From Periodization to the Modes of Production

In my reconstitution of the concept of a mode of production, I shall start with what seem the most external and formal determinations, and attempt to enrich them progressively. I shall therefore return to the first question of the theory of history, the question of the breaks, of the right break. Scattered throughout Marx's writings is a series of comments with a common form: they all begin as follows: 'What defines a historical epoch of production is . . .' or again, 'what defines a historical mode of production is the specific way in which it . . .'; then follow several phrases whose comparison is only too likely to be quite instructive, for they are all equivalent in principle, without this equivalence being at all tautological. In other words, we can try to extract from these equivalent answers to a single question which depends in principle on a method of comparison, the determination of the criteria for the identification of a 'mode of production' (for the moment this term is still no more than a name, as far as we are concerned, the name of the unit of periodization peculiar to Marx), the determination of the pertinent differences which make it possible to define the concept of each mode of production. If we do reveal such pertinent differences, we shall face a second task, that of characterizing the ensembles within which these differences act.[6]

(1) M O D E O F P R O D U C T I O N : M A N N E R O F P R O D U C I N G

Even more than its French or English equivalent, the German term Produktionsweise retains some echo of the simple and original meaning of the word Weise, mode, i.e., manner, way to do something (there is a standard German expression for this, the doublet Art und Weise ). This warns us immediately what kind of analysis we are dealing with: a descriptive analysis which isolates forms or qualities. Thus the mode 'of production' first
6 Periodization, thought of as the periodization of the modes of production themselves, in their purity, first gives form to the theory of history. Thus the majority of the indications in which Marx assembles the elements of his definition are comparative indications. But behind this descriptive terminology (men do not produce in the same way in the different historical modes of production, capitalism does not contain the universal nature of economic relations), there is the indication of what makes the comparisons possible at the level of the structures, the search for the invariant determinations (for the 'common features') of 'production in general', which does not exist historically, but whose variants are represented by all the historical modes of production (of the 1857 Introduction to A Contribution ).

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exists on the same plane as the many other modes we find in the course of an analysis of Capital. For example:

Modes of exchange : 'It is not the economy, i.e., the process of production itself that is emphasized as the distinguishing mark of the two categories, money-economy and credit-economy, but rather the mode of exchange . . . between the various agents of production or producers' (Verkehrsweise ) (Capital, Vol. II, p. 116). Modes of circulation : 'What determines that a portion of the capital-value invested in means of production is endowed with the character of fixed capital is exclusively the peculiar manner in which this value circulates. This specific manner of circulation (diese eigene Weise der Zirkulation ) arises from the specific manner in which the instrument of labour transmits is value to the product, or in which it behaves (sich . . .verhält ) as a creator of value during the process of production. This manner again arises from the special way in which the instruments of labour function in the labour-process (aus der besonderen Art der Funktion der Arbeitsmittel )' (Capital, Vol. II, p. 160). Modes of consumption : 'Even the number of so-called natural needs, as also the modes of satisfying them (die Art ihrer Befriedigung ), are themselves a historical product' (Capital, T.I, p. 174; Vol. I, p. 171).

I could give other examples, too, taken from the 'economic' sphere and elsewhere.

This descriptive and comparative character indicates that the expression 'mode of production' does not initially contain any reference to the breadth of its application other than in the form of a tendency towards generality: we find the capitalist mode of production, in the narrow sense of the industrial mode of production, the utilization of machinery, steadily extended to the various branches of industry:

But when surplus-value has to be produced by the conversion of necessary labour into surplus-labour, it no longer suffices for capita!, while leaving intact the traditional labour process, simply to prolong the duration of that process. The technical and social conditions of the process, and consequently the very mode of production must be transformed. Only then can the productivity of labour be increased, thus decreasing the value of labour-power, and thereby shortening the time necessary for the reproduction of that value (Capital, T.II, p. 9; Vol. I, p. 315).

This text is preceded by the following definition:

a revolution in the conditions of production, i.e., an alteration in his tools or his mode of working, or in both.

Here we have descriptions of processes, manners, methods, forms -- all expressions which have meaning only by what they exclude. Firstly, quantitative measurements. Thus the productivity of labour, which determines the

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relative quantities necessary for the satisfaction of the producer's needs and for surplus-value, only intervenes here insofar as it depends in each historical epoch, on a certain form of the labour process, i.e., on the relationship between certain instruments (means of labour) and certain forms of labour organization (which include non-organizations, such as when the individual producer alone sets to work the tools which enable him to obtain an actual useful product). Then they exclude any consideration of the material nature of the objects which produce or undergo a transformation, insofar as such a consideration refers to the special features of branches of the social division of production which produce special use-values with peculiar technological characteristics. In this sense, Marx had already written in the 1857 Introduction that 'political economy is not technology' in the sense that the latter term had acquired at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and whose historical origins he reveals in the chapter in Volume One on Modern Industry. These two negative determinations are to be found in the text of the chapter on the labour process :

Relics of by-gone means of labour possess the same importance for the investigation of extinct economic forms of society, as does the structure of fossil bones for a knowledge of the organization of extinct species of animals. It is less what is produced than how it is produced (Nicht was . . . sondern wie ), and by what means of labour, that enables us to distinguish different economic epochs. Means of labour supply a standard of the degree of development of the labourer and they are indicators of the social relations in which he labours (Nicht nur Gradmesser der Entrwicklung der menschlichen Arbeitskraft, sondern auch Anzeiger der gesellschaftlichen Verhältnissen, worin gearbeitet wird ) (Capital, T.I, p. 182; Vol. I, pp. 179-80).

If means of labour are to be 'indicators' of social relations, they must obviously be justifiable by a type of analysis different from the measurement of their effectivity or the technological description of their elements. Otherwise we should fall back into Proudhon's error and take machines for social relations (cf. The Poverty of Philosophy, op. cit., p. 133).

We can define this analysis as a differential determination of forms, and define a 'mode' as a system of forms which represents one state of the variation of the set of elements which necessarily enter into the process considered. This definition, which I am about to put to the test, is true for all modes, and on each occasion it requires two things: a listing of the places (or functions) which feature in the process concerned, and a determination of the pertinent criteria which enable us to distinguish between the forms occupying these places. Thus, if we return to the above-mentioned example of the mode of circulation (Capital, Vol. II, p. 160), we find that this criterion consists of the fact that it transmits its value to the product either in toto or only in parts spread over several periods of production. At the same time, we can derive from it the concepts by which Marx designates existence as an

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element of the process: function, factor. But in order to list these places we must refer to another 'mode', the 'mode of production' itself; we are not dealing with a relatively autonomous process with its own consistency. It is different with the mode of production itself, and there we find that consistency.

(2) T H E E L E M E N T S O F T H E S Y S T E M O F F O R M S

In the case, therefore, of the mode of production (in the strict sense), we still have to identify these elements. Here we shall find it necessary to compare several of Marx's texts which complement one another, and even to suggest interpretations of them whose well-foundedness will, I hope, emerge later in the paper.

We find a first extremely clear text in Capital Volume Two:

Whatever the social form of production, labourers and means of production always remain factors (Faktoren ) of it. But in a state of separation from each other either of these factors can be such only potentially (der Möglichkeit nach ). For production to go on at all they must combine (Verbindung ). The specific manner in which this combination is accomplished distinguishes the different epochs of the structure of society one from another (Capital, Vol. II, p. 34 -- modified).

Two of the elements we are seeking are indicated here:

(1) The labourer (labour power);
(2) The means of production.

The text goes on:

In the present case, the separation of the free worker from his means of production is the starting-point given, and we have seen how and under what conditions these two elements are united in the hands of the capitalist, namely, as the productive mode of existence of his capital.

Here we find straightaway a third element which, like the other two, also deserves to be called a 'factor':

(3) The non-worker, appropriating surplus-labour. Elsewhere, Marx describes him as the representative of the 'class of large proprietors' (Grossbesitzerklasse -- Capital, T.II, p. 185; Vol. I, p. 511). This is the capitalist. Besides this, we find here an element of a different kind which we could call a connexion (relation ) between the preceding elements: it can take two exclusive values: separation (Trennung )/property.

If we compare the results of our analysis of this text with a series of other texts, particularly those contained in Marx's unpublished draft Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations (op. cit.), and in the Chapter in Volume Three of Capital on the 'Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent', we find the same elements and long descriptions of their combinations. The labourer is specified as the

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direct producer ; the property relation is itself specified according to several complex forms, notable the duality of 'possession' (use, enjoyment) and 'property' (property strictly speaking).

But the essential interest of these texts is that they oblige us to introduce into the structure a second connexion distinct from the first, a second relation between the 'factors' of the combination. This is a very important point, for it governs our whole understanding of the structure. We must therefore try to define the nature of this connexion very dearly, starting from Marx's texts themselves. This connexion corresponds to what Marx designates by various terms such as the real material appropriation of the means of production by the producer in the labour process (Aneignung, Appropriation, wirkliche Aneignung ), or simply as the appropriation of nature by man. Two points must be clearly established:

(1) this connexion is distinct from the preceding one;

(2) this, too, really is a connexion, a relation between the previously listed elements.

The relative looseness of Marx's vocabulary on this point in the texts I have mentioned (particularly Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations ) makes it difficult to prove the first point. Marx uses a whole series of practically equivalent terms (Aneignung, Appropriation ; Besitz, Benutzung, etc.) to describe all the connexions between the producer and his means of production. This looseness depends in reality on the difficulty Marx felt in clearly thinking the distinction between the two connexions, a difficulty I shall explain. Nevertheless, let us take the text of Volume One of Capital on absolute surplus-value and relative surplus-value (T.II, pp. 183ff.; Vol. I, pp. 508ff.): there we find two uses of the word Aneignung (appropriation) less than two pages apart but with obviously different meanings corresponding to the two connexions I have been discussing:

in der individuellen Aneignung von Naturgegenständen zu seinem Lebenszwecken kontrolliert er sich selbst. Später wird er kontrolliert (In the individual appropriation of natural objects the labourer controls himself. Afterwards his labour is controlled by others);
'die Aneignung dieser Mehrarbeit durch das Kapital ' (the appropriation of that surplus-labour by capital).

The second 'Aneignung ' describes a property relation, the one we first met. It describes one of the presuppositions of capitalist production: capital is the owner of all the means of production and of labour, and therefore it is the owner of the entire product.

But the first does not designate a property relation: it belongs to the analysis of what Marx called the 'labour process', or rather it situates the analysis of that labour process as part of the analysis of the mode of production. Nowhere in it does the capitalist intervene as an owner, but only the labourer, the means of labour and the object of labour.

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In the light of this distinction, we can now re-read for example the chapter on the labour process (T.I, pp. 186-7; Vol. I, pp. 184-5). Marx writes:

The labour process, turned into the process by which the capitalist consumes labour-power, exhibits two characteristic phenomena. First, the labourer works under the control of the capitalist . . . Secondly, the product is the property of the capitalist and not that of the labourer, its immediate producer . . . (T.I, p. 187; Vol. I, p. 185).

In these 'two phenomena' characteristic of the capitalist mode of production, we find precisely the two connexions in the specific form they take in the capitalist mode of production.

From the point of view of property, the labour process is an operation between things which the capitalist has purchased. 'The product of this process belongs, therefore, to him, just as much as does the wine which is the product of a process of fermentation completed in his cellar.'

In the capitalist mode of production, the labour process is such that individual labour does not set to work the society's means of production, which are the only means of production able to function as such. Without the capitalist's 'control', which is a technically indispensable moment of the labour process, labour does not possess the fitness (Zwetkmässigkeit ) it requires if it is to be social labour, i.e., labour used by society and recognized by it. The fitness peculiar to the capitalist mode of production implies the cooperation and division of the functions of control and execution. It is a form of the second connexion I have discussed, which can now be defined as the direct producer's ability to set to work the means of social production. In the pages of Capital, Marx defines several forms of this connexion: the autonomy (Selbständigkeit ) of the direct producer, and the forms of mutual dependence of the producers (co-operation, etc.).

We can already see that recognition of this second connexion in its conceptual independence, in its difference from the 'property' connexion (A), is the key to several very important theses of Capital. Notably the double function of the capitalist as the exploiter of labour-power ('property') and as the organizer of production ('real appropriation'); a double function expounded by Marx in the chapters on co-operation, manufacture and modern industry (Volume One). This double function is an index of what I shall call the double nature of the division of labour in production (the 'technical' division of labour and the 'social' division of labour); at the same time, it is an index of the interdependence or intersection of these two divisions, which itself reflects the fact that the two connexions which I have distinguished both belong to a single 'Verbindung ', to a single combination, i.e., to the structure of a single mode of production.

That is why the distinction between these two connexions finally enables us to understand what constitutes the complexity of the combination, the

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complexity which characterizes the Marxist totality as opposed to the Hegelian totality. When the concept of structural complexity was introduced,[7] it was a question of the complexity of the social structure as a whole, insofar as several relatively autonomous levels were articulated in it. Now we find that production itself is a complex totality, i.e., that nowhere is there a simple totality, and we can give a precise meaning to this complexity: it consists of the fact that the elements of the totality are not linked together once, but twice, by two distinct connexions. What Marx called a combination is not therefore a simple relationship between the 'factors ' of any production, but the relationship between these two connexions and their interdependence.

Finally, therefore, we can draw up a table of the elements of any mode of production, a table of the invariants in the analysis of forms:

(1) labourer;
(2) means of production;

(i) object of labour;

(ii) means of labour;
(3) non-labourer;
(A) property connexion;
(B) real or material appropriation connexion.

Marx's difficulty in clearly distinguishing between the two connexions in certain historically retrospective texts can be explained by the particular form these connexions take in the capitalist mode of production. In the capitalist mode of production, both connexions can indeed be characterized by a 'separation ': the labourer is 'separated' from all the means of production, he is stripped of all property (save that of his labour-power); but at the same time, as a human individual, the labourer is 'separated' from any ability to set in motion the instruments of social labour by himself; he has lost his craft skill, which no longer corresponds to the means of labour; as Marx says, the labour is no longer 'his property'. In the capitalist mode of production, strictly speaking, these two 'separations', these two distinctions overlap and coincide in the image of the opposition between the 'free' labourer and the means of production instituted as capital, to the extent that the labourer himself becomes an element of capital: that is why Marx constantly confounds them in a single concept, the concept of the separation of the labourer from his condition of labour. Now in all the historical inquiries which trace the history of the constitution of the elements of the capitalist mode of production back to earlier modes of production, Marx takes this concept as his guiding thread. This explains his difficulty, a difficulty which is patent in the semantic hesitations of Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, in isolating the two connexions; for the homology between the two connexions, the overlap between their forms, which characterizes the capitalist structure,
7 Louis Althusser: 'On the Materialist Dialectic', For Marx, op. cit., Chapter 6.

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does not so characterize those earlier modes of production. Marx only finds it again in the hypothetical 'natural community' which inaugurates history: then the form of each of the two connexions was, on the contrary, the union, the belonging together of the labourer and the means of production: on the one hand the almost biological collective property of the land, on the other the biological naturalness of the labour (the earth as 'man's laboratory', indistinctly object and means of labour).

But the entire difficulty, and any looseness in Marx's terminology, disappear once our analysis deals with the effects of this double articulation of the mode of production, i.e., with the double nature of the 'immediate production process' as a labour process and (in its capitalist form) as a process of self-expansion (Verwertung ) of value (the distinction between these two constitutes the object of Volume One, Chapter VII).

By varying the combination of these elements according to the two connexions which are part of the structure of every mode of production, we can therefore reconstitute the various modes of production, i.e., we can set out the 'presuppositions' for the theoretical knowledge of them, which are quite simply the concepts of the conditions of their historical existence. In this way, we can even to a certain extent generate modes of production which have never existed in an independent form, and which do not therefore strictly speaking form part of our 'periodization' -- modes of production such as Marx called the 'mode of commodity production' (the reunion of individual small producers owning their own means of production and setting them to work without co-operation); or modes of production for which it is only possible to foresee the general conditions, such as the socialist mode of production. The final result would be a comparative table of the forms of different modes of production which all combine the same 'factors'.

However, this is by no means a combinatory in the strict sense, i.e., a form of combination in which only the places of the factors and their relations change, but not their nature. Before we go on to prove this in a second section, we can nevertheless draw from what has already been established a number of conclusions as to the nature of the 'determination in the last instance' of the social structure by the form of the production process; which amounts to a justification of what I announced when I referred to the Preface to A Contribution : that the new principle of periodization proposed by Marx contained a complete transformation of the historian's problematic.

(3) D E T E R M I N A T I O N I N T H E L A S T I N S T A N C E

By a double necessity, the capitalist mode of production is both the mode of production in which the economy is most easily recognized as the 'motor' of history, and the mode of production in which the essence of this 'economy' is unrecognized in principle (in what Marx calls 'fetishism'). That is why the first explanations of the problem of the 'determination in the last instance

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by the economy' that we find in Marx are directly linked to the problem of fetishism. They occur in the texts in Capital on the 'fetishism of commodities' (T.I, pp. 88-90; Vol. I, pp. 76-8), on the 'genesis of capitalist ground rent' (Vol. III, pp. 763-93) and on the 'trinity formula' (Vol. III, pp. 794-811), where Marx replaces the false conception of this 'economy' as a relation between things by its true definition as a system of social relations. At the same time, he presents the idea that the capitalist mode of production is the only one in which exploitation (the extortion of surplus-value), i.e., the specific form of the social relation that binds classes together in production, is 'mystified', 'fetishized' into the form of a relation between the things themselves. This thesis follows directly from his proof where the commodity is concerned: the social relation which constitutes its reality, knowledge of which enables us to assess its fetishism, is precisely the commodity relation as a relation of production, i.e., the commodity relation as generalized by the capitalist mode of production. A social ('human') relation cannot therefore be found behind 'things' in general, but only behind the thing of this capitalist relation.[8]

At this point there is a refutation of an objection raised against the general thesis of the Preface to A Contribution, which introduces the general idea of determination in the last instance. We shall only find this refutation intelligible if we constantly think the 'economy' as the structure of relations that I have defined:

According to these objections: 'my view . . . that the mode of production of material life dominates the development of social, political and intellectual life generally . . . is very true for our own times, in which material interests preponderate, but not for the middle ages, in which Catholicism, nor for Athens and Rome, where politics, reigned supreme. In the first place it strikes one as an odd thing for anyone to suppose that those well-worn phrases about the middle ages and the ancient world are unknown to anyone else. This much, however, is clear, that the middle ages could not live on Catholicism, nor the ancient world on politics. On the contrary, it is the economic conditions of the time that explain why here politics and there Catholicism played the chief part. It requires but a slight acquaintance with the history of the Roman Republic, for example, to be aware that its secret history is the history of its landed property. On the other hand, Don Quixote long ago paid the penalty for wrongly imagining that knight errantry was compatible with all economic forms of society' (Capital, T.I, p. 93n; Vol. I, p. 81n).

8 It is not my aim to give a theory of 'fetishism', i.e., of the ideological effects directly implied by the economic structure, nor even to examine in detail what Marx himself tells us about it, but merely to retain and use the index he provides by explicitly linking the problem of fetishism with that of the place of the economy in the structure of various social formations.

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We can therefore first make a specification that can be added to those that the preceding papers have proposed with respect to fetishism: Marx's thesis does not mean that in modes of production other than capitalism the structure of the social relations is transparent to the agents. 'Fetishism' is not absent from them, but displaced (onto Catholicism, politics, etc.). In reality certain of Marx's formulations leave no doubt on this point. For example, at the beginning of the text on Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, Marx writes about the so-called 'primitive' community:

The earth is the great laboratory, the arsenal which provides both the means and the materials of labour, and also the seat, the basis of the community. Men relate to it naïvely as the property of the community, and of the community producing and reproducing itself in living labour. Only insofar as the individual is a limb or member of such a community, does he regard himself as an owner or possessor. Real appropriation by means of the process of labour takes place under these pre-conditions, which are not the product of labour but appear as its natural or divine pre-conditions (Grundrisse, p. 376; PCEF, p. 64).

In other words, the transparency which characterizes the relation between the direct producer and his product in non-commodity modes of production has as its counterpart this specific form of 'naïvety' in which the existence of a community, i.e., certain kinship relations and forms of political organization, can appear as 'natural or divine' and not as implied by the structure of a particular mode of production.

But this point, which Marx touches on only too briefly (for lack of historical material), is in principle quite clearly linked to the problem of determination in the last instance. Indeed, it emerges that the 'mystification' applies not to the economy (the mode of material production) as such, but precisely to that instance of the social structure which, according to the nature of the mode of production, is determined as occupying the place of determination, the place of the last instance.

We can now understand why analogous causes produce analogous effects here: in the event, it is possible to give this formulation a precise sense; that is to say, whenever the place of determination is occupied by a single instance, the relationship of the agents will reveal phenomena analogous to 'fetishism'. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that this is the sense of the following passage from Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations on the 'Asiatic' mode of production:

In most Asiatic fundamental forms . . . the all-embracing unity (Einheit ) which stands above all these small communities may appear as the higher or sole proprietor, the real communities only as heredity possessors. Since the unity is the real owner, and the real pre-condition of common ownership, it is perfectly possible for it to appear as a particular being

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above the numerous real, particular communities. The individual is then in fact propertyless, or property . . . appears to be mediated by means of a grant from the total unity -- which is realized in the despot as the father of the many communities -- to the individual through the mediation of the particular community. It therefore follows that the surplus-product (which, incidentally, is legally determined as a consequence of the real appropriation through labour) belongs of itself (von sich selbst) to this higher unity . . . (Grundrisse, pp. 376-7; PCEF, pp. 69-70).

This 'of itself ' must be taken in the strongest sense, noting that in other modes of production, e.g., the feudal mode of production, the surplus-product does not 'of itself' belong to the representatives of the ruling class. As we shall see, something further is explicitly required for the feudal mode of production: a political relationship, either in the 'pure' form of violence, or in the adapted and improved forms of law. In the 'Asiatic' mode of production and the capitalist mode of production, on the contrary, to modes of production as far apart chronologically, geographically, etc., as possible, and despite the fact that the agents who enter into the relationship are different in other respects (here capitalist and wage-labourer, there State and communities), the same direct determination by the functions of the process of production produces the same effects of fetishism: the product belongs 'of itself' to this higher 'unity' because it appears to be the work of that unity. This is what Marx writes a little further on in the same text:

The communal conditions of real appropriation through labour, such as irrigation systems (very important among the Asian peoples), means of communication, etc., will then appear as the work of the higher unity -- the despotic government which is poised above the lesser communities.

This reasoning recurs in the chapter in Capital on co-operation, where Marx systematically compares the Asiatic forms of despotism with capitalist forms of 'despotism', i.e., the joining of the function of control or direction, indispensable to the performance of the labour process (the real appropriation of the object of labour), with the function of ownership of the means of production.

Because social labour power costs capital nothing, and because, on the other hand, the wage-labourer himself does not develop it before his labour belongs to capital, it appears as a power with which capital is endowed by nature -- a productive force that is immanent in capital. The colossal effects of simple co-operation are to be seen in the gigantic structures of the ancient Asiatics, Egyptians, Etruscans, etc. . . . This power of Asiatic and Egyptian kings, Etruscan theocrats, etc., has in modern society been transferred to the capitalist, whether he be an isolated or a collective capitalist (Capital, T.II, p. 26; Vol. I, pp. 333-4).

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It would therefore be possible and legitimate to look in Asiatic despotism for an analogy to the forms of appearance which mean that in the capitalist mode of production, 'all faculties of labour are projected as faculties of capital, just as all forms of value commodity are projected as forms of money' (Capital ). We should then in fact be basing ourselves on the analogy of the relations between the two connexions with the 'combination' in these two modes of production, i.e., on the analogy of the articulation of the double division of labour (see above).

But above all, these texts imply that all the levels of the social structure have the structure of a 'mode' in the sense in which I have analysed the mode of production strictly speaking. In other words, they are themselves presented in the form of specific complex combinations (Verbindungen ). They therefore imply specific social relations, which are no more patterns of the inter-subjectivity of the agents than are the social relations of production, but depend on functions of the process concerned: in this sense, I shall be rigorous in speaking of political social relations or ideological social relations. In the analysis of each of these modes of combination, I shall appeal to criteria of pertinence specific to each occasion.

The problem which I wish to approach is therefore the following: how is the determinant instance in the social structure in a given epoch itself determined, i.e., how does a specific mode of combination of the elements constituting the structure of the mode of production determine the place of determination in the last instance in the social structure, i.e., how does a specific mode of production determine the relations between the various instances of the structure, i.e., ultimately, the articulation of that structure? (What Althusser has called the matrix role of the mode of production.)

In order to answer this question, at least in principle, I shall consider, not an ideal, but a reduced case: that of a social structure reduced to the articulation of two different instances, an 'economic' instance and a 'political' instance, which will enable me to follow closely certain passages where Marx compares, vis-à-vis ground rent, the feudal mode of production with the capitalist mode of production.

On the simplest form of feudal ground rent, labour rent (corvée ), Marx writes:

It is . . . evident that in all forms in which the direct labourer remains the 'possessor' of the means of production and labour conditions necessary for the production of his own means of subsistence, the property relationship must simultaneously appear as a direct relation of lordship and servitude (als unmittelbares Herrschafts- und Knechtschaftsverhältnis ), so that the direct producer is not free; a lack of freedom (Unfreiheit ) which may be reduced from serfdom with enforced labour to a mere tributary relationship. The direct producer, according to our assumption, is to be found here in possession of his own means of production, the necessary material

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labour conditions required for the realization of his labour and the production of his own means of subsistence. He conducts his agricultural activity and the rural home industries connected with it independently . . .
Under such conditions the surplus-labour for the nominal owner of the land can only be extorted from them by other than economic pressure, whatever the form assumed may be . . . Thus, personal conditions of personal dependence are requisite, a lack of personal freedom, no matter to what extent, and being tied to the soil as its accessory (Zubehör ), bondage in the true sense of the word. . . .
The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers . . . which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence (Souveränitäts- und Abhängigkeitsverhältnis ), in short, the corresponding specific form of the State . . .
So much is evident with respect to labour rent, the simplest and most primitive form of rent: Rent is here the primeval form of surplus-labour and coincides with it. But this identity of surplus-value with unpaid labour of others need not be analysed here, because it still exists in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his labour for the landlord, and the latter appears directly in the brutal form of enforced labour for a third person (Capital, Vol. III, pp. 771-2).

This text contains four major points (I shall take them in a different order):

-- a new formulation of the principle of periodization: 'what distinguishes one historical epoch from another'. Here it is the mode of dependence of the social structure with respect to the mode of production, i.e., the mode of articulation of the social structure, which Marx gives us as equivalent to the previous determinations, from the point of view of its concept;

-- the specific difference in the relation between labour and surplus-labour implied by the difference between the social relations in the feudal mode of production and in the capitalist mode of production (property/possession of the means of production): in the latter case there is a coincidence 'in space and time', simultaneously of labour and surplus-labour, but not in the former;

-- the non-coincidence of the two processes, the labour process and the surplus-labour process, requires 'other than economic pressure' if surplus-labour is actually to be carried out;

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-- these other than economic pressures take the form of the feudal master/slave relationship.

It seems to me that several conclusions follow.

Firstly, Marx tells us that surplus-value exists in its visible, palpable form (in sichtbarer, handgreiflicher Form existiert ) in this mode of production, although surplus-value can only be recognized in its essence in the capitalist mode of production where it is hidden and therefore needs to be 'analysed'. Surplus-value is par excellence a category of the capitalist mode of production which takes its meaning from the analysis of the 'process of producing value ' (Verwertungsprozess ), i.e., of a production process whose aim is an increase in exchange value (the latter, by the same token, being generalized as a form of value).

The justification for this statement is the fact that surplus-value is not a 'form ' in the same way that profit, rent and interest are; surplus-value is no more nor less than surplus-labour. The specific mode of exploitation of this surplus-labour in capitalist production, i.e., ultimately the mode of constitution of revenues (the mode of distribution), and therefore of the classes, is the constitution of profit, interest and capitalist rent, i.e., of what Marx calls the 'transformed forms' of surplus-value. In the capitalist mode of production, the forms of class struggle are first inscribed in the forms of the production process in general, they appear as a confrontation of forces within certain limits which are directly determined in the production process and analysable in it (limits of the working day, of wages, of profit and its sub-divisions).

In other words, if we inquire about the structure of the class relations in a given society of which we have already said that it was distinguished by a certain mode of extraction of surplus-value, we are inquiring first of all about the 'transformed forms' peculiar to that society.[9]

But it is no accident that the point which this passage singles out as the characteristic difference between the feudal mode of production and the capitalist mode of production -- the coincidence and non-coincidence of necessary labour and surplus-labour -- is also the essential point of the whole of Marx's analysis in Capital of the capitalist mode of production alone: this coincidence is another way of expressing the term by term coincidence of the labour process and the process of producing value. The distinction between constant capital and variable capital which defines the process of producing value will always be found to correspond to the distinction between labour power and means of production peculiar to the labour process. Many examples from Capital could be adduced to show how the analysis demands reference to this correspondence (notably in the whole analysis of turnover). The worker's
9 First of all, since it is always necessary at the theoretical level to begin with what is determinant 'in the last instance'. The reason is clear: the very names of the problems depend on it.

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labour materially transforms raw materials into a product by setting to work the means of production; the same labour transfers to the product the value of the means of production and materials consumed, and produces a new value, part -- but only part -- of which is equal to the value of the labour-power. In the last analysis, therefore, the dual character of the production process, which expresses this coincidence, refers to the dual character of 'living' labour.

It is easy to see that in the case Marx is describing here, the case of a form of feudal production, the coincidence exists in neither of the two forms: not only are labour and surplus-labour distinct 'in time and space', but even given a retrospective projection of the category of value, neither of the terms can strictly speaking be called a process of producing value.

In other words:

-- in the capitalist mode of production, the two processes coincide 'in time and space', which is an intrinsic feature of the mode of production (of the economic instance); this coincidence is itself the effect of the form of combination of the factors of the production process peculiar to the capitalist mode of production, i.e., of the form of the two relations of property and real appropriation. The corresponding 'transformed forms' in this social structure, i.e., the forms of the relations between classes, are then directly economic forms (profit, rent, wages, interest), which implies notably that the State does not intervene in them at this level.

-- in the feudal mode of production there is a disjunction between the two processes 'in time and space', which is always an intrinsic feature of the mode of production (of the economic instance) and an effect of the form of combination peculiar to it (the property relation appears in it in the dual form of 'possession' and 'property'). Surplus-labour cannot then be extorted without 'other than economic pressure', i.e., without 'Herrschafts- und Knechtschafstverhältnis '. Even before we have analysed the 'transformed forms' for themselves, we can conclude that in the feudal mode of production they will not be the transformed forms of the economic base alone, but of the 'Herrschafts- und Knechtschaftsverhältnis '. Not directly economic, but directly and indissolubly political and economic ;[10] which means, finally, that different modes of production do not combine homogeneous elements, and do not allow differential divisions and definitions like the 'economic', the 'legal' and the 'political'. Historians and ethnologists today often attest the discovery of this effect, though usually in a theoretically blind fashion.

We may also be able to understand why this politics was not conscious as such, why it did not think its relative autonomy, even in the moment when
10 Pierre Vilar writes of the feudal mode of production: 'In general, growth seems to depend on a re-occupation of waste lands, on an investment in labour rather than in capital, and the owning classes' levy on production is legal and not economic ' (Première Conférence Internationale d'Histoire Économique, Stockholm 1960, p. 36). To this point we should add the oft-repeated comment that it is difficult to find specifically economic crises outside capitalism.

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it occupied the determinant place, either in the form of 'pure' violence, or in the forms of a law, because it emerged as one of the presuppositions of the mode of production itself. Indeed, as we know, this relative autonomy of politics was not recognized in thought until much later: it is peculiarly a 'bourgeois' thought.

I think that it is possible to draw from this, one of Marx's most detailed texts, the principle explicitly present in Marx of a definition of the determination in the last instance of the economy. In different structures, the economy is determinant in that it determines which of the instances of the social structure occupies the determinant place. Not a simple relation, but rather a relation between relations; not a transitive causality, but rather a structural causality. In the capitalist mode of production it happens that this place is occupied by the economy itself; but in each mode of production, the 'transformation' must be analysed. Here I merely suggest that we could try to re-read the first pages of The Origins of the Family in this perspective, the pages in which Engels expresses the following notion which he presents as a mere 'correction' of Marx's general formulations:

According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of material life. But this itself is of a two-fold character. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools requisite therefore; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a definite country live are conditioned by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other. The less the development of labour . . . the more preponderatingly does the social order appear to be dominated by ties of sex (Marx-Engels: Selected Works, pp. 455-6).

A surprising text, which not only plays impudently on the term production, but demands the application of the technological model of the advance of the productive forces to the forms of kinship, presented as social relations of procreation! Perhaps it would be more worthwhile, as a number of Marxist anthropologists have been attempting, to show how, in certain 'primitive' or 'self-subsistent' societies, the mode of production determines a certain articulation of the social structure in which the kinship relations determine even the forms of transformation of the economic base.[11] 1 On this point, see particularly the work of Claude Meillassoux: 'Essai d'interprétation des phénomènes économiques dans les sociétés d'auto-subsistence', Cahiers d'Études Africaines, 1960, No. 4; Anthropologie Économique des Gouro de Cote d'Ivoire, Mouton, The Hague, 1964.

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