Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Relations of production

core definition

The relationship between people in the process of production.

explanatory context

Any social productive process involves a relationship between those involved in the process, be it, for example, a co-operative, bosses and workers, capitalists and proletariat, landowners and farmhands, or serfs and feudal lords.

analytical review

Encyclopedia of Marxism (1999–2008) states:

The objective material relations that exist in any society independently of human consciousness, formed between all people in the process of social production, exchange, and distribution of material wealth. Production is not possible without relations of production – humans cannot produce outside of a social structure, whether a nation or a family – relations of production exist for all producers. The basis of the relations of production is ownership of the means of production. ...

The McGraw-Hill (2004) Sociological Theory site Glossary defines 'relations of production' as:

Those relations that people form with each other in order to fulfill their material needs. Marx believed that different forces of productions lead to different relations of production.

SparkNotes (2013) distinguished between mode, means, and relations of production:

Marx used the term mode of production to refer to the specific organization of economic production in a given society. A mode of production includes the means of production used by a given society, such as factories and other facilities, machines, and raw materials. It also includes labor and the organization of the labor force. The term relations of production refers to the relationship between those who own the means of production (the capitalists or bourgeoisie) and those who do not (the workers or the proletariat). According to Marx, history evolves through the interaction between the mode of production and the relations of production. The mode of production constantly evolves toward a realization of its fullest productive capacity, but this evolution creates antagonisms between the classes of people defined by the relations of production—owners and workers.

associated issues


related areas

See also

labour power



Encyclopedia of Marxism, 1999–2008, 'Relations of production', Glossary of Terms, available at, accessed 12 April 2013, still available 27 December 2016.

McGraw-Hill, 2004, Sociological Theory: Glossary , available at, accessed 15 May 2013, page not available 27 December 2016.

SparkNotes, 2013, 'Karl Marx (1818–1883): Themes, Arguments, and Ideas: Mode, Means, and Relations of Production', available at, accessed 12 April 2013, still available 27 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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