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productive forces

  The interaction of the means of production and labour, from which arises a society\'s capacity to produce. The means of production comprise the objects of labour and the means or instruments of labour. The objects of labour are all the things to which human labour is applied: they can be found as natural resources in the form of minerals, virgin timber, etc., or they can be objects to which some labour has already been applied such as components and crops cultivated or harvested. The means of labour are the things that people use to transform the objects of labour. These can vary from a stick with which one may knock an apple from a tree to the complex plant used to produce pig iron from iron ore. The development of the labour process and its capacity to generate a greater volume of output is crucially dependent on technological advances in the means of labour. Thus means of production created by human labour (such as machines) become steadily more important compared with natural objects of labour.

The means of production cannot themselves produce anything without the application of labour. The special status of labour in the productive forces is expressed in its capacity both to activate and to produce means of production. The advancement of labour skills and productivity contributes critically to the development of the productive forces.

The level of development of the productive forces is an indication of society\'s capacity to make use of nature. A territory well endowed with natural resources will be able to generate things useful to people only to the extent that the other productive forces of human labour and the instruments at its disposal are also available. At any particular time and place, the further development of the productive forces may be crucially dependent on advances in either the means of labour or the capacity of labour itself, given the limits of natural resources, though these advances may themselves open up possibilities for using new resources. This emphasizes the importance of interdependence among the productive forces (see also infrastructure; mode of production). (DMS)



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