production determine the super structure.


Marx tried to project the movement of mankind through history of dialectical materialism. He shows the evolution of society from primitive communism to modern socialism. The disintegration of feudalism and the early development of capitalism is bound with the growth of towns, administrative autonomy, use of money, commodity exchange etc.

The transition phase witnessed heterogeneous classes like land owners, petty bourgeoisie, lumpen proletariat which was classified into two homogenous classes

  1. PROLETARIAT: working class people/sold their labour
  2. BOURGEOISIE: the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production.

The essence of capitalism is the pursuit of PROFIT. Capitalism denotes a sum of money to be invested in order to secure a rate of return or an investment itself. Capitalism is an asset which produces a series of variables. This investment or capital may be divided into;

CONSTANT CAPITAL: it corresponds to the capital outlay in the productive process. It entails everything necessary for the production i.e. machinery, raw materials, factory etc.

VARIABLE CAPITAL: It is the capital spent on wages of labour.

The ratio of constant to variable capital constitutes the organic composition of capital. It varies from industry to industry. One may say that profit is the surface manifestation of the surplus value that belongs to the labour but it never comes back to him. So,


During the capitalist mode of production a process is carried out where the money is transformed into capital. This is often known as the MARXIAN VALUE THEORY– which applies to the simple commodity production;

The producer sells the product to satisfy one’s own needs. He comes to the market with commodity C, turns it into money M and then again reconverts it into commodity C. this market transaction can be represented as



On the other hand the capitalist comes to the market with money M, buys labour and materials C and returns to the market with a product which he converts to money M1. this capitalist transaction can be represented as:



These two processes are called the CIRCUIT OF CAPITAL. Capital is a value which undergoes a series of transformation. In C-M-C, the two Cs are equal in terms pf exchange value, while they are unequal in terms of their use value. In M-C-M1 the two Ms are homogenous but Marx indicates that M1 is greater than M. thus the circulation of money as capital is an end in itself.

Capitalist mode of production is characterised by COMMODITY FETESHISM, which as Marx indicated is an obsession to produce more and more commodity and where everything is reduced to a commodity. Man also sells his labour as a commodity. Hence there is COMMODIFICATION OF LABOUR. The price of every commodity is determined by competition which is three sided;

  1. Competition among sellers
  2. Competition among buyers
  3. Competition between buyers and sellers.

Fluidity of capital and mobility of labour are the two conditions which facilitate the process of buying and selling commodities.

According to Marx, every commodity has two fold aspect

  1. USE VALUE: refers to the value of the commodity which has some consumption value. Refers to the inherent properties of an object
  2. EXCHANGE VALUE: is the value of a product which has been exchanged for another product. It pre supposes a definite economic relation and has meaning in reference to commodities.

Thus, a commodity can have value only when human value is expanded on it. This is the core proposition of the labour theory of value given by Marx. Labour is unique for Marx because it is the only commodity which in the production process produces a value which is equal to his labour power and then produces an additional value which is the surplus value.