MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical Materialism is a way of understanding reality; whether thoughts, emotions, or the material world. Simply stated, this methodology is the combination of Dialectics and Materialism. The materialist dialectic is the theoretical foundation of Marxism (while being communist is the practice of Marxism).

"It is an eternal cycle in which matter moves, a cycle that certainly only completes its orbit in periods of time for which our terrestrial year is no adequate measure, a cycle in which the time of highest development, the time of organic life and still more that of the life of being conscious of nature and of themselves, is just as narrowly restricted as the space in which life and self-consciousness come into operation. A cycle in which every finite mode of existence of matter, whether it be sun or nebular vapour, single animal or genus of animals, chemical combination or dissociation, is equally transient, and wherein nothing is eternal but eternally changing, eternally moving matter and the laws according to which it moves and changes.

Fredrick Engels
Dialectics of Nature

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, or motion without matter, nor can there be."

"Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition).

"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics (dialectical thought), is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature."

Fredrick Engels
Dialectics of Nature

But dialectical materialism insists on the approximate relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another, that from our point of view [may be] apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth.

Vladimir Lenin
Materialism and Empirio-criticism

With each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, materialism has to change its form; and after history was also subjected to materialistic treatment, a new avenue of development has opened here, too. [Ch. 2, The End of Classical German Philosophy]

"For dialectical philosophy nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher."

Fredrick Engels
The End of Classical German Philosophy

An example of dialectical materialism applied is the materialist conception of history .

'Dialectical Materialism' was coined by Karl Kautsky and popularised in the Second International after the death of Marx and Engels.

See also: dialectics, materialism, Historical Materialism and Political Economy.



Dialectics is the method of reasoning which aims to understand things concretely in all their movement, change and interconnection, with their opposite and contradictory sides in unity.

Dialectics is opposed to the formal, metaphysical mode of thought of ordinary understanding which begins with a fixed definition of a thing according to its various attributes. For example formal thought would explain: ‘a fish is something with no legs which lives in the water’.

Darwin however, considered fish dialectically: some of the animals living in the water were not fish, and some of the fish had legs, but it was the genesis of all the animals as part of a whole interconnected process which explained the nature of a fish: they came from something and are evolving into something else.

Darwin went behind the appearance of fish to get to their essence. For ordinary understanding there is no difference between the appearance of a thing and its essence, but for dialectics the form and content of something can be quite contradictory – parliamentary democracy being the prime example: democracy in form, but dictatorship in content!

And for dialectics, things can be contradictory not just in appearance, but in essence. For formal thinking, light must be either a wave or a particle; but the truth turned out to be dialectical – light is both wave and particle. (See the principle of excluded middle)

We are aware of countless ways of understanding the world; each of which makes the claim to be the absolute truth, which leads us to think that, after all, “It’s all relative!”. For dialectics the truth is the whole picture, of which each view is a more or less one-sided, partial aspect.

At times, people complain in frustration that they lack the Means to achieve their Ends, or alternatively, that they can justify their corrupt methods of work by the lofty aims they pursue. For dialectics, Means and Ends are a unity of opposites and in the final analysis, there can be no contradiction between means and ends – when the objective is rightly understood, "the material conditions [means] for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation" (Marx, Preface of Contribution to a Political Economy)

An example of dialectical reasoning can be seen in Lenin's slogan: “All Power to the Soviets” spoken when the Soviets were against the Bolsheviks. Lenin understood, however, that the impasse could only be resolved by workers’ power. Since the Soviets were organs of workers’ power, a revolutionary initiative by the Bolsheviks would inevitably bring the Soviets to their side: the form of the Soviets during the time (lead by Mensheviks and SRs) were at odds with the content of the Soviets as Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Councils.

Formal thinking often has trouble understanding the causes of events – something has to be a cause and something else the effect – and people are surprised when they irrigate land and 20 years later – due to salination of the land, silting of the waterways, etc – they have a desert! Dialectics on the other hand understands that cause and effect are just one and another side of a whole network of relations such as we have in an ecosystem, and one thing cannot be changed without changing the whole system.

These are different aspect of Dialectics, and there are many others, because dialectics is the method of thinking in which concepts are flexible and mobile, constrained only by the imperative of comprehending the movement of the object itself, however contradictory, however transient.

History: Dialectics has its origins in ancient society, both among the Chinese and the Greeks, where thinkers sought to understand Nature as a whole, and saw that everything is fluid, constantly changing, coming into being and passing away. It was only when the piecemeal method of observing Nature in bits and pieces, practiced in Western thinking in the 17th and 18th century, had accumulated enough positive knowledge for the interconnections, the transitions, the genesis of things to become comprehensible, that conditions became ripe for modern dialectics to make its appearance. It was Hegel who was able to sum up this picture of universal interconnection and mutability of things in a system of Logic which is the foundation of what we today call Dialectics.

As Engels put it:

“the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process – i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development.” [Socialism: Utopian & Scientific]

It was in the decade after Hegel’s death – the 1840s – when Hegel’s popularity was at its peak in Germany, that Marx and Engels met and worked out the foundations of their critique of bourgeois society.

Hegel’s radical young followers had in their hands a powerful critical tool with which they ruthlessly criticised Christianity, the dominant doctrine of the day. However, one of these Young Hegelians, Ludwig Feuerbach, pointed out that Holy Family was after all only a Heavenly image of the Earthly family, and said that by criticising theology with philosophy, the Young Hegelians were only doing the same as the Christians – Hegel’s Absolute Idea was just another name for God! For Feuerbach, ideas were a reflection of the material world and he held it to be ridiculous that an Idea could determine the world. Feuerbach had declared himself a materialist.

Marx and Engels began as supporters of Feuerbach. However, very soon they took up an opposition to Feuerbach to restore the Hegelian dialectic which had been abandoned by Feuerbach, and to free it from the rigidity of the idealistic Hegelian system and place the method on a materialist basis:

“Hegel was an idealist. To him, the thoughts within his brain were not the more or less abstract pictures of actual things and processes, but, conversely, things and their evolution were only the realized pictures of the ‘Idea’, existing somewhere from eternity before the world was. This way of thinking turned everything upside down, and completely reversed the actual connection of things in the world. ” [Fredrick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific]

Thus, for Marx and Engels, thoughts were not passive and independent reflections of the material world, but products of human labour, and the contradictory nature of our thoughts had their origin in the contradictions within human society. This meant that Dialectics was not something imposed on to the world from outside which could be discovered by the activity of pure Reason, but was a product of human labour changing the world; its form was changed and developed by people, and could only be understood by the practical struggle to overcome these contradictions – not just in thought, but in practice.

Further Reading: [The Science of Dialectics], by Fredrick Engels, Dialectics of Nature, by Fredrick Engels, an example of dialectics in: The Metaphysics of Political Economy, by Karl Marx; The ABC of Materialist Dialectics, by Leon Trotsky; Lenin's Summary of Dialectics.

See also the Sampler for multiple definitions; Dialectics Subject Section. For examples of Dialectics: references to Examples from History and Society and Examples from Personal Life in Hegel’s Logic; and see the definition on Taoism for a look at an ancient process of dialectics.



Dictatorship means the imposition of a rule on others who do not consent to it. Sometimes ‘dictatorship’ is wrongly used in contrast to ‘democracy’, but ‘democracy’ implies the imposition of the will of a majority, i.e., a dictatorship, on a minority.

The word originates from the dictatura of the ancient Roman Republic, an important institution that lasted for over three centuries. The Dictatura provided for an emergency exercise of power by a trusted citizen for temporary and limited purposes, for six months at the most. Its aim was to preserve the republican status quo, and in the event of a foreign attack or internal subversion of the constitution. Dictatura, thus had much the same meaning as “state of emergency” has today. Julius Caesar gave the dictatura a “bad name” by declaring himself dictator for life.

Right into the nineteenth century, ‘dictatorship’ was used in the sense of the management of power in a state of emergency, outside of the norms of legality, sometimes, but not always, implying one-man rule, and sometimes in reference to the dominance of an elected government over traditional figures of authority.

The French Revolution was frequently referred to by friends and foes alike as a dictatorship. Babeuf’s “Conspiracy of Equals” advocated a dictatorship exercised by a group of revolutionaries, having the task of defending the revolution against the reactionary peasants, and educating the masses up to the eventual level of a democracy, a transitional period of presumably many decades. It was this notion of ‘dictatorship’ that was in the minds of Auguste Blanqui and his followers who actively advocated communist ideas in the 1830s and ’40s.

In general political discourse in the nineteenth century, however, it was quite routine to describe, for example, the British Parliament as a ‘dictatorship’. Given that in most countries the franchise was restricted to property-owners, this usage was quite appropriate, but it was also used to attack proposals for universal suffrage, which, it was held, would institute a dictatorship over the property owners.

Modern usage of the term begins to appear in connection with the Revolutions which swept Europe in 1848. The Left, including its most moderate elements, talked of a dictatorship, by which they meant nothing more than imposing the will of an majority-elected government over a minority of counter-revolutionaries. Terrified by the uprising of the Parisian workers in June 1848, the Provisional Government handed over absolute power to the dictatorship of General Cavaignac, who used his powers to massacre the workers of Paris. Subsequently, a state-of-siege provision was inserted into the French Constitution to provide for such exigencies, and this law became the model for other nations who wrote such emergency provisions into their constitutions. From the middle of the nineteenth century, the word ‘dictatorship’ was associated with this institution, still more or less faithful to the original Roman meaning — an extra-legal institution for the defence of the constitution.

It was only gradually, during the 1880s, that ‘dictatorship’ came to be routinely used to mean a form of government in contrast to ‘democracy’ and by the 1890s was generally used in that way. Prior to that time, throughout the life-time of Karl Marx for example, it was never associated with any particular form of government, everyone understanding that popular suffrage was as much an instrument of dictatorship as martial law.


Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie

The most democratic bourgeois republic is no more than a machine for the suppression of the working class by the bourgeoisie, for the suppression of the working people by a handful of capitalists.

Even in the most democratic bourgeois republic "freedom of assembly" is a hollow phrase, for the rich have the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and enough leisure to assemble at meetings, which are protected by the bourgeois machine of power. The rural and urban workers and small peasants – the overwhelming majority of the population – are denied all these things. As long as that state of affairs prevails, "equality", i.e., "pure democracy", is a fraud.

"Freedom of the press" is another of the principal slogans of "pure democracy". And here, too, the workers know – and Socialists everywhere have explained millions of times – that this freedom is a deception because the best printing presses and the biggest stocks of paper are appropriated by the capitalists, and while capitalist rule over the press remains – a rule that is manifested throughout the whole world all the more strikingly, sharply and cynically – the more democracy and the republican system are developed, as in America for example...

The capitalists have always use the term "freedom" to mean freedom for the rich to get richer and for the workers to starve to death. And capitalist usage, freedom of the press means freedom of the rich to bribe the press, freedom to use their wealth to shape and fabricate so-called public opinion. In this respect, too, the defenders of "pure democracy" prove to be defenders of an utterly foul and venal system that gives the rich control over the mass media. They prove to be deceivers of the people, who, with the aid of plausible, fine-sounding, but thoroughly false phrases, divert them from the concrete historical task of liberating the press from capitalist enslavement.

V.I. Lenin
First Congress of the Communist International

See Also: The same government: Bourgeois Democracy, save put in the perspective of the ruling class; and Democracy in general.


Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it; and today, too, the forms of state are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the "freedom of the state".

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Critique of the Gotha Programme
Part IV

This dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. This dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people.

Rosa Luxemburg
The Russian Revolution
Democracy and Dictatorship

What, then, is the relation of this dictatorship to democracy?

We have seen that the Communist Manifesto simply places side by side the two concepts: "to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class" and "to win the battle of democracy". On the basis of all that has been said above, it is possible to determine more precisely how democracy changes in the transition from capitalism to communism.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the organization of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of suppressing the oppressors, cannot result merely in an expansion of democracy. Simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery, their resistance must be crushed by force; it is clear that there is no freedom and no democracy where there is suppression and where there is violence.

V.I. Lenin
The State and Revolution
Chpt. 5: The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State

The real tasks of the workers' state do not consist in policing public opinion, but in freeing it from the yoke of capital. This can only be done by placing the means of production - which includes the production of information - in the hands of society in its entirety. Once this essential step towards socialism has been taken, all currents of opinion which have not taken arms against the dictatorship of the proletariat must be able to express themselves freely. It is the duty of the workers' state to put in their hands, to all according to their numeric importance, the technical means necessary for this, printing presses, paper, means of transportation.

Leon Trotsky
Freedom of the Press and Working Class

See Also: The same government: Proletarian Democracy, save put in the perspective of the ruling (working) class; and Democracy in general.



Difference is part of the very first stage of Essence in the genesis of a Notion in the grade of Reflection. Difference is the negation of Identity. The identity of something is defined by what is deemed to be not-equal to it, different. But Difference soon cancels itself through the discovery that 'everything is different', which is the "maxim of Diversity" (inessential difference). Difference is only meaningful where the objects considered are also in some sense identical, and thus passes over into Opposition (essential difference) and Contradiction, the unity of identity and difference.

In recent European philosophy, especially Derrida, quite of lot is made of Difference, but it is noteworthy that Difference is given a systematic development by Hegel in the earliest, most abstract part of the Logic. Marx can be seen developing the concept of Difference in Chapter 3 of Capital.

Further Reading: Hegel on Difference in the Shorter Logic.


Direct Action

Direct Action refers to the tactic whereby workers bypass established forms of mnediation, and act directly on their own behalf to solve an immediate problem. The term originated in the first decade of the twentieth century and according to Tom Mann came to the British labor movement from France. Some Marxists of that time, such as Harry Quelch, opposed the obsession with direct action among syndicalists, claiming that direct action needed to be combined with Parliamentary action.

The practice of people staging a riot as a cover for helping themselves to food during times of shortage stretches back centuries and is an example of direct action avante la lettre. Further, the term is not restricted to workers; both the employers or other groups of oppressed people may bypass legal norms and negotiation to take direct action.

It is the bypassing of mediators (which may include workers' own union leadership or legal arbitration courts), and the implication that the mediators are part of the problem, which is characteristic of direct action. Advocates of direct action argue that, as stated in the Rules of the International: “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves,” and consequently, direct action is not only necessary but the essential component of emancipation. However, obsession with direct action, which seeks to confine the workers to direct struggle for immediate demands, blocks the path to organising struggles on a wider basis and consolidating gains in legislation. The means of mediation are themselves, after all, products of the workers' struggle.


Direct Struggle

A theory set out by the People's Will party in Russia. The theory stipulated that revolution could be instigated through terrorism, called a "direct struggle" against the government apparatus. Direct Struggle aimed to show, through terrorism, an "uninterrupted demonstration of the possibility of struggling against the government, in this manner lifting the revolutionary spirit of the people and its faith in the success of the cause, and organising those capable of fighting." (from the Programme of the People's Will, 1879)



Discrete is a synonym for discontinuous, denoting breaks in development, "leaps" in Nature, matter in the form of distinct objects or particles, counting-numbers as opposed to indefinitely divisible magnitudes.

See Also: Continuity and Discontinuity.


Distribution and Exchange

Distribution is the process whereby the total social product is divided up among the population.

Exchange is the practice of trading of different products of equal value, between different individuals or organisations.

In this relation, distribution is determined by the community, exchange by the individual, but the individual is able to exchange only what has been allocated to her in the process of distribution.

Distribution and exchange only arise on the basis of a division of labour which creates a separation between production and consumption, and requires a socially determined means of mediating between the two.

But distribution and exchange do not only mediate between production and consumption: they are themselves forces of production. For example, it is the system of distribution which creates the propertyless labourers and it is the system of distribution which is then needed to realise the surplus value acquired by exploiting them.

Thus, the system of distribution and exchange is inseparably bound up with the development of the productive forces themselves. Distribution and exchange are not just external appendages of the labour process, but its life blood.

A system of distribution which provides for the concentration of a social surplus is the fundamental precondition for the development of civilisation; a system of distribution which creates a class of people who have nothing to sell but their labour power and a class of people who own the means of production as their private property is the fundamental pre-condition for the development of bourgeois society. Socialist society, on the other hand, implies a system of distribution which eradicates social inequality and transcends the need for exchange.

Exchange begins as a marginal and incidental practice at the periphery of self-sufficient communities based on Collaboration, and gives rise to the genesis of the form of value which takes on an independent form in money, and on the basis of money arises a developed system of distribution as well as an elaborate social division of labour which is the foundation for the development of all modern forces of production.

The exchange relation is the essential relation of bourgeois society, and Marx takes it as the starting point of Capital in terms of the commodity. Increasingly relations of exchange, and even distribution, penetrate into the labour process itself as a result of the process of socialisation.

See Exchange.


Diversity, the maxim of

The maxim of Diversity – ‘There are no two things completely like each other’ is attributed to Leibnitz.

This maxim is dealt with in Hegel's Doctrine of Essence as part of a series of “Laws” beginning with the Law of identity - ‘everything is equal to itself’, the Maxim of Diversity (or Variety), Opposition, Contradiction and Ground, in which understanding of the essentially contradictory sides of a concept is successively deepened.

Further Reading: Hegel on the Law of Identity in the Science of Logic and Trotsky's ABC of Materialist Dialectics; and Essential Identity.


Division of Labour

The division of labour is a specific mode of cooperation wherein different tasks are assigned to different people. Division of labour is as old as labour itself, stretching back to the birth of the human race.

“This division of labour is a necessary condition for the production of commodities, but it does not follow, conversely, that the production of commodities is a necessary condition for the division of labour. In the primitive Indian community there is social division of labour, without production of commodities. Or, to take an example nearer home, in every factory the labour is divided according to a system, but this division is not brought about by the operatives mutually exchanging their individual products.

“... In a community, the produce of which in general takes the form of commodities, i.e., in a community of commodity producers, this qualitative difference between the useful forms of labour that are carried on independently of individual producers, each on their own account, develops into a complex system, a social division of labour.

“... Wherever the want of clothing forced them to it, the human race made clothes for thousands of years, without a single man becoming a tailor. [Capital, Chapter 1]

More than anything else, human history is characterised by the ever-increasing complexity of the division of labour. The form of the division of labour changes however, passing through a number of distinct phases.

“The various stages of development in the division of labour are just so many different forms of ownership, i.e. the existing stage in the division of labour determines also the relations of individuals to one another with reference to the material, instrument, and product of labour.” [German Ideology]

Prior to the rupture of society into classes, the social division of labour was almost exclusively based on kinship relations, within a relatively closed circle, wherein the character of an individual’s labour was determined by their age, sex and position within the family. This division of labour based on kinship relations continues up to the present day, but with the collapse of tribal society and the formation of social classes there began a new kind of division of labour, based on class relations, including the division between mental and manual labour.

The division of labour has the most profound effect on the forms of consciousness predominating in a given society since such forms can only be, after all the internalised forms of social activity.

During the whole feudal period, the division of labour is still determined along kinship lines, but now on a much wider class encompassing social classes.

With the development of manufacture however, division of labour takes a big step upwards:

“That co-operation which is based on division of labour, assumes its typical form in manufacture, and is the prevalent characteristic form of the capitalist process of production throughout the manufacturing period properly so called. That period, roughly speaking, extends from the middle of the 16th to the last third of the 18th century.

“Manufacture takes its rise in two ways:

“(1.) By the assemblage, in one workshop under the control of a single capitalist, of labourers belonging to various independent handicrafts, but through whose hands a given article must pass on its way to completion. ...

“(2.) Manufacture also arises in a way exactly the reverse of this namely, by one capitalist employing simultaneously in one workshop a number of artificers, who all do the same, or the same kind of work [Capital, Chapter 14]

All subsequent developments in the forces of production correspond to qualitative changes in the social division of labour. In the last hundred years, the most significant markers in the development of the social division of labour are the successive management ideologies which achieved dominance: Taylorism, Fordism and Toyotism.

Up till the present time, the development of the social division of labour has tended to channel individuals into narrowly defined occupations, situating them in a well-defined position in the social division of labour for a life-time. That is to say, no-one is a person, she is rather a labourer in this or that occupation. Nowadays however, in the developed capitalist countries, it is rare for someone to work in a specific line of work for more than a decade without being obliged, if not by their own will, to change occupation.

In a socialist society of the future, there would remain of course a highly developed social division of labour, but it is likely that a person who is one day an artist, will be on another a tourist guide, on another a teacher and on another a machinist. It is in this sense that Marx and Engels said:

“In the present epoch, the domination of material relations over individuals, and the suppression of individuality by fortuitous circumstances, has assumed its sharpest and most universal form, thereby setting existing individuals a very definite task. It has set them the task of replacing the domination of circumstances and of chance over individuals by the domination of individuals over chance and circumstances. .... This task, dictated by present-day relations, coincides with the task of organising society in a communist way.

“... the abolition of a state of affairs in which relations become independent of individuals, in which individuality is subservient to chance and the personal relations of individuals are subordinated to general class relations, etc. - that the abolition of this state of affairs is determined in the final analysis by the abolition of division of labour. We have also shown that the abolition of division of labour is determined by the development of intercourse and productive forces to such a degree of universality that private property and division of labour become fetters on them. We have further shown that private property can be abolished only on condition of an all-round development of individuals, precisely because the existing form of intercourse and the existing productive forces are all-embracing and only individuals that are developing in an all-round fashion can appropriate them, i.e., can turn them into free manifestations of their lives. We have shown that at the present time individuals must abolish private property, because the productive forces and forms of intercourse have developed so far that, under the domination of private property, they have become destructive forces, and because the contradiction between the classes has reached its extreme limit. Finally, we have shown that the abolition of private property and of the division of labour is itself the association of individuals on the basis created by modern productive forces and world intercourse.” [German Ideology]

Further Reading:

[In the Iron Age] the second great division of labor took place: handicraft separated from agriculture. The continuous increase of production and simultaneously of the productivity of labor heightened the value of human labor-power. Slavery, which during the preceding period was still in its beginnings and sporadic, now becomes an essential constituent part of the social system; slaves no longer merely help with production -- they are driven by dozens to work in the fields and the workshops. With the splitting up of production into the two great main branches, agriculture and handicrafts, arises production directly for exchange, commodity production; with it came commerce, not only in the interior and on the tribal boundaries, but also already overseas. All this, however, was still very undeveloped; the precious metals were beginning to be the predominant and general money commodity, but still uncoined, exchanging simply by their naked weight.

The distinction of rich and poor appears beside that of freemen and slaves -- with the new division of labor, a new cleavage of society into classes. The inequalities of property among the individual heads of families break up the old communal household communities wherever they had still managed to survive, and with them the common cultivation of the soil by and for these communities. The cultivated land is allotted for use to single families, at first temporarily, later permanently. The transition to full private property is gradually accomplished, parallel with the transition of the pairing marriage into monogamy. The single family is becoming the economic unit of society....

[In overview:] At the lowest stage of barbarism men produced only directly for their own needs; any acts of exchange were isolated occurrences, the object of exchange merely some fortuitous surplus. In the middle stage of barbarism we already find among the pastoral peoples a possession in the form of cattle which, once the herd has attained a certain size, regularly produces a surplus over and above the tribe's own requirements, leading to a division of labor between pastoral peoples and backward tribes without herds, and hence to the existence of two different levels of production side by side with one another and the conditions necessary for regular exchange. The upper stage of barbarism brings us the further division of labor between agriculture and handicrafts, hence the production of a continually increasing portion of the products of labor directly for exchange, so that exchange between individual producers assumes the importance of a vital social function.

Civilization consolidates and intensifies all these existing divisions of labor, particularly by sharpening the opposition between town and country (the town may economically dominate the country, as in antiquity, or the country the town, as in the middle ages), and it adds a third division of labor, peculiar to itself and of decisive importance: it creates a class which no longer concerns itself with production, but only with the exchange of the products -- the merchants. Hitherto whenever classes had begun to form, it had always been exclusively in the field of production; the persons engaged in production were separated into those who directed and those who executed, or else into large-scale and small-scale producers. Now for the first time a class appears which, without in any way participating in production, captures the direction of production as a whole and economically subjugates the producers; which makes itself into an indispensable middleman between any two producers and exploits them both. Under the pretext that they save the producers the trouble and risk of exchange, extend the sale of their products to distant markets and are therefore the most useful class of the population, a class of parasites comes into being, "genuine social icbneumons," who, as a reward for their actually very insignificant services, skim all the cream off production at home and abroad, rapidly amass enormous wealth and correspondingly social influence, and for that reason receive under civilization ever higher honors and ever greater control of production, until at last they also bring forth a product of their own -- the periodical trade crises....

Fredrick Engels
Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State

With commerce the prerogative of a particular class, with the extension of trade through the merchants beyond the immediate surroundings of the town, there immediately appears a reciprocal action between production and commerce. The towns enter into relations with one another, new tools are brought from one town into the other, and the separation between production and commerce soon calls forth a new division of production between the individual towns, each of which is soon exploiting a predominant branch of industry. The local restrictions of earlier times begin gradually to be broken down....

The existence of the town implies, at the same time, the necessity of administration, police, taxes, etc.; in short, of the municipality, and thus of politics in general. Here first became manifest the division of the population into two great classes, which is directly based on the division of labour and on the instruments of production. The town already is in actual fact the concentration of the population, of the instruments of production, of capital, of pleasures, of needs, while the country demonstrates just the opposite fact, isolation and separation. The antagonism between town and country can only exist within the framework of private property. It is the most crass expression of the subjection of the individual under the division of labour, under a definite activity forced upon him -- a subjection which makes one man into a restricted town-animal, the other into a restricted country-animal, and daily creates anew the conflict between their interests. Labour is here again the chief thing, power over individuals, and as long as the latter exists, private property must exist. The abolition of the antagonism between town and country is one of the first conditions of communal life, a condition which again depends on a mass of material premises and which cannot be fulfilled by the mere will, as anyone can see at the first glance.....

Marx and Engels
German Ideology -- Section 3

How far the productive forces of a nation are developed is shown most manifestly by the degree to which the division of labour has been carried. Each new productive force, insofar as it is not merely a quantitative extension of productive forces already known (for instance the bringing into cultivation of fresh land), causes a further development of the division of labour....

Further, the division of labour implies the contradiction between the interest of the separate individual or the individual family and the communal interest of all individuals who have intercourse with one another. And indeed, this communal interest does not exist merely in the imagination, as the "general interest", but first of all in reality, as the mutual interdependence of the individuals among whom the labour is divided. And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man's own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.

Marx and Engels
German Ideology -- Section 1

The great progress of the division of labor began in England after the invention of machinery. Thus, the weavers and spinners were for the most part peasants like those one still meets in backward countries. The invention of machinery brought about the separation of manufacturing industry from agricultural industry. The weaver and the spinner, united but lately in a single family, were separated by the machine. Thanks to the machine, the spinner can live in England while the weaver resides in the East Indies. Before the invention of machinery, the industry of a country was carried on chiefly with raw materials that were the products of its own soil; in England, wool, in Germany, flax, in France, silks and flax, in the East Indies and the Levant, cottons, etc. Thanks to the application of machinery and of steam, the division of labor was about to assume such dimensions that large-scale industry, detached from the national soil, depends entirely on the world market, on international exchange, on an international division of labor. In short, the machine has so great an influence on the division of labor, that when, in the manufacture of some object, a means has been found to produce parts of it mechanically, the manufacture splits up immediately into two works independent of each other.

Karl Marx
The Poverty of Philosophy