Theory of productive forces
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- The "theory of productive forces" should not be confused with the Marxist analysis of productive forces that is a foundation of Marxist analysis.
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The theory of productive forces (sometimes referred to as productive force determinism) is widely disseminated interpretation of historical materialism and Marxism that places primary emphasis on technical advances as the basis for advances and changes in the social structure and culture.
On a prescriptive level, this view places a strong emphasis on the necessity of strengthening the productive forces of the economy as a precondition to establishing socialism, and within a nominally socialist economy, as a precondition to achieving communism.
This theory was held by many Orthodox Marxists as well as Marxist-Leninists; as a result, it played a crucial role in informing the economic policies of Marxist-Leninist Communist states during the 20th century.
A related concept is that of technological determinism.
The most influential philosophical defence of this idea has been promulgated by Gerald Cohen in his book Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. According to this view, technical change can beget social change; in other words, changes in the means (and intensity) of production causes changes in the relations of production, i.e., in people's ideology and culture, their interactions with one another, and their social relationship to the wider world. This view point is a foundation of Orthodox Marxism.
In this view, actual socialism, being based on social ownership and wide distribution of an abundant surplus product, cannot come to pass until that society's ability to produce wealth is built up enough to satisfy its whole population. Using this theory as a basis for their practical programmes meant that communist theoreticians and leaders, while paying lip service to the primacy of ideological change in individuals to sustain a communist society, actually put productive forces first, and ideological change second.
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The philosophical perspective behind the modernizing zeal of the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China was based on the desire to industrialize their countries. It is perhaps captured best by this thought in The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Engels:
"...it is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world... by employing real means... slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and... in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. “Liberation” is a historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture, the conditions of intercourse [Verkehr]...
- Technological determinism
- Economic determinism
- Historical materialism
- Mode of production
- Socialism (Marxism)
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