In the theoretical works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and subsequent Marxist writers, socialization (or the socialization of production) is the process of transforming the act of producing and distributing goods and services from a solitary to a social relationship and collective endeavor. With the development of capitalism, production becomes centralized in firms and increasingly mechanized in contrast to the pre-capitalist modes of production where the act of production was a largely solitary act performed by individuals. Socialization occurs due to centralization of capital in industries where there are increasing returns to scale and a deepening of the division of labor and the specialization in skills necessary for increasingly complex forms of production and value creation. Progressive socialization of the forces of production under capitalism eventually comes into conflict with the persistence of relations of production based on private property; this contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation of the social product forms the impetus for the socialization of property relations (socialism).[1]

In Marx's critique of political economy, as capitalism develops a contradiction emerges between the increasingly socialized act of production and the private ownership and appropriation of surplus value. Classical Marxist theory posits that this contradiction will intensify to a point where socialization of surplus value appropriation in the form of social ownership of the means of production will be necessitated, resulting in a transition from capitalism to socialism.[2]


Karl Marx defined socialization as a general phenomenon where the labor process comes to embody the capabilities and constraints developed in society as opposed to private experiences, with objective socialization of the forces of production being the deepening of the social division of labor including specialization of skills and deepening interdependence between industries and regions.[3]

In Marxist theory

Socialization is a process that begins to take place in capitalism as large-scale manufacturing based on a vertical division of labour displaces "cottage industry" - the small-scale production shops, guilds and family-run businesses that existed in feudal economies. This process transforms the act of production into an increasingly social and collective process involving planning and greater coordination among producers, but appropriation of the social product in the form of private profit continues to be a private affair by investors and owners of the enterprise. Furthermore, exchange of the commodities produced is the private act of a small group of capitalists or an individual owner. As the process of socialization expands, a contradiction between the socialized nature of production and the individual nature of appropriation of the surplus product arises, coinciding with the obsolescence of the functions performed by the capitalists (the private owners).

The socialization and centralization of industry and capital under capitalism lays the foundations for a socialist economy. Socialism entails ownership of the socialized means of production by the workers engaged in the production either in the form of worker ownership or social ownership by all of society. The establishment of social ownership over the means of production resolves the contradiction between social production and private exchange/appropriation under capitalism.[4]

Karl Marx envisioned socialization under socialism as involving an expansion of self-management on the part of workers over their work processes, in contrast to the rigid hierarchy and bureaucracy that characterizes traditional capitalist enterprises. As workers gain more autonomy, they also gain more collective decision-making power and control over their work processes. Socialization of the ownership of the means of production is different from nationalization, which can, but usually does not imply the socialization of the workplace. In a capitalist economy, socialization is limited because the socialized enterprise continues to operate in a commodity economy under the capitalist laws of motion.[5] Socialization therefore takes a different form in the capitalist mode of production than in the socialist mode of production.

See also


  1. ^ Warhurst, Chris; Keep, Ewart; Grugulis, Irena (2004-02-27) [2004]. "Skill Trends Under Capitalism and the Socialisation of Production". The Skills That Matter. Palgrave (published February 27, 2004). p. 242–260. ISBN 9781403906397. .
  2. ^ Capital, Volume 1, by Marx, Karl. From "Chapter 32: Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation": "Self-earned private property, that is based, so to say, on the fusing together of the isolated, independent laboring-individual with the conditions of his labor, is supplanted by capitalistic private property, which rests on exploitation of the nominally free labor of others, i.e., on wage-labor. As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the laborers are turned into proletarians, their means of labor into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialization of labor and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the laborer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many laborers."
  3. ^ Warhurst, Chris; Keep, Ewart; Grugulis, Irena (2004-02-27) [2004]. "Skill Trends Under Capitalism and the Socialisation of Production". The Skills That Matter. Palgrave (published February 27, 2004). p. 242–260. ISBN 9781403906397. .
  4. ^ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, by Engels, Friedrich. From "Part III: Historical Materialism": "Capitalist Revolution - transformation of industry, at first be means of simple cooperation and manufacture. Concentration of the means of production, hitherto scattered, into great workshops. As a consequence, their transformation from individual to social means of production — a transformation which does not, on the whole, affect the form of exchange. The old forms of appropriation remain in force. The capitalist appears. In his capacity as owner of the means of production, he also appropriates the products and turns them into commodities. Production has become a social act. Exchange and appropriation continue to be individual acts, the acts of individuals. The social product is appropriated by the individual capitalist. Fundamental contradiction, whence arise all the contradictions in which our present-day society moves, and which modern industry brings to light."
  5. ^ "Glossary of Terms: So".