Relations of production (German: Produktionsverhältnisse) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism, and in Das Kapital. It is first explicitly used in Marx's published book The Poverty of Philosophy, although the concept is already defined in The German Ideology.
Basically Marx and Engels meant the sum total of social relationships which people necessarily have to enter into, in order to survive, to produce and reproduce their means of life. Because people necessarily have to enter into these social relationships, i.e. because participation in them is not voluntary, the totality of these relationships constitute a relatively stable and permanent structure, the "economic structure".
The term "relations of production" is somewhat vague, for two main reasons:
- The German word Verhältnis can mean "relation", "proportion", or "ratio". Thus, the relationships could be qualititative, quantitative or both. Which meaning applies, can only be established from the context.
- The relations to which Marx refers can be social relationships, economic relationships, or technological relationships.
Marx and Engels typically use the term to refer to the socioeconomic relationships characteristic of a specific epoch; for example: a capitalist's exclusive relationship to capital, and a wage worker's consequent relation to the capitalist; a feudal lord's relationship to a fief, and the serf's consequent relation to the lord; a slavemaster's relationship to their slave; etc. It is contrasted and also affected by what Marx called the forces of production.
Read more about Relations Of Production: How Marx Uses The Concept, Definitions, Social/technical Distinction and Reification, Relations of Production and Relations of Distribution, Criticism of Marx's Concept
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