Labour is Marxs term for those who do not own the means of production and thus rely on their own labour - ie they are wage earners.

What is his term for those who do own the means of production? Its a phrase lomg enough that one rather not quote it but reach for some kind of contraction; is that rentier? This doesn't seem quite right though.

  • 1
    The conceptual opposite to labor is capital, for what it's worth
    – Joseph Weissman
    Aug 25, 2014 at 23:33
  • 1
    Capitalists or owners is common. Bourgeois is Marx's term, but outside of Marx per se, that term historically includes not just owners, but other middle-class workers like teachers, lawyers and accountants who are arguably also Labor, and own only the part of the means of production that comprises their own set of tools.
    – user9166
    Mar 2, 2016 at 18:25

5 Answers 5


In general, the terms I've used are:

Bourgeoisie - the capitalist class who own most of society's wealth and means of production.

Proletariat - workers or working-class people, regarded collectively

Those seemed to be the most common and applicable terms when I was reading Marx.

EDIT: Thanks Google!


A very good but also very simple answer has been given already. In capitalist society, the means of production (machinery, raw materials, etc.) are owned by the bourgeoisie. This is made very explicit in The Communist Manifesto (and most of the rest of what I will say is at least hinted at in there as well).

To give a more complete answer, we should consider that Marx theorizes the historical development of societies through his concept of modes of production. Each mode of production is essentially defined by how the means of production are controlled. So the answer to your question really depends on which mode of production you have in mind.

In primitive communism, which refers to "tribal" societies or what we might call hunter-gather societies, the means of production are very limited and held in common. There is no ruling class, so the means of production belongs to more or less equally to everyone in the society.

The Asiatic mode of production describes most ancient empires and civilizations. It was the relevant ruling political/priestly class or imperial dynasty that controlled most of the land, the irrigation systems, etc. In short, the means of production was owned by the state.

In Europe and Japan, a feudal system emerged prior to capitalism. This is not fundamentally different from the Asiatic mode, but the state was highly fragmented, de-centralized and divided. Feudal lords therefore had the most direct control over the means of production.

Out of feudalism, a bourgeoisie emerged and gradually took control over the means of production by instituting private property. Feudal lords lost control over the peasants, who became proletarians. This produces the eventual possibility of a pure form of communism, in which control of the means of production would again return to everyone. (Which mode of production best describes the so-called communism in the USSR, China, etc. is debated. Many Marxists see it as a form of capitalism or the Asiatic mode.)

Finally, your question raises the concept of a rentier class. Marx would consider some of the bourgeoisie, like bankers and real estate speculators, to be rentiers. They don't directly own means of production like factories, but they indirectly derive surplus from those means. While elites in non-capitalist societies (feudal lords and other ruling classes) can also be seen rentiers, the concept is more meaningful in the context of capitalist society. It distinguishes what Marx sees as the "non-productive" groups within the bourgeoisie.


I would like to say,

The render of advanced payment into the mode of the prodution

( such as machines, eletrnic devices, waters, rooms etc etc )

Well, in today's terms, simply it might be called investors

( Or I am sorry, in Japanese version, Marx calls them such ( I am sorry it takes for a while to find the corresponding term in English. ( Please wait )).

  • However, according to Marx himself, since they are the chunk of the dead labors, so these who use dead ones are the workers, so that workers will in the end or should in the end own the dead ( which is borrowing actually Locke's idea. )
    – user13955
    Mar 2, 2016 at 14:24

yeah bourgeois, or capitalist

petite bourgeois for those that still have to work but have employees.


The right term depends on context, but if your context is one where you are going to call the working class "labour", then for those who own (or, more to the point, control) the means of production the best term is surely "capital": capital as class.

In Marx's work, rentiers are those who derive their income from rent; one also has moneylenders, who derive it from interest; and capitalists who invest directly in production, who derive it from profit.

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