Study Guide

The Communist Manifesto Means of Production

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Means of Production

The means of production for Marx are the tools, equipment, and land used by humans to produce stuff in a given economic epoch. We use the means of production to make products and change our environment. How we do this has changed over time.

Here's how Marx describes the change in production from feudalism to the bourgeois era: 

The feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacture no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois. (Section1.8-9)

Let's take the example of a painter. If he's born in prehistoric times, he's probably crushing up berries to paint the animals his tribe hunts on cave walls. That same painter, born today, might use a computer and graphic design techniques to make an advertising billboard. He's still an artist, but the means of production of his economic epoch have changed, which in turn changes what he does, how does he does it, and by extension, some aspects of who he is.

The worker takes on the characteristics of the means of production of his or her society. For example, a factory worker will come to value standardization and efficiency, while a feudal artisan valued the charm of a one-of-a-kind creation and may not have thought as much about how long it took to make the product.

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