USING THE CONCEPT OF MODE OF PRODUCTION EXPLAIN THE MARXIST THEORY OF CONFLICT. GIVE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES. The term mode of production derives from the work of Karl Marx (1818–1883), Marx used the term mode of production to refer to the specific organization of economic production in a given society. A mode of production includes the means of production used by a given society, such as factories and other facilities, machines, and raw materials. It also includes labor and the organization of the labor force.
According to Marx, history evolves through the interaction between the mode of production and the relations of production. The mode of production constantly evolves toward a realization of its fullest productive capacity, but this evolution creates antagonisms between the classes of people defined by the relations of production—owners and workers. Marx characterized human history in terms of the way in which ownership of the means of production was the most important single variable involved in the characterization of each distinct period (or epoch) in history.
He identified five major epoch; Primitive communism – characteristic of early human history where people held everything in common. The Ancient epoch (slave society) – societies based upon slavery where the means of production was owned and controlled by an aristocratic elite. Feudal society – where land was the most important means of production. This was owned / controlled by an aristocratic class, the majority of people belonging to a peasant class.
Capitalist society – where technological development (machinery etc. ) has allowed a bourgeois class to exploit factory forms of production for their private gain. The aristocracy (landowners) have either been marginalized or co-opted into the Bourgeoisie whilst the majority of people are wage-labourers (they own little or no capital). The main relations of production in this epoch are between employers and employees (those who own and use capital and those who exchange their labour power for a wage).
An employer does not own his / her employee in this society and various political freedoms and equalities are able to develop. Communist society – where the means of production are held “in common” for the benefit of everyone in society (the dictatorship of the Proletariat). In this society class conflict is finally resolved and this represents the “end of history” since no further form of society can ever develop Marx centers his approach around conflict, emphasizing change through a dialectical process.
Additionally, he sees human development as being driven by historical materialism; “every succeeding generation finds itself in possession of the productive forces acquired by the previous generation, which serve it as the raw material for new production the idea of conflict as imperative to Marx’s theoretical agenda. Specifically, it is the conflict between the material productive forces of society and the existing relations of production which lead to social revolution, creating upheaval in the economic foundation which in turn transforms the legal, political, religious, and cultural “superstructure” .
It is through this lens of conflict that Marx analyzes concepts like alienation, the division of labor and class struggle, the mode of production and ideology. Marx used the concept of modes of production as a classificatory tool to describe and differentiate various economic systems in historical terms. He also used it, problematically as it turns out, to account for historical materialism’s dialectical stages of development history. Marx’s primary focus was on class societies, and in particular on capitalism.
Marx’s class theory rests on the premise that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. According to this view, ever since human society emerged from its primitive and relatively undifferentiated state it has remained fundamentally divided between classes who clash in the pursuit of class interests. In the world of capitalism, for example, the nuclear cell of the capitalist system, the factory, is the prime locus of antagonism between classes–between exploiters and exploited, between buyers and sellers of labor power–rather than of functional collaboration.
Class interests and the confrontations of power that they bring in their wake are to Marx the central determinant of social and historical process. Marx’s analysis continually centers on how the relationships between men are shaped by their relative positions in regard to the means of production, that is, by their differential access to scarce resources and scarce power. He notes that unequal access need not at all times and under all conditions lead to active class struggle.
But he considered it axiomatic that the potential for class conflict is inherent in every differentiated society, since such a society systematically generates conflicts of interest between persons and groups differentially located within the social structure, and, more particularly, in relation to the means of production. Marx was concerned with the ways in which specific positions in the social structure tended to shape the social experiences of their incumbents and to predispose them to actions oriented to improve their collective fate.
To Marx, the basis upon which stratification systems rest is the relation of aggregates of men to the means of production. The major modern classes are “the owners merely of labor-power, owners of capital, and landowners, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit and ground-rent. Self-conscious classes arise only if and when there exists a convergence of what Max Weber later called “ideal” and “material” interests, that is, the combination of economic and political demands with moral and ideological quests.
In contrast to the utilitarian who conceive of self-interest as a regulator of a harmonious society, Marx sees individual self-interest among capitalists as destructive of their class interest in general, and as leading to the ultimate self-destruction of capitalism. The very fact that each capitalist acts rationally in his own self-interest leads to ever deepening economic crises and hence to the destruction of the interests common to all. To Marx, the economic sphere was always the finally decisive realm within which the bourgeoisie was always the victim of the competitiveness inherent in its mode of economic existence.
It can evolve a consciousness, but it is always a “false consciousness,” that is, a consciousness that does not transcend its being rooted in an economically competitive mode of production. Marx thought of private property as something from which society needed to be emancipated, as it resulted in the alienation of labor. Alienation from the product of one’s labor meant for Marx estrangement from oneself and from nature. As a result, the product of labor was something alien and hostile, exercising power over man and forcing him into service of another.
Marx saw private property as reducing one to absolute poverty “in order that he might yield his inner wealth for the outer world It is through man’s relation to others that his relation to himself becomes objective and real Therefore, if the product of man’s labor was alien and hostile to him, then his relationship to the master of the object – the owner of the means of production – must also be alien and hostile. But it is through this conflict that the seeds of struggle and revolution are born.
He also posits that the beginnings of social revolution result from evolutions in the material productive forces of society (which run afoul of existing modes of production. In Marx’s estimation, social revolution and social change only proceed the installation of newer modes of production that can already support them. Central to relations of production, in Marx’s analysis, is the division of labor and class struggle. Class struggle is an important element of Marx’s conflict theory. In Marx’s analysis, two classes are in a continuous struggle, diametrically opposed to one another.
The antagonism between the two classes is vital, because class struggle is a necessary precursor to the revolution that Marx considers essential for the liberation of man. The consequence of this is that the proletariat does not control its own labor, in fact, they are alienated from the outcomes, or products, of their own labor, as that is controlled by the bourgeoisie. This conception of ideas as tools and expressions of the dominant class holds within it Marx’s notion of classes embroiled in conflict.
Marx also applies the lens of conflict when looking at the division of labor within a ruling class. The ruling class is divided into thinkers, or professional ideologists, and producers of material goods. While this division does not threaten the class itself, the split between these two sub-units of the ruling class does generate opposition and hostility. To conclude, the conflict arises in the mutual dependency of the bourgeoisie on the proletariat, and the proletariat on the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie need the proletariat for their inexpensive labor, and the proletariat need the bourgeoisie to employ and pay them a wage with which they will fulfill their essential needs. However, in any society it is natural that each individual participant will want to advance his economic and social standing. Marx believed that the capitalist structure previously outlined would self destruct in a violent revolution once the working class gained full understanding of its exploited position.