Society & Us

Society & Us: Means of Production

The term refers to the physical, non-human inputs used for the production of economic value, such as facilities, machinery, and tools.

The means of production includes two broad categories of objects: instruments of labor (tools, factories, infrastructure, etc) and subjects of labor (natural resources and raw materials). People operate on the subjects of labor, using the instruments of labor, to create a product.


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Thus, in an agrarian society, the means of production is the soil and the shovel; in an industrial society it is the mines and the factories, and in a knowledge economy, it includes offices and computers.

The term is prominent in Marxist theory, since Marx’s characterization of capitalism hinges on the distinction between those who own the means of production (capitalists), and those who have nothing to sell except their own labor power (proletariats).

Author: Stuti Das, India

Click to access the other articles in the “Society & Us” series: 

Society & Us: Varna & Caste

Society & Us: New International Division of Labor

Society & Us: Hidden Curriculum


  • Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
  • Henslin, James M. Essentials of sociology: a down-to-earth approach. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004. Print.
  • Evans, Michael. Karl Marx. Bloomington: Indiana U Press, 1975. Print.
  • Flower, B. O. The Arena, Volume 37. The Arena Pub. Co, originally from Princeton University.

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