Social Scientist. v 4, no. 47 (June 1976) p. 47.

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Marxian Political Economy


IN MODERN society,, each of us, or each family for that matter, does not individually produce everything needed for daily use. Clearly, the extent of division of labour in modern society is immense. Earlier societies also shared the characteristic of social division of labour, though not to the same extent. What distinguishes modern capitalist societies, however, is the enormous development of markets and production for the market. The development of the world market, a relatively recent phenomenon in human history^ is very much the product of the capitalist development, first in western Europe, and subsequently all over the globe. The fact that in modern societies people produce things systematically with a view to selling them in the market and buying other things to satisfy their needs is denoted by saying that the economies of today are commodity-producing societies.

A commodity is not simply anything that is produced with a view to exchange. As Marx put it, "only such products can become commodities with regard to each other, as result from different kinds of labour, each kind being carried on independently and for the account of private individuals.'51 It follows from this definition that (a) division of labour in society is a necessary condition for commodity production, but not a sufficient one. For instance, in the ancient Indian village community,

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