Retheorising The Concept Of Mode Of Production In Diverse Economies

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:40 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Dave ELDER-VASS , Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Mode of production is a central concept in political economy, and one that has often seemed relatively uncontroversial. The prevailing usages, however, tend to frame modes of production as thoroughly dominant in their epochs, thus tending to marginalise other forms of production as socially and economically insignificant. Yet even today, in capitalism’s pomp, there are massive sections of the economy that are far from capitalist in form. Labour in the household, subsistence agriculture, and the many and varied forms of gift and solidarity economy take a vast range of economic forms, few of them recognizably capitalist. And increasingly it is clear that alternatives to capitalism will not be imposed by taking control of the state but rather are developing all around us in the interstices of our already diverse economy. We cannot make sense of this diversity without discarding or radically revising the concept of modes of production.

 This paper engages with some of the issues that arise when we do so, and introduces an alternative approach organised around the concept of appropriative practices. If we think of the economy as a mixed economy of appropriative practices, which may be combined and recombined in a variety of economic forms, we can give ourselves the theoretical flexibility to make sense of a far wider and more open range of alternative futures – and indeed of the varied and complex range of actual contemporary economies. We may then begin to theorise the forms of interaction between these competing economic forms, the sometimes surprising ways in which they bolster and undermine each other, and develop a political economy that is no longer trapped by its own terms between an inexorable capitalism and an impossible socialism.