Towards a Reconstruction of Historical Materialism Author(s): Jürgen Habermas Source: Theory and Society, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn, 1975), pp.

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I shall also propose and illustrate a possible solution. It is a shortened version of a book in German which is four times is long and contains an extensive bibliography and footnotes. Max Planck Institut. Whatis decisive is the aspect of the purposeful reforming of materialaccordingto rules of instrumental action. I would like to begin by introducing and critically scrutinizing the fundamental concepts and main hypotheses of historical materialism. religion or whatever else one may choose. 1975 (forthcoming). MPIL.287 TOWARDSA RECONSTRUCTIONOF HISTORICAL MATERIALISM* JURGEN HABERMAS In the present paper I will analyze the merits and limitations of historical materialismto the extent that it can be considereda theoreticalexplanation of social evolution. Starnberg. MS. Man himself begins to differentiate himself from the animals as soon as he starts to produce his own means of subsistence. The book. is called: Die Entstehung vorkapitalistischer Klassengesellschaften. Ein Beitrag zur Konstruktion einer Theorie der soziokulturellen Evolution. Socially organized labor is the specific way through which humans as distinguishedfrom animalsreproducetheir life: One can make the distinction between man and animal by virtue of consciousness. Moreover.and communicativeaction.strategic. Deutsche Ideologie) This concept of social labor can be analyzedin terms of three different types of rules . I will deal with the concepts of "social labor"and "history of the species. First. which is by Klaus Eder. Starnberg * This paper has been translated by Robert Strauss. after indicating some of the problems. (Marx.rules of instrumental. By producing his own means of subsistence he indirectly produces his material life. ." 1.

it appearsthat the concept of social labor extends too deeply into the scale of evolution: not only homo sapiens. (b) cooperatethrougha divisionof labor (cooperative organization)and (c) collectively distributethe prey (rules of distribution). the adult men form hunting groups which (a) dispose of weapons and tools (technology). since the distributionof its products. But the rules of distributionhave still another structure. This is the period of hominization: beginning with a common ancestor for both chimpanzee and man.but more the cooperationof severalindividuals. as well as labor. Furthermore. the hominidsocieties based on social laborhad not yet been organizedin kinship relationships. Here. the rules of strategic action which guide this cooperation are an essential element of the labor process.Here. The distributionof productsrequires norms that are intersubjectivelyrecognized.it does not hold for the specificallyhuman mode of reproductionof life.however. then. but even the hominids are distinguished from other primates in that they reproduce themselves through social labor and develop an economy.rules of communicativeaction. amongthe hominids. thus Marxis convincedthat the "economic"mode of the reproductionof life is specific for the humanstage of development. and reachingover homo erectus to homo sapiens. The instrumentalactions of these various individualsbecome socially coordinated according to the purpose of production.thus. to be linked (via the thus integrating father'srole) to status in the system of the female-and-young. a significantquestion is whether this Marxianconcept of social labor sufficiently determinesthe form or reproduction of human life. If we consider this in the light of recent anthropologicalfindings. It seems.As far as we know. but of the reciprocalconnection of behavioralexpectations or interests. for it is not a question here of the transformationof material or of the purposeful rational organizationof means. that we can refer to the reproductionof humanlife in homo . are socially organized. functions of social-laborwith functions of nurture of the young. Whatis specific for human beings is that they are the first to break up the social structure which had emerged from the vertebrates.Only a family system allows status.only they break up that onedimensional status order in which each animal has a single status in the hierarchy.288 Naturally Marx understands by production not merely the instrumental actions of a single individual. The Marxist concept of social labor is thus suitable for distinguishingthe mode of life of the hominids from that of the primates. this integratesmale hunting functions with female collecting activity. in the adult male's system of the hunting group. We call a system which socially organizeslabor and distributionan economy. It is unimportantthat the meansof subsistenceare only producedin order to be used.

precedes the formationof social role systems.which controls both the integration of the external as well as the internalnatureis. The kinship structure. However. This process has lasted several million years. This signals above all the materialistmessagethat naturalevolution is now continued within the range of one single species by different means. the specifically human mode of life can only be adequately describedif we unite the concept of social labor with that of the kinship structure.that is. insofar as it is converted into production techniques. History is then conceived as a succession of different modes of production. a mode of production is characterizedby a particularstage in the development of the productive forces and by particular forms of social exchange. it represents an important replacementof the animal status system.but the role system of kinshippresupposeslanguage. to produce skilled labor. namely through the productive activity of the socialized individualsthemselves. The structures of role behavior mark a new evolutionary threshhold compared to the structures of social labor. For Marx. therefore. Marx links the concept of social labor with that of the history of the species.basic. and to coordinate specializedlabor (mobilization. cannot be reduced to ruleswhether of instrumentalor strategicaction. 2. Among the primatesthis status system is based on a certain kind of symbolic interaction. (b) of the technical knowledge. which in their pattern of development reveal the direction of social evolution.the life processesin the sphereof social labor and child-rearing. The productiveforces determinethe extent to which we . The key to a reconstructionof the history of mankindis offered by the idea of the mode of production. The productive forces consist (a) of the labor force of the producers.For the fundamentalanthropological assumptionsof historicalmaterialism this could imply the following: The concept of social labor is fundamentalbecausethe social organization of labor and distributionobviously precedes the development of explicit linguistic communicationwhich. that is intersubjectivelyvalid norms of action. (c) of organizational knowledge. relations of production.289 sapiens only when the economy of the hunt is supplemented by kinship structures. Productionand socialization. the rules of communicative action. insofar as it is efficiently employed to set labor power in motion. of course. in turn.qualificationand organization of labor power).are of equal importance for the reproduction of the species.

Administered by the priesthood. In medievalEurope. This means that.centeredon the classification of the ancient Orient and the ancient Americas led to the insertion of an Asiatic mode of production. In Greece. with which the development of civilization begins. Hence the relations of production express the distribution of power. ancient China.then. tamia. Historical materialism. are those institutions and social mechanisms which specify in what way labor can be combinedwith the availablemeans of production.") The orthodox version differentiates between five modes of production: the primitive communal mode of production of the band and tribe. the there exists in the early civilizationsof Mesopomilitary and the bureaucracy. Egypt. In primitive societies. A discussion. proceeds from the assumptionthat productive forces and relations of production do not vary independently of each other. labor and distributionare organizedthrough kinship. mode of production based on slave-holding.The relations of production. there is no privateaccess to natureand to the meansof production(primitive communal mode of production).finally. the ancient the feudal. ("Thehand-millproducesa society of feudal lords. the private landholder combines the status of slave-holderin the context of his domestic economy with the status of citizen in the political community of town or state (ancient mode of production). they determine the distributional pattern of opportunities and thereby the interest structure which exists in society. the steam-mill.290 can control naturalprocessesand exploit naturalresources. Rome and other mediterraneansocieties. on the other hand.feudalismis based on largeprivate landed estates allotted to many individualholders. These six modes of productionshould define universalstagesof social evolution. the socialist mode of production.a society of industrialcapitalists. the economic structureof every distinctive society can be analyzed in terms of the various modes of production which have entered into a hierarchicalassociation in that society.The landholdersenter into various political and economic relations of dependency (even serfdom) with . but ratherform structureswhich (a) internallycorrespondand (b) produce a finite number of developmentalstages homologous in their structureso that (c) the succession of the modes of production reveal a developmentallogic.the capitalist. The regulation of access to the means of production or the channels of control of socially utilized labor also indirectly determinesthe distribution of the social wealth. ancient India and ancient America landed property belonging to the state which is superimposedupon the residue of village community property (the so-called Asiatic mode of production). from an evolutionary standpoint.

The most disputed area is teleology. However.The bearersof evolution are society and its members. by the truth of its propositions and the justifiability of its norms. we refer to cumulative processes which allow a direction to be perceived. By evolution. These two dimensions are not selected arbitrarily. However. in capitalismthe labor force becomes a commodity. which historical materialismsees as inherent in history. historical materialismneeds to presuppose a macrosubjectto whom the evolutionary process is assigned. so that the dependence of the direct producers upon those who own the means of production becomes legally institutionalized through the labor contract and economically through the labor market. Evolution can be read from those structures which. In any case. the more complex the environmentwith which it will be able to cope." I shall now briefly turn to two of historical materialism'sbasic . Since further productiveforces and new forms of social integrationare a result of the social implementationof technical and moral-practical knowledge. certainly only the empirical substrata are in motion. but accordingto the developmentof productive forces and to the maturationof forms of social integrationthat enable increased participation in politically relevant decision-makingprocesses. that is. In addition where is the question of the sense in which one can interpret the emergenceof new structuresas movement. the societies and their individuals. are replaced by ever more comprehensivestructures.historicalmaterialism does not judge progressby this criterionof complexity. Finally. Having elucidated the concepts of "social labor" and of "history of the species.291 the feudal lord (feudal mode of production). Marx also ascribed great importance to the "social division of labor. Neo-evolutionist theories consider increasingcomplexity as a reasonablecriterion. following a rational pattern. the selection of both these dimensionsin the last analysisis determinedby two related claims to validity: namely. I assumethat the idea of the history of the species can be reformulatedto meet the objections against the idea of one-dimensionalnecessaryand irreversible social evolution of a reified species subject. I would thereforedefend the position that the criteriaof historical progresswhich historical materialismdistinguisheswith the development of the productiveforces and the emancipationof social constraintare capableof a systematicjustification." This refers to the processes that enhance the adaptivecapacity of a society. The dogmatic formulation of the concept of the history of the species shares a set of weaknesseswith the models of a philosophy of history rooted in the eighteenth century.In the course of this structure-creating processthe social entities involved also change.The more states a system can choose.

however.e. also takes over the function of stabilizingclass relations that the relationsof productionassumea purely economic form. The particularinstitutional core that takes over the functions of the relations of production determinesthe dominant form of social integration. to assumptions: first. For a considerablelength of time an economistic versionof this thesis has prevailed. Relations of production are defined by their function in regulatingaccess to the means of productionand indirectlythe distributionof social wealth. What is meant is not some ontological constitution of society. developmentof productiveforces generatesstructuralincompatibilitieswhich in turn evoke imbalancesin the existing mode of productionand thereby lead . This thesis can be interpreted in the following way. That is. I use this term in the Durkheimiansense of integrationthrough norms and values.g. an indigenouslearning mechanismexists which provides for spontaneous growth of technicalknowledge and for the development of the productive forces. Correspondingly. Marx sees the mechanismof this crisisin the dialectic of productiveforces and the relationsof production. The identification of substructurewith economic structure could lead to the assumptionthat the substructural level is equivalentto the economic system. ecological. The context in which Marx propounds his theory makes it clear that the dependence of superstructureon base is valid only for the critical phase duringwhich a social system is passingonto a new developmentallevel. but rather the guiding role which the economic structureassumesin social evolution. This function is assumedin primitivesocieties by kinship systems and in traditionalsocieties by political institutions.292 and second.if this itself must be revolutionizedin order to create lattitude for the solution of problems. Thus the thesis purportsthat evolutionaryinnovationssolve only such problemsas level of a society and which demanda change may arise at the substructural within the base.valid only for modernsocieties. a mode of production is only in a state of equilibriumwhen structuralhomologies exist between the developmental stages of the productive forces and this means that the indigenous the relations of production. the dialectic of productionforces and the relationsof production. In this context. If systems problems. In every society productive forces and the relationsof productionform an economic structure by which the other subsystems are determined. to the theory of base and superstructure..economic problems. It is not until the market. can no longer be solved in accord with an existing form of social integration. demographic. in addition to its cybernetic function. the the identity of the society is challenged and society itself is thrown into a crisis. 3.

We can understandthe mechanism that development of productive forces as a problem-generating releasesbut does not create the evolutionaryrenewalof the mode of production. Only when a new institutional frameworkhad emerged could the unresolved problems be dealt with through the accumulated cognitive potential. adopted the thesis. threaten the stability of the mode of production. This short discussion of the two main assumptionsof historical materialism has led to the following preliminary conclusions: That all systems problems which cannot be solved without evolutionary innovationsarisein the substructure of a society. as for instance. which can be implementedwith practical-moral rules of instrumentaland strategicaction.which if the structuralhomologies between productive forces and relationsof production break down. however. But even in this form our thesis cannot be maintainedas a universalproposition on empiricalgrounds. which in each case. crystallizearounda new institutionalcore. That an indigenouslearningmechanismprovidesfor the concentrationof a cognitive potential which can be employed to solve an evolutionarycrisis.this learningmechanismdoes not explain how these problems can be solved.entailed considerable developmentof the productive forces not as a condition. It can explain the emergenceof systems problems. this knowledge can only be implementedwith the consequent development of the productive forces if the evolutionary step towardsa new form of social integrationhas been completed. Technical knowledge. That the higher modes of production signify new forms of social integration. This in turn resultedin an increasein the productiveforces.However. However. It is in this structuralist sense that Godelier. rather. or an expansion of our control over external nature.293 to a revolutionin the existing relationsof production. That. for the introduction of new forms of social integration. in such a formulationwe still cannot precisely locate the developmental mechanism. The great indigenous thrustsof evolution that led to the rise of ancient civilizationsor capitalismin Europe.a knowledge which can seek its embodiment in structures of interaction. .for example. The learningmechanismpostulated explains the growth of a cognitive potential (and also perhapsits conversioninto increasinglabor productivity). is not what is required. the replacementof the kinship system with the state. but ratheras a consequence.but. demandsa knowledgeof a kind.

I will add only a few remarkson the dynamics of the development of moral-practical consciousness. then move on a level which lies behind the level of observableactions. The answer which I would like to suggest is this: the species not only learns technical knowledgerelevantfor the developmentof the productiveforces. political struggle. 4. At the final stage. and to a certain extent. The rules of communicativeaction do not automatically follow changes in the field of instrumentaland strategic action.that is.However. Ar first. but also the decisive dimension of moral-practical knowledgewhich can be embodied into structures of interaction. behind the establishedinteractionsystems. If we follow this process from the perspectiveof the socialized child. actions and normsare perceived separately. and social movements. actions. But only an analytic reply can explain why a society moves to another evolutionary level and how social movements under particularconditions lead to a new form of social integration. In this respect the evolutionary learning process of societies is dependent on the competence of the single members. social reality acquires new depths. In this manner we emerge with the basic concepts for a genetic theory of action that can be used in two ways: either as concepts for an individual's competence in speech and action in a symbolic universe.These in turn do not acquiretheir competencesas isolated monads. and therewith to a new developmentallevel for the society. The principles together with the actors and their motives are withdrawneven further behind the norms.or as concepts for this very universe. At the next stage. principles from which norms of action can be produced and criticized are distinguished from the norms themselves. motives and actors are still observed on a single level of reality. .Certainlythe personality system bears the learning process of ontogenesis. but by growinginto the symbolic structureof their social world.the norms. learning is done only by individuals. they develop rather by virtue of their own dynamics.294 The question remains: how is this step possible? The descriptive reply of historical materialismanswers this with the mechanismsof social conflicts. social systems can form new structuresby utilizingthe learning capacities of its members in order to cope with systems problems which threaten the maintenanceof the self. The evolutionary learningprocesses cannot be ascribedexclusively either to society or individuals. together with the actors and their motives.

At the pre-conventional level where actions.punishmentin relationto culpability. Developed premodern civilizations: (a) conventional interaction system.In the researchtradition of Piaget these are developmental stages of moral consciousness.e. structurescome into play which determine for the individualmoral consciousness. but on a consensualbasis. restitution of the former status quo. only the manifest consequencesof action are assessed in the case of behavioralconflicts. and actors are still perceivedon a single level of reality. I would suggest that such individualcompetences can also be used for the solution of systems problems and for the innovationof legal institutions.and moralbeliefs separatelyfrom the legal system. the intentional conformity with social expectations and existing norms is decisive. formation of a rationalized world-view (ethical system founded on cosmologies or monotheism). Neolithic societies: (a) conventional differentiationof level between actions and norms. i. I doing so. (b) Resolution of conflicts from the standpoint of a developed. compensationfor damagescaused(feuding law. Archaic civilizations: (a) conventional interactionsystems. I consider as a first step in the analysis the attempt to differentiatebetween levels of social integration. . legitimation of the political system independent of the ruler's person. At the conventional level the motives can be assessedindependentlyof the concrete consequencesof action. mythical world-view still enmeshed in the system of action.295 Now. (b) Resolution of conflicts from the standpoint of a conventional morality dependent on the ruler:assessmentof the intentions of the actor.. The concept of "good and evil" crystallizesaround the idea of reciprocity which lies at the base of all interactions.and for society. court of arbitration). This is what is meant by socio-evolutionary learning processes in the sphere of moral-practical consciousness. the world-view. conventional morality.At the post-conventional level these norms lose their traditionalauthority and require justification through recourse to universalcriteria. insofar as conflicts of action are not resolved by force or strategic means. (b) Resolution of conflicts according to preconventionalcriteria:assessmentof the consequences of action. I shall deal with the institutional system. moralbeliefs and the legal system. system of jurisdictionto which the ruleris subject on principle. but the formation of a differentiated mythical world-view which can assume functions of legitimation for political authorities. punishment for deviance from traditionallyjustified norms. motives.

An argumentis missingwhich would show why political functions originate from differentiated interests rooted in professional specialization. but can be taken over by the state. military and bureaucracy)as within the working population (e.is not consistent.296 5.A surplusarisesfrom the productivityof labor..at least one of which assumes political functions. (1) Class societies arise within the framework of a political system. that is.and craftsmen). between farmers. This theory today has been refuted: since nomadismoccurs later than the first civilizations. There have been a numberof theories on the originof the state which I would first like to mention and criticize.g. This theory. This leads to a social division of labor. The various social groups which thereby emerge appropriatesocial wealth differentiallyand form social classes. political organizationof social exchange. (d) The irrigationhypothesis explains the integrationof severalvillage communities into a political unit by reason of their need to master drought through large-scale irrigation systems. These huge construction projects . (c) The theory of social inequality traces the emergence of the state to distributionproblems. and the increasing wealth differentials result in social inequalities with which the basically egalitariankinship system cannot cope. (b) The division of labor theory is usually stated in a complex way. the social division of labor occurs as much within the politically dominant classes (between priesthood. I shall illustratehow this approachworks by selectingthe problemsof the origin of class societies.it would not be sufficient to explain this new form of social integration. This thesis could. in spite of its apparent plausibility. since I can rely on a study by Klaus Eder in this regard.the assumptionof automatic growth in the productiveforces is not true for agricultural production. Furthermore. (a) The subjugationtheory explains the emergenceof political rulersand the establishment of a state apparatus through nomadic. explain at least the origin of systems problemswhich were solved by state organization. Agricultural production achieves a surplus and permits (in combination with demographicgrowth) the release of labor for its purposes. pastoral tribes conquering settled agriculturalpeasants. if true.Nevertheless. The distributionproblems demand a different. Actually. social integrationhere no longer needs to proceed through the kinshipsystem.the emergenceof the state must have had indigenouscauses.

the sea or the desert. and why the particular solution of a state organization was chosen. barren tracts of land. This assumption has been refuted empirically. the ecological situation. When. which might explain the change to a new form of social integration.Even if population problems of this kind could be proven to have existed in all former civilizations. but the learninginterruptions and retardationthat must be explained.e. Guided by these hypotheses. because in Mesopotamia.this theory would only explain the originof systems problems. and Mexico. hamperedemigrationor flight. The first step in the social evolutionarylearningprocess is the establishment of a new form of social integrationwhich permitsan increasein the productiveforces and an expansionof the system's complexity. conflicts arose due to population density and land scarcity.. (e) The theory of population density explainsthe originof the state primarily by ecological and demographicfactors.297 require an administrationthat becomes the institutional core of the state. Furthermore.Only with the help of learningmechanismscan we explain why some societies find solutions to their problems at all. neighbouring mountains. the formation of states preceded irrigation projects. I shall therefore proceed from the following main hypotheses: Normally the interactive and the cognitive development of a child proceeds in stages. In ontogenesis. not the mannerof their solution. we shall submit the following explanatory sketch for the originof class societies: . A society can learnevolutionallyby solvingthe problemswhich overstrain its ready steering capacity through convertingand implementingthe surplus of individuallearningcapacities into new institutional arrangements. An indigenouspopulation growth is assumed that normally leads to a spatial expansion of segmentarysocieties (i. however. so that the child reachesa new learninglevel at each stage. They allowed of no other alternativethan for largesections of the population to submit to the political rule of the victorious tribe.this theory does not explain why and how such problemshave been resolved.. China. None of the theories mentioned differentiates between systems problems which overstrainthe steering capacity of the kinship system and the evolutionary learning process. it is not the learningprocesses. etc. emigration into new areas). The complexity of the densely populated settlements could only be controlled by state organization.

[Eder] (e) Particularsystems problems: In the evolutionarily promising neolithic societies systems problemssometimesarisewhich cannot be controlledby the steering capacity of the kinship system. They in a way institutionalize political roles already. to provide a good harvestor rain).their actions are not legitimateperse.. in addition to their explanatory functions. functions of legitimationas well.it is attachedto a position that empowers the holder to administer justice without having to limit himself to the evaluationof concrete actions and consequencesof actions. But the chieftains. .The function of social integration moves from kinship to political system. The collective identity is no longerembodied in the figureof a common ancestor. for warfare)or limited to special tasks (e. kings or leaders are still judged by their concrete actions. At the same time. Such roles are only temporarilyinstitutionalized(e. but ratherin the figureof a common ruler.298 (a) The phenomenon to be explained is the origin of a political order that organizesa society so that its memberscan belong to different lineages. These roles have not yet advancedinto the centre of social organization. (c) The goal of the explanation:the differentiationof a rulingposition means that the ruler practices jurisdiction at the level of conventional morality. Consequently. On the contrary.feuding law).g. The following is the explanatorysketch in greaterdetail: (d) The initial state: I take the neolithic societies where the complexity of the kinship system has greatly increased to be the evolutionarily promising societies. These problems are perceived when they lead to conflicts that overburdenthe archaic legal institutions (court of arbitration.. the origin of the state should be explained by the structural change of legal institutions moving from the preconventionalto the conventional level of consensualsettlement of conflicts.g. Legitimacyno longer dependson a formerstatus quo that must be restoredas soon as it is upset. The may devolve upon problems of land scarcity and population density or of unequal distribution of social wealth. (b) Theoreticaldescription of the phenomenon: A rulingposition is distinguished in that the position per se confers legitimacy on the occupant. He is thereby not directly bound to actual constellationsof powers. mythical belief systems which interpretgenealogicallythe ruler'sprivilegesassumefor the first time.

can such roles stabilize and become the core of a political system.. Such a development marks off the successful societies in evolutionaryterms from those that are merely promising.g. level. in irrigationalfarming) or of exchange (e. to an evolutionarysuccess." [Eder] The ruler assures the loyalty of his officials. [Eder] The explanatory sketch which I submitted above may cause surprisein view of the subject.299 (f) The testing of new structures:in societies which are underpressurefrom such problems. priests. So. (h) Emergence of class structures: "On the basis of political authority the material process of production can then be uncoupled from the limiting conditions of the kinship system and reorganizedby political relations. the already available conventional structures of individual moral consciousnessare used to test the administrationof justice on a new. This is shown in the example of the Barotse. can only now be used on a largerscale: the intensification of agricultureand stock-farmingand the expansion of craft are the resultsof the extended steeringcapacity of the class society. for at no point does the sketch refer to a particularmode of production. its advantagelies precisely in this abstraction. for example. in the marketexchangebetween town and country). but accordingto socially recognizedtraditionalnorms. In fact. for example.not all promisingexperimentslead via suchjudicial functions to a permanentauthority. (g) Stabilizing the innovations: These roles can become the pacemakersof social evolution. and warrior families by providing them privileged access to the means of production (temple and palace economy). but conventional. Instead. the two forms of social integration are described in relatively abstract terms of interactional and moral structures. Law is no longer restrictedto that on which the partiescan agree.for application of the scheme of six modes of productionhas resultedin numerousdifficulties. the war chief is empowered to adjudicatein cases of conflict not only accordingto the contingent constellation of power. the military victory of a dominant tribe or a huge construction project. Only if other conditions are present as well.g. Duringthe last few decades discussions have concentrated mainly on the demarcation of .. that is. Thus emergenew forms of cooperation (e. which were already found by the neolithic revolution. However. (i) Developmentof the forces of production: The forces of production.

Printed in The Netherlands .on the differentiationbetween archaicand developedcivilizations. Throughthese determinationsit is also able to ascertain how far the complexity of a system's steering capacities can be raised. In particular. I propose therefore a need for abstract principles of organization.300 paleolithic from neolithic society. on the incorporationof the Asiatic mode of production. These principles of organizationshould comprehendthose innovationsthat would institutionalize a new level of learning for each case. 2 (1975) 287-300 ? Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company. but they do clearly demonstrateone point: the concept of the mode of production is not abstract enough to encompass the universalsof developmental levels. These discussions in no way suggest the barrennessof the researchprogramof historical materialism. Theory and Society. It further defines to what degree the availablecapacities of productive forces can be socially employed. or to what degree the developmentof new forces of production can be stimulated. The organizational principleof a society opens the range of options.it determines the limits within which structuralchanges in the institutions can occur. and on the interpretationof feudalism. Amsterdam .