Modes of Production
Try again, fail better?
Editors: Patrick Neveling & Joe Trapido
The mode of production (MoP) was an important term in the Marxist anthropology of the 1970s. Its origins can be traced to the diverse uses of the words by Marx himself, to elaborations on this by Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar, and to contributions from various French Africanist scholars. It was part of a wider conceptual vocabulary—about “articulation,” “social reproduction,” and “social formations”—that underpinned a number of innovative works in history and anthropology.
During the heydays of MoP analyses, anthropologists looked at what happened when human communities and their specific relations of production were integrated into relations of production of higher scale, such as colonial/imperial formations and global systems.
This feature section emerged from a panel at the 2014 American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. The call for papers at the time proposed several further inroads for a reassessment and possible resurgence of the modes of production debate in anthropology. Among these were reconsiderations of forms of class struggle that depart from the classic bourgeois/proletarian divide, the relationship between production and reproduction, the (co-)existence of noncapitalist and capitalist modes of production within various social formations, and what analytical possibilities may emerge from an application of the modes of production angle to periodizations of recent capitalism as Keynesian/Fordist or neoliberal/post-Fordist. The editors of this feature section hope that someone, some day, may pick up some of these suggestions.