MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



Mode of Life

The material and cultural environment where humans satisfy their needs for living (whether for health, food, housing or needs such as education, science, nurturing, etc.). The means of satisfying peoples needs in a society depends on the mode of production and the customs, morales, national traditions of a society. The role of the family is one of the most important organizations of the mode of life.


Mode of Production

The method of producing the necessities of life (whether for health, food, housing or needs such as education, science, nurturing, etc.).

The Mode of Production is the unity of the productive forces and the relations of production. Production begins with the development of its determinative aspect – the productive forces – which, once they have reached a certain level, come into conflict with the relations of production within which they have been developing. This leads to an inevitable change in the relations of production, since in the obsolete form they cease to be indispensable condition of the production process. In its turn, the change in the relations of production, which means the substitution of the new economic basis for the old one, leads to more less rapid change in the entire society. Therefore, the change in the Mode of Production comes about not through peoples volition, but by virtue of the correspondence between the productive relations to the character and level of development of the productive forces. Due to this, the development of society takes the form of the natural historical change of socio-economic formations. Conflict between the productive forces and the relations of production is the economic basis of social revolution.



Modernism, or “the modern era”, is that whole period of the history of bourgeois society where the bourgeoisie “has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’”, but has not yet entered the period of decline referred to as “post-modernism.” [Communist Manifesto]

The term “modernism” has been in use since the 1500s and refers to the cultural aspects of the bourgeois era rather than just the economic or political aspects of the era. The modern era is characterised by continual innovation, a belief in progress and a high standing for science, the contestation of what is true and ideological conflict.

The modern era therefore contrasts with earlier times when the force of tradition was stronger, science and enquiry were treated with suspicion, social life was governed by relatively stable and widely accepted norms of behaviour and belief. The bourgeois mode of production inexorably undermined this kind of world, and we can see how changes in the labour process inevitably transform cultural life: “The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness”.[Preface to the Critique of Political Economy]

In the 1960s for example, this was manifested in a youth culture which began to debunk everything, in which no musical style was too lacking in melody, no dress style too lacking in comfort, no icon so holy that it could not be pulled down, no artwork too lacking in representation or display of skill that it could not be hung on a wall. The logic of this rising crescendo of innovation and experimentation was however that very soon “originality” was meaningless, only an establishment that defends a tradition can be shocked and once hardly anyone is defending any tradition or status-quo in culture, counter-culture becomes nonsense. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can helped mark the end of modernism and the beginning of a new period of postmodernism, the end of belief in culture and the beginning of popular culture, the end of originality, of a mass belief in progress.

In politics, the modern era (as opposed all earlier eras) is characterised by intense political struggle between rival parties and social movements, each with conflicting claims and programs for progress, each enrolling mass memberships in order to exert political influence. In earlier periods, political conflicts were far more likely to be concerned with the overthrow of the remnants of feudal relations, if not simply the naked expression of the interests of various ruling elites. Later, in the postmodern period, doubt affects the former confidence in progress, fragmentation hampers the building of mass political parties, tolerance is more likely than ideological contest, the aim of seizing state power is tempered by the perception that the state has little power in any case.


Modifications of Being

Hegel uses this rather unusual expression for the various 'stages of the Idea' or 'divisions of Logic' to emphasise that they are all being, they all repeatedly both 'show themselves to be an other', (or 'turn out to be ...') and then 'become immediate'. A social class is also thousands of individuals; a chemical structure is also atoms and an animal is also organic chemicals.

Further Reading: Hegel's explanation of Actuality and how Hegel explains that Essence is (the truth of) Being, for example. The converse applies as well.



Named after the industrialist Alfred Mond, was a system first mooted in Britain during the late 1920s whereby trade unions would attempt to maintain working-class living standards and assist industrial efficiency by cooperating with employers. Strongly supported by right-wing trade union leaders, it was condemned on the left as class collaboration.


Monetarism is the economic doctrine established by Milton Friedman, that the money supply, the total amount of money circulating in an economy, whether as currency or bank balances, is the chief controller of the level of economic activity.

Friedman’s monetarism became popular in Thatcher’s Britain and Reagan’s U.S.A., in the 1970s and early 1980s after the failure of Keynesian policies after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods arrangements in 1968-71.

Friedman was a pragmatist who rejected the idea of any “realistic” theory of economic action, and instead sought simply to provide governments with a lever with which to control the economy. The Keynesian policies of post-World War Two capitalism was essentially a retreat from confrontation with the working class. This had led to governments becoming “addicted” to debt while inflation grew faster and faster. Capitalism turned to monetarism for a macroeconomic policy to manage the counter-attack.

The idea of monetarism is that if the money supply is restricted, then prices must fall and/or the rate of circulation of money – the “economic heat” – must go down; that is, restricting the supply of money and credit could be used by the government to cut inflation and increase unemployment. This, it was said, would take effect more quickly than fiscal measures like reducing government spending or increasing taxes, which Friedman claimed were ineffective in controlling the business cycle and could destabilise the economy. Instead, Friedman advocated a gradual expansion of the money supply at an annual rate equal to the expected growth in the gross national product.

As a theory of economics, monetarism proved to be sheer witchcraft, and by the end of the 1980s monetarism was abandoned. In the meantime, it had provided the theoretical framework for plunging the world economy into permanent recession in order to break the resistance of the organised working class.

Subsequently, the bourgeoisie reached a consensus that macroeconomic policies were too crude an instrument to resolve a crisis whose roots lay deeper. Monetarism was supplanted by a variety of policies, such as “Micro-Economic Reform”, which emphasised the need to tackle the resistance of the working class in “hand to hand fighting” so to speak, with union-busting, unemployment, tougher management methods and divide-and-rule practices in the workplace.


Money is the commodity whose sole use is for storing value and acting as a means of payment. That is to say, money is a commodity, but one which has been singled out to play a special role in relation to all other commodities, as the measure of their values.

Money is in the first place, the “universal equivalent”, the form of value in which value takes on the form of a specific material substance – gold or silver. Further development of the money-form in the late 20th century, however, has created money-forms which have a purely virtual existence rather than as tangible material substance. But in Marx’s day, paper-money was an unreliable and transitory store of value and was not used as a medium of international exchange, for which gold, and sometimes silver, was exclusively relied upon. Paper money in the 19th century was more akin to a form of credit.

To the contemporary reader, Marx’s writing on money may look old-fashioned, even quaint, as he observes:

“The commodity that functions as a measure of value, and, either in its own person or by a representative, as the medium of circulation, is money. Gold (or silver) is therefore money."[Capital, Chapter 3 #S3]

In section 3 of Chapter 1 of Capital, Marx traced the historical evolution of the form of value – the essence of commodity production – from the elementary or “accidental” form of value associated with barter, up to the formation of the money-commodity, gold. Paper-money and coins with conventional, rather than real, values were in common use in the 19th century. However, the actual capacity to convert currency into hard cash was always a reality in the question of the value of paper-money.

To be true to the spirit of Marx’s study of the value-form, we should observe the further development of the money-form in the 20th century. This century saw the substitution of the U.S. dollar for gold as the medium of international settlement as a reserve currency at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, (based on the fact of a large proportion of the world’s gold being stored at Fort Knox), and the breakdown of the Bretton Woods Arrangements in 1968-73 leading to the dynamic and virtual money-form of the postmodern world we live in today.

Though unknown to tribal society or to more developed societies in which trade was still restricted, money has an ancient existence, with coinage coming into use wherever the great empires of the ancient world – ancient Greece, the Islamic world, the Roman Empire,... – concentrated significant social surpluses and allowed for expansion of the scope of trade.

The existence of money is one of the preconditions for the development of capital, but it was not until the class of labourers with nothing to sell but their labour power (i.e., the proletariat) was created, alongside a class who owned the means of production as their private property, could large hoards of money be put into circulation, make a profit and become capital.

As the proportion of the total social labour which must pass though the system of exchange before it can meet a human need increases, and as the market by means of which people express and satisfy their needs extends across the globe, the form of value must of necessity become more “abstract”.

The act of assigning a value to something is an act of abstraction, as it means singling out a single quality from the whole concrete thing. The concentration of value in a single substance, such as gold, is a further, material act of abstraction.

Initially, the commodity first singled out to act as a measure of value would be itself the most useful of local products; later, though still very much a product of labour, the money-commodity is of marginal use, apart that is, from its function as a measure, carrier and store of value. In the course of this development, the aspect of the money-commodity as an abstract symbol of value, and therefore as a social category, expressing the values of the community, predominates over the aspect of the money-commodity as a product of abstract labour.

Nowadays, the development has gone much further. Despite all the uncertainties of modern life, no material substance could be as effective a store, measure or carrier of value as a credit card account. Try buying something with a bag of gold.

This shifting, ethereal, abstract form of value is adequate to the labour process of the postmodern world: every act of production nowadays (if it is part of the mainstream economy) combines the labour of workers from every corner of the world at every stage. Only a form of value such as we have today could facilitate exchange of commodities on this scale.

Money is a necessary part of life not only because it is necessary for the exchange of commodities (i.e., purchase and sale, since every of exchange is mediated by money), but because labour-power itself is a commodity in bourgeois society – one must sell one’s labour power to “earn a living”. Labour-as-exchange is ubiquitous in the world we live in. Very few people in developed societies today neither work for money nor pay other people money for their work.

Consequently, the flow of money is a faithful mirror image of the construction of use-values, and money acts as the life-blood of society, coordinating its separate organs and carrying the life-giving oxygen and nutrients to every cell.

But the money relation not only facilitates labour – it also bans it. Nothing can be done in bourgeois society unless someone can pay for it. Even voluntary organisations must devote a huge proportion of their energies to money-raising and are more often than not dependent on funding and sponsorship.

The abolition of capital is inconceivable without the transcendence of the money relation, but this entails an entirely new means of organisation of social labour.

“It is not money that renders commodities commensurable. Just the contrary. It is because all commodities, as values, are realised human labour, and therefore commensurable, that their values can be measured by one and the same special commodity, and the latter be converted into the common measure of their values, i.e., into money. Money as a measure of value, is the phenomenal form that must of necessity be assumed by that measure of value which is immanent in commodities: labour-time.”

Karl Marx
Capital Vol. I
Chpt. 3: Money or the Circulation of Commodities



Monotheism is the form of Theism, common to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in which the world is conceived as governed by a single principle.

“At a still further stage of evolution, all the natural and social attributes of the numerous gods are transferred to one almighty god, who is but a reflection of the abstract man. Such was the origin of monotheism, which was historically the last product of the vulgarised philosophy of the later Greeks and found its incarnation in the exclusively national god of the Jews, Jehovah. In this convenient, handy and universally adaptable form, religion can continue to exist as the immediate, that is, the sentimental form of men’s relation to the alien, natural and social, forces which dominate them, so long as men remain under the control of these forces.” [Anti-Dühring]



How a person acts in relation to their rights and the ethics of the society around them. Morality of individuals is fundamentally based on the kind of society they live and the position in that society that they occupy. When an individual assesses their existing position within society and how they will live in accordance to that position, they establish a moral system for themselves.

[The opposition between good and evil] manifests itself exclusively in the domain of morals, that is, a domain belonging to the history of mankind, and it is precisely in this field that final and ultimate truths are most sparsely sown... someone may object... if good is confused with evil there is an end to all morality, and everyone can do as he pleases.... But the matter cannot be so simply disposed of. If it were such an easy business there would certainly be no dispute at all over good and evil; everyone would know what was good and what was bad.

Alongside [religious morality] we find the modern-bourgeois morality and beside it also the proletarian morality of the future... Which, then, is the true one? Not one of them, in the sense of absolute finality; but certainly the morality that contains the maximum elements promising permanence which, in the present, represents the overthrow of the present, represents the future, and that is proletarian morality. [With morality based on class] we can only draw the one conclusion: that men, consciously or unconsciously, derive their ethical ideas in the last resort from the practical relations on which their class position is based -- from the economic relations in which they carry on production and exchange

But nevertheless there is great deal which the three moral theories mentioned above have in common -- is this not at least a portion of a morality which is fixed once and for all? These moral theories represent different stages of the same historical development, have therefore a common historical background, and for that reason alone they necessarily have much in common. Even more. At similar or approximately similar stages of economic development moral theories must of necessity be more or less in agreement. From the moment when private ownership of movable property developed, all societies in which this private ownership existed had to have this moral injunction in common: Thou shalt not steal. Does this injunction thereby become an eternal moral injunction? By no means. In a society in which all motives for stealing have been done away with, in which therefore at the very most only lunatics would ever steal, how the preacher of morals would be laughed at who tried solemnly to proclaim the eternal truth: Thou shalt not steal!

We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality.

Frederick Engels
Anti-Dühring, part 1

Thus to the Roman pope Freemasons and Darwinists, Marxists and anarchists are twins because all of them sacrilegiously deny the immaculate conception. To Hitler, liberalism and Marxism are twins because they ignore "blood and honor". To a democrat, fascism and Bolshevism are twins because they do not bow before universal suffrage. And so forth.

Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours

Idealists: Among idealists morality can be an absolute truth. There exists one "right", one path, one "good". This is in direct opposition to dialectics which understands that in the real world all things are constantly changing. History shows clearly how much morality has changed over the past millennium! How many moral "truths" have been disbanded, how many absolute, sacred beliefs and practices have been disregarded as myth and folklore? How many times have religions been "revised"? Morality changes, and we can understand and record its changes through a materialist conception of history.

On the other hand, it is sometimes asserted that morality is completely relativistic – which is to say it is based completely within the individual themselves. This fails to take into account the environment in which individuals live and the role of the environment in shaping the consciousness of individuals. While morality is a personal question, no person's considerations are limited solely within themselves – people take into account their jobs, their family, their lifestyle, etc. A person's considerations are made by relating themselves to their environment, and cognitively deciding what place they occupy in that environment. The society in which a person lives is based on a certain economic organization, and that influence is the underlining factor in the moral choices of an individual.

Further Reading: Trotsky's Their Morals and Ours, Engels' Anti-Dühring, part 1.



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

Fredrick Engels
End of Classical German Philosophy

Motion arises from the internal contradictory nature of things, and not just the external action of things one upon another.

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). [Chapter 2: Dialectics]

All motion consists in the interplay of attraction and repulsion. Motion, however, is only possible when each individual attraction is compensated by a corresponding repulsion somewhere else. [Chapter 3: Basic Forms of Motion]

Fredrick Engels
Dialectics of Nature

Further Reading: Motion is the unity of time and space, Hegel's comment on Zeno's paradox in the Doctrine of Being.