MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



For Itself

“For itself” appears in Hegel's Logic with "The Idea", it is a thing developed to the point where it has consciousness of itself. In society, this corresponds to a movement in which the individuals know and identify themselves as part of that movement and have a shared program etc.

However, "consciousness" has here, with "Life" lost its content of being "in itself", it now has external consciousness and purpose, means and ends, but there is a lack of correspondence between means and ends.

See also: "In Itself", "For Itself" and "For Us" below.


Forces of Production

See Productive Forces.



– after Henry Ford (1863-1947); method of industrial management based on assembly-line methods production of cheap, uniform commodities in high volume, and winning employee loyalty with good wages, but intolerant of unionism or employee participation.

Henry Ford was born on the family farm near Dearborn, Michigan, but at 19 began part-time work at the nearby Westinghouse Engine Company while tinkering at home in his own machine shop. He soon moved to Detroit and in 1894 made chief engineer at the Detroit electricity plant. Working in his spare time, by 1896 he had completed his first horseless carriage. Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 and claiming “I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Ford produced the first the Model T in October 1908. Over the 19 years following, Ford sold 15,500,000 Model T’s in the US, 1,000,000 more in Canada, and 250,000 in Britain – as many cars as produced by all other producers in the entire world during the same period, all identical in design and all black. Surely more than anyone else responsible for the invention of the modern world, Ford has been recorded as stating: “history is more or less bunk”. He was also a pacifist and opposed the First World War.

There were two interrelated aspects of Ford’s revolution that contributed to the transformation wrought by these 17 million motor cars.

Firstly, the assembly-line system in the Ford plant in Highland Park, Michigan, with its constantly moving conveyor belt and minute division of labour which, by 1913, was able to deliver just-on-time parts, subassemblies, and assemblies (themselves built on subsidiary assembly lines) with precise timing, reduced the production time of a complete chassis from 728 minutes to 93 minutes and by 1927 Ford was turning out a Model T every 24 seconds.

Secondly, in 1914, Ford announced that it would henceforth pay workers a minimum wage of $5 a day, more than double the average for the motor industry at that time, and simultaneously reduced the working day from nine hours to eight, operating the plant 24-hours-a-day with a three-shift system.

These moves made Ford a worldwide celebrity, but his motives were sound business sense. Ford workers could aspire to buy a Ford motor car, as the price of a Model T fell from $950 in 1908 to $290 in 1927. Previously, profit had been based on paying wages as low as workers would take and pricing cars as high as the market would bear. Ford, on the other hand, stressed low pricing to capture the widest possible market and then met the price by volume and efficiency. Later on, in resisting further automation of his factory, Henry Ford remarked “Robots don’t buy motor cars”.

The $5 a day wage that brought him attention in 1914 brought with it an overbearing paternalism. Further, it was no guarantee for the future. In 1932, with sales as falling as a result of the Great Depression, Ford cut wages from $7 to $4 a day, below prevailing industry rate. Ford freely employed company police, labour spies, and violence to prevent unionisation and continued to do so even after other manufacturers had signed contracts with the United Auto Workers, which did not succeed in organising Ford’s factory until 1941.

So “Fordism” refers to this policy of winning the loyalty of workers to profit from a high-wage economy, by producing commodities for the masses as cheaply as possible by the application of assembly line techniques. It was this policy which brought the United States to the position of the dominant capitalist power by the end of World War Two.

The difficulties with Fordism was that while it depended absolutely on the loyalty of the workers it offered no room for innovation or worker participation, and the low price was achieved at the price of mind-numbing uniformity and indifference to market demands: market demand was the result not the driving force of production.

P.S. Ford did not invent the assembly line. The idea of the moving belt originated in the 19th-century meat-packing industry in Cincinnati and Chicago, and the mass production of absolutely uniform components for later assembly, originated in the Colt gun factory. The Waltham Watch Company, invented the "transfer machine", precursor of the industrial conveyor belt, in 1888. The word “automation” was however invented by Ford, in 1940.




Form refers to the mode of existence or internal organisation of Content.



Over-emphasis on Form as against the Content or meaning of something, especially in politics or in the theory of Art, Mathematics and Ethics. In Mathematics, Formalism is associated with David Hilbert and reduces mathematics solely to rules for the construction of valid sequences of symbols.


Formal Logic

The system of Logic founded by Aristotle based on the syllogism, which is adequate for testing the validity of deductive reasoning of the form ‘If A = B, and C = A; then C = B’ etc., which is valid only to the extent that (i) the premises (such as ‘ A = B’) are valid, (ii) the terms are self-identical and (iii) the object is not too complex for formal analysis (i.e. it contains details that are unknown).

Many Marxists have written polemics against Formal Logic, particularly as a way of explaining dialectics. However, a cavalier attitude towards the requirements of formal logic when they are relevant is the method of Voluntarism, not Dialectics. Formal Logic reflects the fact that in the world, for practicable purposes, there are things that in order for us to deal with them (in every day life for example), they must be stable and concrete. The point is to know the Limits of Formal Logic.

Further Reading: various critiques in the sampler and Formal Logic and Dialectics, Formal Logic in Nature and Society, Law of Excluded Middle, Law of Identity, Law of Non-Contradiction and Law of Sufficient Ground.

Form of Value

The form of value is the historically evolved form through which the exchange-value of commodities are manifested in a given society.

“... the value of commodities has a purely social reality, and that they acquire this reality only in so far as they are expressions or embodiments of one identical social substance, viz., human labour, it follows as a matter of course, that value can only manifest itself in the social relation of commodity to commodity. In fact we started from exchange-value, or the exchange relation of commodities, in order to get at the value that lies hidden behind it. We must now return to this form under which value first appeared to us.” [Capital, Chapter 1]

The money-form of value did not appear ready-made but was the outcome of a long history in which one form successively replaced another, perfecting the form of value and evolving the money-form.

The value-form is the essence of the commodity. Value first makes its appearance in history with the accidental and occasional exchange of products between neighbouring people. Here the value of each product can be determined only in the immediate determinate situation in comparison exclusively with the product for which it is proffered in exchange.

Marx called this the “Elementary or Accidental Form of Value”, and in Chapter 1 of Capital, traced the 15 successive forms of value from this accidental form up to money. These forms of value track the gradual emergence of regular and socially determined practices of value-determination, beginning with more regulated forms of barter, up through the singling out of one commodity as a unit of measurement of all others.

The perfection of the form of value facilitates the expansion of trade, and without money, the industrial revolution would have been impossible. The money-form reached the pinnacle of its development at the end of the 19th century as gold emerged as the exclusive measure of value for international trade.

After the period of monetary crisis of the inter-war years – competitive devaluations, preferential trade agreements, excessive printing of paper money to the point of triggering hyperinflation – the form of value had to undergo further changes. The Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 put in place arrangements for the U.S. dollar to take over from gold as the medium of international exchange and reserve currency, supported by a vast stockpile of gold at Fort Knox. This move constituted the formation of a new form of value, qualitatively different from paper money acting as a form of credit or “promisory note”.

In the crisis which broke out in the late-1960s/early 1970s, the form of value underwent further changes. The range of international organisations (IMF, GATT, World Bank, etc.) created at Bretton Woods were re-invented go beyond managing international trade agreements and regulating the maintenance of exchange-rates. Now the I.M.F. could intervene into the affairs of any government and impose social, monetary and economic policies against the will of that government. GATT could not only facilitate multilateral trade negotiations, but impose conditions on non-consenting governments.

These measures were part and parcel of managing a form of value in which the last material link between paper money and gold was severed – the dollar was no longer fixed against gold.




“Forum” is the conception of an institution or social formation in which there are no “stakes” to be won nor any opportunity for instrumental use of the body, but nonetheless, the social formation offers the opportunty to talk, to send and receive messages, etc. It may be the very fact that the organisation is otherwise useless, which makes it viable as a forum. Socialists, like everyone else, will use the internet, the public spaces in the shopping mall, radio talk-back programs, and so forth, as a forum, without any intention of “winning the debate” or “taking control” of the forum. Once a forum is controlled by any one interest, it generally ceases to be a forum and remains simply a channel for the distribution of one point of view.

A “Forum” differs from an Arena in that an arena has stakes: subjects striving in the arena can win followers and earn status or even gain control of the arena, indeed, it may the prospect of gaining control that is the main motivation for participating in an arena.

See also Field, Community and Arena, Party and Network.


For Us

This term is often used,emphasising the subjective side of perception, either to refer to phenomenon or the significance or meaning of a thing.

Marx defines alienation as the opposition of "in itself" and "for itself", of consciousness and self-consciousness, of object and subject in Critique of Hegel’s Dialectic.

Further Reading: section in Hegel’s Outline of Logic and Shorter Logic on “For us” and Science of Logic on “for other”.