[Marxism] dominant and other modes of production

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 29 09:11:06 MST 2006

George Snedeker wrote:
>Sociologists often talk about capitalist society, but Marx used the 
>concept of the capitalist mode of production not society. We often 
>talk about the world as being under the capitalist mode of 
>production especially with the hegemony of the concept of 
>globalization. I wonder how much of the world is actually under the 
>dominance of the CMP. This is certainly the case in the core of the 
>world system but less and less so in the semi-periphery and 
>periphery of the system. I have been wondering what to call the 
>other modes of production which currently exist in the world today. 
>We might call them , feudal, slave and communal as has been done in 
>the Marxist tradition. For example Cuba and China in very different 
>ways have both a capitalist and socialist mode of production. what 
>about the rest of Latin America and Asia as well as Africa? In terms 
>of numbers of people, millions are still living under something 
>other than the capitalist mode of production. Even the slave mode of 
>production persists. The CMP is dominant and is the most dynamic 
>force on the planet but is only part of the story. Some Marxists 
>seem to believe that socialism can only come about after the entire 
>world is under the capitalist mode of production while others no 
>longer even talk about socialism or claim that it exists in 
>individual countries like Cuba. My point here is about how to 
>conceptualize the world system of capitalism in terms of modes of 
>production. There are, of course, political consequences to be drawn 
>from any conceptual analysis.

Generally speaking, I have found the term "capitalist mode of 
production" applied to a given country rather than to the entire 
world system. When your context is global, it makes more sense to 
talk about the capitalist system which can incorporate various modes 
of production. It is also somewhat problematic to look to Marx's 
writings for support one view or  the other. Marx was preoccupied 
with explaining how capitalism evolved in Western Europe and Great 
Britain in particular. I doubt if anybody in his immediate milieu 
ever asked him how to define the mode of production in Peru and 
Bolivia in the 18th century. For that matter, when he strayed from 
Europe, he was often wrong. The Asiatic Mode of Production that he 
harped on has turned out to be fallacious.

On Cuba and China both having a capitalist mode of production. I am 
not sure what this means exactly. If we are talking about the 
co-existence of state-owned property and private property, then I 
suppose you can group the two countries together. However, the 
private sphere in China is responsible for 70 percent of GDP and the 
state-owned sphere is mostly involved in operations that are natural 
monopolies in any society: communications, banking, etc. On top of 
this, the state-owned firms in China are pretty much the fiefdoms of 
highly paid managers who run them like the typical capitalist firm 
and enjoy the privileges of their private sphere counterparts. A news 
article I posted a while back revealed that some of them belong to 
the polo clubs that are sprouting in China. 

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