Posts Tagged 'mode of production social formation theory'

Marx and Mode of Production and Social Formation Theory

The Third International Comintern where some of the MPSF theory was hammered out.

The Third International Comintern where some of the MPSF theory was hammered out.

Erik K. Olsen writes about the historical formation of Mode of Production and Social Formation Theory (MPSF):

Looking beyond the Preface [to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] to other parts of Marx’s mature writing, the claim that MPSF accurately represents Marx’s theory of society and history becomes even more difficult to sustain because the theory is plainly incompatible with them.  In the introduction to the Grundrisse (1973), for example, Marx describes the relationship among various aspects of the economy and society as “organic,” and his historical analyses illustrate this.  Marx’s nuanced and multifaceted discussion of the development of capitalism in Britain in volume 1 of Capital (1967, pt. 8), for example, would be irrelevant if he hled a view of society and social change based on a simple expressive totality.  Instead, the three basic sociological laws of MPSF theory imply that a history of technology would be sufficient to describe the origins of capitalism in Western Europe.  The analysis Marx does provide would not only be unnecessary, but it would distract attention from the prinum agens.  Marx’s writing on the prospects for changes in class relations in nineteenth-century Russia (collected in Shanin 1983) provide another, similar counterexample.  In neither case does he approach the question from the perspective of how the social structure conforms to the necessity imposed by production technology.  Instead, he analyzes these situations in terms of the complex set of forces and factors that contest and shape one another…The basis for the expressive-totality ontology in Marxist theory is found not in Marx but rather in Engels.  (Olsen, 183)


Olsen, Erik K.  “Social Ontology and the Origins of Mode of Production Theory.”  Rethinking Marxism 21, no. 2 (April 2009): 177-95.


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