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The significance of Marx’s discovery of the role of the mode of production was likened by Engels to that of  Darwin’s theory of evolution: 

Friedrich Engels

Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history; he discovered the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, religion, art, etc.; and that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, the art and even the religious ideas of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which these things must therefore be explained, instead of vice versa as had hitherto been the case.

According to this theory, the  mode of production or relations of production of the same type generate similar socio-political structures and even ideological forms. By using this approach, Marx singled out five socio-economic formations: the primitive type of society; slavery; feudalism; capitalism; and communism. It was the capitalist stage and the capitalist mode of production and exchange which were described and analyzed by him most  exhaustively. The central idea in his analysis of capitalism, as expressed in his Manifesto of the Communist Party, was a remarkable ‘acceleration’ that this phase of history, dominated by the bourgeoisie, had brought to global development: 


The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground - what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?


Marx’s main conclusion from his analysis of contemporary capitalism was that the bourgeoisie would be unable to control this rapid expansion of the productive forces it had itself unleashed and would completely antagonize the proletariat by driving it to utter destitution and poverty. Capitalism was, inevitably, heading for self-destruction: 


Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.


On the basis of his analysis, Marx drew up the prediction that anti-capitalist revolutions would occur in the most developed capitalist countries. The current phase of history would be terminated by a proletarian revolution that would abolish the minority rule of the bourgeoisie and also individual property as the economic foundation of its political power and usher in the era of communism with a workers’ government running society ‘in the interest of the immense majority’.

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