After reading this article you will learn about the Karl Marx’s View on Production and Productive Forces
How are commodities produced? The materialist conception of history reveals that the production of commodities is possible because of the interaction between man and man and between man and nature.
Without this interaction the production would never be possible. Here there are two forms of relations or interactions. One is relations among men and the other is relation between man and nature.
This relation is very vital in materialist interpretation of history. The relation among men, again, can be called a type of cooperation. Marx and Engels call these two forms of relationships as the nucleus of the productive system which includes forces of production and relations of production.
In order to understand the mode of production the presentation of a clear picture of the productive forces and production relations is essential. It must also be presented how these two are connected.
According to the authors of the Fundamentals of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy “The productive forces are the forces by which society influences nature and changes it.” Nature itself is not productive force. It is the universal object of labour.
William Petty said that nature is the mother and labour is the father of wealth. Marx accepted this view of Petty. Nature is the source of the vast amount of wealth. Not entire nature is the subject of labour. Only that part of nature comes under the jurisdiction of labour which can ensure production or man can use it for productive purposes.
Stalin in his Problems of Leninism says,”The instruments of production wherewith material values are produced, the people who operate these instruments of production and carry on the production of material values thanks to a certain production experience and labour skill ail these elements jointly constitute the productive forces of society.”
We can, therefore, say that the term productive forces are comprehensive. It does not mean only labour or raw material or capital. The accumulated labour, the instruments, land, and road everything which comes directly or indirectly to the assistance of production is to be called force of production.
Consciousness and inventive power of man enrich and sharpen the productive forces and also the instruments used for production.
G. A Cohen in his celebrated work Karl Marx’s Theory of History gives us a very simple formula of the concept productive forces. Productive forces mean means of production.
(A) Instruments of production
(B) Raw materials
(C) Labour power
Labour power implies productive faculties of producing agents, strength, skill knowledge and inventiveness. The catalogued terms are unified by the fact that’ each is, in a wide sense, used by producing agents to make products.
A denotes what they work with, B what they work on, and C what enables them to work with A on B. It is clear that while analysing the term productive forces a comprehensive idea was quite alive in Marx’s mind. Before him nobody used the term in such a way.
The productive forces are only one aspect of production, only one aspect of the mode of production. Another aspect is relations of production. “Production” says Stalin “is at all times and under all conditions social production.”
In our formula we have seen that in order to make production possible a relationship between persons and means is a must. Cohen says “persons and productive forces are the only terms bound by production relations.”
All production relations are either between a person (or group of persons) and another person (or group of persons), or between person and productive force. In other words, production relations bind at least one person and at most one productive force.
The term production, Marxism says is a very wide idea. A particular commodity is produced at a very particular time. But behind it lie the accumulated knowledge of previous ages and the efforts of numerous people. We must remember it.
In producing material goods people interact not only with nature but with one another In the process of production certain relationships necessarily arise between people. These are called relations of production.
Marx in his Wage, Labour and Capital writes:
“In production, men not only act on nature but also on one another. They produce only by cooperating in a certain way and mutually exchanging their activities. In order to produce, they enter into definite connections and relations with one another and only within these social connections and relations do their action on nature, does production takes place. These social relations into which producers enter with one another, the conditions under which they exchange their activities and participate in the whole act of production, will naturally vary according to the character of means of production”.
Though behind every production there is crucial role of machinery, it is at the same time true that there is positive role of individuals and, simultaneously, the roll of the entire society. Because of this, production is generally called a social process. Various sections or units of society are actively associated with production of commodities.
The novel aspect of Marx’s theory of materialist conception of history is he calls all sorts of production as social production and it is also a social process. Whole society including its past and present is closely connected with process of production.
It is the production relations that tell us whether a worker is a slave, or a wage worker or whether machine serves as a means of exploiting the labourer or vice versa. Production relations are economic relations. They are studied in detail by the science of economics.
Stalin says that the production relations may be of various types. Such as cooperative production relations. When people are quite free and participate in the productive system freely it is called so.
In cooperative production relations there is no place of exploitation. It may be subordinate production relations. Finally, they may be from one form of relations of production to another. But whatever may be type of production relations, they always constitute the essential element of production.