MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms




God is the way in which the dominant conception of knowledge and ethics in a given society are made to seem objective, sanctified and unchanging, by means of the reification of a supreme principle. Marx wrote of religion:

"The basis of religious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal source of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion."

Karl Marx
Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right

"God being everything, the real world and man are nothing. God being truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power, and life, man is falsehood, iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is the slave." While Satan is "the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds."

Mikhail Bakunin
God and the State

The struggle between Deism – belief in god, and Atheism – assertion that god does not exist, has figured largely throughout history. Common variations on Deism are Agnosticism – “Don’t know”, and Naturalism – in which God is given the name of “Nature”.

Further Reading: Material listed above, in addition to, Hegel on the various metaphysical definitions of God, one of Lenin's many comments on Hegel's references to God.


Gold Standard

The Gold Standard is the practice of fixing the value of the currencies of different countries against gold. The holding of large quantities of gold in the central bank allows a government to guarantee its currency in the last instance by delivery of gold.

Britain fixed the value of the pound sterling against gold rather than silver in 1821, but the shortage of gold limited the scope for trade in gold to form a stable base for the value of currencies. The gold rushes in America and Australia in the mid-19th century brought a much larger quantity of gold into circulation, and in 1870, Germany, France and the United States and soon after many other countries, fixed the value of their own currencies against gold, bringing about the Gold Standard in which the value of all major currencies were fixed against gold and thereby had fixed exchange rates against one another. The central banks held significant amounts of gold in their vaults in order to guarantee the convertibility of currencies to be recognised “as good as gold” in other countries and greatly expanding the possibilities for international trade on the part of their own bourgeoisie.

The gold standard collapsed during World War One. On the one hand, countries would not allow the export of gold, and on the other, governments did not hesitate to print money to meet the needs of the war effort, without regard to defending the convertibility of their currency. By 1928, the gold standard had been re-established with all the major currencies fixed against gold. However, with the general expansion of world trade and overall increase in the size of the world economy, there was simply not enough gold to underwrite the amount of money required to sustain world trade. Consequently, central banks adopted the practice of supplementing their holdings of gold with other convertible currencies (particularly US dollar and British pounds). However, trade had been stimulated by the stock exchanges, who had been busy creating fictitious value by speculating on the value of capital, and by banks who had been free and easy extending loans without adequate security. Stocks and loans went into circulation effectively acting as paper money, with its value being sustained by speculation.

When the Wall Street Stock Exchange collapsed on 24 October 1929, triggering a collapse of Stock Exchanges around the world, this fictitious value was wiped out, throwing banks, businesses and individual capitalists into bankruptcy, forcing factories to close, throwing millions out of work and initiating the Great Depression. Governments face dire problems when the economy collapses. Money is desparately required both for government business and to oil the wheels of commerce; with empty coffers governments resort to “printing money” to buy what the government needs. The result is a spiral in which no-one has any confidence in the value of money and the government goes on printing it at an ever faster rate. During the 1930s, Germany and other countries experienced this kind of spiralling inflation which ultimately destroyed the value of paper money altogether. The gold standard had been abandoned everywhere by 1937. During economic downturns however, prices normally go down; that is to say, the opposite of inflation. This is because everyone has commodities, but can't find buyers for them because no-one has any money. In countries that did not engage in “printing money”, inflation was non-existent for twenty years after the Wall Street Crash.

Largescale gold production in the Soviet Union allowed the Soviet Union to guarantee the value of the ruble with gold and halt inflation by 1934, but they did not proceed to adopt a Gold Standard. (See The Rehabilitation of the Ruble.)

The US Government was however able to peg the value of the dollar at US$35/oz. gold for purchases and sales of gold by foreign central banks. With the War leaving the US in a supremely powerful position, the convertible dollar was used at Bretton Woods to create the conditions for rebuilding capitalism after 1945.

The convertible dollar thus replaced the Gold Standard as such.

See The Gold Standard (Geoff Pilling, 1986)


Good, Idea of the

According to Hegel's Logic: when the subject tries to mould the world in the image of itself.

In the structure of the Science of Logic, Hegel rigidly subdivides everything by triads, but in the penultimate chapter, he breaks from this pattern. In Book II, Chapter Two § 3, Cognition is divided into two, not three parts - "The Idea of the True" and the "Idea of the Good". [This is because Chapter 3 of Section Three of Book III, the "Absolute", and does not "prove to be something else"].

In the Shorter Logic Hegel says that in the Idea of the True (Cognition proper), the subject tries to mould itself in the image of the world, whereas in the Idea of the Good, the subject tries to mould the world in the image of itself. Thus, in the Shorter Logic, the Good comes under Volition, as opposed to Cognition proper.

Further Reading: Philosophy of Right and Objective Spirit.


Goods and Services

Goods” and “services” are terms from the lexicon of bourgeois economics, not Marxism, carrying with them the idea of sectors of the economy producing differents kinds of things, in the case of services, “immaterial” or intangible commodities, doing something for someone rather than making something for someone. This conception, however, confuses the mind, and clarification is complicated by the breadth of the category “services” and the muddled nature of the distinction.

Firstly, both goods and services are commodities, i.e., meeting someone else’s need to earn a living. In general, the kind of labour may be the same; what differs is the manner in which the exchange is effected.

For example, if I make a pizza and it goes into the supermarket, I have manufactured a good. But if I work as the cook in a restaurant and make exactly the same pizza to be handed over the counter, then I have become a “service worker”.

If you buy a car, that’s a good; but if you lease the same car, that’s a service. The line between “hire purchase” and leasing is hard to draw. It may be that additional labour (regular servicing for example) is combined with the manufacture of the car by socialising labour which would have been carried out by the owner themselves, but hire remains simply a means of effecting a sale.

Socialisation of labour may involve replacing activity formerly carried out outside the market with manufacture, but then later the manufactured labour is incorporated into a “service”. For example, during the second half of the 20th century, cooking in the domestic environment was largely replaced by manufacture of food products, and increasingly take-away, fast food and the restaurant trade – services – supplant the sale of prepared food. Thus manufacture and service here mark stages in the process of socialisation of labour.

The growth of what is called the service sector sometimes takes place through the break-up of enterprises, with separate firms, which would previously have been divisions of the same enterprise, instead of simply collaborating with each other, selling their services to each other. For example, clerks doing the salaries in a manufacturing company, may find themselves as employees of a firm selling salary services to the manufacturer. Exactly the same work, first manufacture, now a service. In the case of labour hire firms, workers doing good old fashioned factory work are magically transformed into employees in the service sector!

Whether I buy a meal off you, as a producer in the manufacturing sector, or ask you to bring the ingredients into my kitchen and cook the meal for me, as a producer in the service sector, does not affect the nature of your labour.

“For example, when the peasant takes a wandering tailor, of the kind that existed in times past, into his house, and gives him the material to make clothes with. ... The man who takes the cloth I supplied to him and makes me an article of clothing out of it gives me a use value. But instead of giving it directly in objective form, he gives it in the form of activity. I give him a completed use value; he completes another for me. The difference between previous, objectified labour and living, present labour here appears as a merely formal difference between the different tenses of labour, at one time in the perfect and at another in the present.” [Grundrisse, part 9. Original accumulation of capital]

There is a difference however, if I hire you as a kitchen hand (so to speak) to work under my direction in my kitchen, and pay you by the hour. In this case, I do not buy your labour, but your labour-power, which I use according to my own will, and transform you from an independent contractor into a servant and wage-worker.

“If a capitalist hires a woodcutter to chop wood to roast his mutton over, then not only does the wood-cutter relate to the capitalist, but also the capitalist to the wood-cutter, in the relation of simple exchange. The woodcutter gives him his service, a use value, which does not increase capital; rather, capital consumes itself in it; and the capitalist gives him another commodity for it in the form of money.” [Grundrisse part 5., Capital and labour]

If my aim is not to satisfy my own hunger, but to sell the meal to someone else, then I become your employer, and you are transformed into, not only a wage worker, but a productive worker!

“a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relation.” [Capital, Chapter 16]

Nevertheless, there are changes taking place in the labour process and changes in the consciousness of the workers involved which arise from the relationships through which the labour process is organised.

“Goods” and “services” are confusing categories for grasping these changes. The category of “services” embraces banking and insurance, health and education, sex and gambling, labour-hire and contracting in the building trade, food production, maintenance and repair, personal care, transport, both public and private, entertainment and retail, all in a mish-mash of confusion.




An information network used before the advent of the world wide web, after the decommission of APRANET. Gophers short claim to glory was in its ability to transfer data, image and sound files in a hierarchical structure. Users would select options that would take them to other gopher servers, that further defined what they were looking for. WWW sites like www.yahoo.com are a much more advanced version of what gopher had been designed to do.



Governance is whole mechanism of social power, including both institutional forms of rule – state, law, police, and so forth, and those forms of compulsion which are transmitted through norms of behaviour, custom and other regularities of social practice, language, mythology, forms of legitimation and authorisation, social prejudice, and so on.

No state could survive for more than five seconds if relied solely on force. One only has to ask why those exercising the force do so on behalf of the ruling group rather than on their own behalf, to see that a whole range of ideological and social instruments are required.

Marxists understand that ideological and institutional forms of governance development in close interconnection with one another; social revolution requires both the destruction of the capitalist state and the eradication of oppressive social practices and ideological constructs. In analysing forms of governance, the relations of production are the most fundamental and the state the most essential.



Government is the institution which exercises public political power in society. Government is a fairly vague term, and should be distinguished from the state, as understood by Marxists, being the social entity which survives many “changes of government” and includes not only the elected officials of the legislature, but particularly includes the unelected police-military machine, which from time to time throws the parliamentarians into prison.

In the modern era, governments have legitimate legal authority for a finite period of time over a finite geograhical domain. Developments in telecommunications and particularly the internet have made this geographical delimitation of government problematic. States on the other hand recognise no such boundaries and frequently act outside the borders of their home country.