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After writing a long post, i decided to keep only the summary : I understand that in the marxist framework a mode of production is constituted by :

  • the relations of production
  • the productive forces

And that the engine of the (r)evolution of the mode of production, and its development is the contradiction between the 2. At some point the relations of production are an obstacle to the development of the productive forces. So my questions are :

  • how is it exactly that private property of means of production (the relations of production) and a socialized production (the productive forces) through the development of capitalism and an increasingly large-scale industry, constitute a contradiction, and the main one, in capitalist mode of production ?
  • how does that contradiction manifests itself ? Through economic crises, i've also read "the destruction of productive forces during those crises", but how are economic crises manifestations of this contradiction ?
  • how, according to marxism, is this supposed to lead to a socialist mode of production ? Taking from Lenin and his book on imperialism, that contradiction is being "solved" by ever-increasing concentration of capital, leading to monopolies in different branches of production, and the merger of branches of production, for example financial capital, being the merger of bank capital and industrial capital. And one can see how one large monopolistic company in one branch can purchase or merge with another monopolistic company of another branch. How is socialism supposed to happen or being brought ?

Thank you

  • doesn't this create crisis because of the laws of capital and its exploitation of workers: the falling rate of profit etc. – user35983 Dec 31 '18 at 20:07
  • I wanted you to have this review of Michael Harrington's book, "The Twilight of Capitalism" (1977). It was written at an odd time, and got lost in the "Reagan Revolution" which began in 1981. This is a review in the Hofstra Law Review. It is a good book because it was written at the end of a certain era, however, the paperback was made with poor glue and it may be difficult to find this book even in a good library. scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/cgi/… – Gordon Jan 1 at 3:54
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Private property rights is necessary in order to accumulate wealth and thereby concentrate capital. With increasing concentration of capital the workers becomes relatively poorer and according to some interpretations of marxism even absolutely poorer. This happens such an extent that labour cannot reproduce itself, when wages falls below what is necessary eat and drink enough to be able to go to work tomorrow. This reveal an internal inconsistency in the capitalist system because labour is necessary to uphold production in the first place, without labour capital is dead. According to one interpretation it leads to a socialist mode of production through revolution, where the impoverished develop class consciousness and unite to overthrow the system.

  • "Private property rights is necessary in order to accumulate wealth and thereby concentrate capital." >> how so ? Some entity, like the state or any unit of production, collectively owned by workers, could also accumulate wealth. I've read that happened in some communes and/or brigades of production in China after the revolution "With increasing concentration of capital the workers becomes relatively poorer and according to some interpretations of marxism even absolutely poorer." >> Then again, how so ? The concentration of capital could imply an increase in so-called "variable capital" – joseph M'Bimbi-Bene Jan 1 at 13:22
  • "This happens such an extent that labour cannot reproduce itself, when wages falls below what is necessary eat and drink enough to be able to go to work tomorrow." >> While i get that point, i question your premisses, or how you formulated them – joseph M'Bimbi-Bene Jan 1 at 13:24
  • "This reveal an internal inconsistency in the capitalist system because labour is necessary to uphold production in the first place, without labour capital is dead." >> So i understand that you say the contradiction is that increase in accumulation for a private owner, separated from the workers, tends to drive wages down, to the point that productive forces (the workers) can no longer, or not sufficiently survive. that lack of reproduction of workers/productive forces hinders the development of productive forces (obviously) and as a result of capital itself. – joseph M'Bimbi-Bene Jan 1 at 13:30
  • Thx for the comments @joseph M'Bimbi-Bene the reason I choose to speak about "reproduction" is because it in my opinion something that distinguishes how Marx thought about labor as compared to Neoliberal Economics as is often taught at Universities many places today. "Hence, the price of labor is also equal to the cost of production of labor. But, the costs of production of labor consist of precisely the quantity of means of subsistence necessary to enable the worker to continue working" marx on labor to quote from Wiki. – Jesper Hybel Jan 1 at 13:34
  • but then, either in a context of monopoly or concurrency, facing a threat of revolution, the owners could increase wages, or modify the "composition of capital" with more variable capital. I've heard a few times that's the point of modern social-democrat, with the sole purpose of increasing wages and adding some "social" features to the state. It is often said to be some "tactics" of the bourgeoisie (at least its left side) to prevent the people from rebelling and organizing themselves to make a revolution – joseph M'Bimbi-Bene Jan 1 at 13:34
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how is it exactly that private property of means of production (the relations of production) and a socialized production (the productive forces) through the development of capitalism and an increasingly large-scale industry, constitute a contradiction, and the main one, in capitalist mode of production ?

Well.

If the property of means of production is private, and production is essentially production of commodities, then production is led by competition. Competition forces each private producer of commodities to seek to offer their commodities at the lowest price. This in turn makes each producer of commodities seek to systematically increase surplus value, which, barred the primitive and inefficient method of reducing wages and extending labour hours, is only possible through increased productivity of labour, which is only possible through increasing the composition of capital - ie, by improving the means of production so that workers produce more per unit of time.

Problem is, value is a function of labour time. So while the individual producer, when succeeding to increase the productivity of his/her unit of production, makes superprofits as long as the competition remains at an archaic level of productivity, the effect of the increase of productivity, as it spreads among all the productive system (or as it leads the least productive producers into bankrupcy), is to lower the value of each commodity, as it embodies lesser and lesser amounts of human labour.

In philosophical terms, this means that there is a contradiction between value and wealth; while value is the form of most wealth in a capitalist society, its relation to its substance, wealth, is doublefold:

  1. Synchronically, value is proportional to wealth: two coats are the double wealth as one coat, and the value of two coats is the double of the value of one coat;
  2. Diachronically, value is proportional only to labour time; doubling the wealth by halving the labour time to produce it doesn't double the value. When you are able to produce two coats in the time you formerly produced only one, wealth is doubled, but value remains the same.

At some point in the development of such a system, increasing the productivity is no longer worth the pain: gains of productivity will no longer result in increased profits. If the proportion between dead labour and live labour in a low-tech environment is 1/1, then profits will expand quite nicely by turning that proportion to 2/1. But when the proportion is already 100/1, increases in it will have very little effect on profits; the system no longer rewards gains of productivity - and has therefore come to be "an obstacle to the development of the productive forces" as you put it.

how does that contradiction manifests itself ? Through economic crises, i've also read "the destruction of productive forces during those crises", but how are economic crises manifestations of this contradiction ?

Economic crises in capitalism are basically crises of overproduction. As each producer of commodities seeks to offer the lowest possible prices, and to sell the largest possible amount of individual commodities in order to compensate for lower prices, time comes when there are too many commodities in the market, and part of them becomes unsalable. Part of these commodities being productive forces themselves, if they are not sold and subsequently used, they are wasted, which is in itself a form of "destruction of productive forces".

Economic crises tend to unleash political crises, in which further destruction of productive forces may happen, in the form of wars, sabotage, etc.

how, according to marxism, is this supposed to lead to a socialist mode of production ? Taking from Lenin and his book on imperialism, that contradiction is being "solved" by ever-increasing concentration of capital, leading to monopolies in different branches of production, and the merger of branches of production, for example financial capital, being the merger of bank capital and industrial capital. And one can see how one large monopolistic company in one branch can purchase or merge with another monopolistic company of another branch. How is socialism supposed to happen or being brought ?

The short answer is it doesn't. Socialism is thought to be only possible via a political revolution, which is a deliberate action by human agents. What the development of the capitalist system provide are merely conditions for such a revolution, which may be summarised as,

  1. Suppression of scarcity: under previous modes of production, the amount of wealth generated by human labour was always unsufficient to provide a rich, meaningful life for all mankind if it was equitatively divided;
  2. Destruction of petty, "idylic" previous relations that tied human beings to their country, province, town or hamlet;
  3. Creation of the means for social control of production, via automation of decision making;
  4. Creation of a mass of individuals who are denied access to most of the wealth created, although being responsible for the creation of all value, which is thought to provide the "human agents" required for the deliberate action of revolution.

The crises of capitalism, on the other hand, provide the empirical evidence that the system is unable to work smoothly, and that the "fixes" it needs to reboot itself into a new cycle of prosperity are too costly in terms of human lives and suffering to be continuously tolerated for an indeterminate lapse of time; and also the political fractures that may make the deliberate action of revolution possible.

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    nice long and through answer, pretty satisfying after a first reading (contradiction between wealth and value, the lack of incentive for productivity growth after some point and overproduction). Let me process it and connect the dots :) – joseph M'Bimbi-Bene Jan 1 at 13:16
  • Thank you. If necessary, I can improve on the above answer. – Luís Henrique Jan 1 at 17:03

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