(OPE-L) explaining transitions among modes of production

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Sep 29 2004 - 08:46:35 EDT

Hi Paul C.

> Yes I agree this is an interesting question. I like to think of it in
> terms either of graph theory or Markov transition theory. Each  mode
> of production is  a node in the graph and the transitions between modes
> are arcs. Associated  with each arc is a transition flux which is the
> probability of  transition per unit  time.
> A system of this sort  can have a preferential path of development and it
> this 'most likely' path of development that gives us a historical order.
> existence of this ordering appears retrospectively as progress. However
> there may be other arcs on the graph, for example ones going from slavery
> to capitalism which have lower, but non-zero probabilities of occurence.
> What the history of the last 20 years should have taught us is that there
> was a non-zero probability of transition from socialism to capitalism for
> example.
> If one views the modes of production as a graph with probability flux
> lableled arcs then one has a somewhat richer structure than a unique
> linear ordering.

I'm going to pass from the question of whether the feudal mode of
production was more 'advanced' that the slave mode of production
to the more general issue that you discuss above (note change in
'subject line' for thread) because I think it is more interesting.

I agree that a linear ordering, such as that presented by Marx as the
summarization of his "general conclusion" in the "Preface" to _A
Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy_, is misleading
and runs the risk of being simplistically interpreted..  Yet, for one to
develop an alternative in which one "views the modes of production as
a graph with probability flux labeled arcs" begs the central question, imo.
That question is: what are the causal forces that determine the
birthing and development of  different modes of production and
what are the forces which can explain the transition whereby modes
of production that were once dominant are replaced (or surpassed?)
such that other modes of production become dominant?  While,
if one wishes to model such a historical process
one needs a statistical and mathematical method up to the task,
the selection of a probabilistic method is only a 'shell' in which
propositions about causal factors have to be identified (and, perhaps,

So, how would you identify the factors that cause there to
be transitions from one dominant mode of production to another?
Or,  are there no general trans-historical factors leading to such
changes and, therefore, the causes for change are different
in each historical instance? Whether one uses graph theory or
Markov transition theory, don't these questions have to be asked

In solidarity, Jerry

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