Possession, Production and Society

  • John Torrance


The last chapter has shown that each of the main historical forms of exploitation, as Marx identified them, can be analysed (though not exhaustively) into a combination of various sorts of transmissive practice. Central to each is the expropriation of surplus labour by a class that monopolises means of production, through pre-emption of the workers’ capacity to alienate and appropriate their products, and control of their capacity to produce. Preceding and following this are other institutionalised transmissive practices, more or less expropriative, which prepare for and conclude the central act of exploitation. The precondition and cumulative result of this three-step, cyclical process is the existence of exclusive possessory relations between mutually estranged social groups, effecting a separation between labour-power and other conditions of production. Initially, this separation is given historically and extraneously, as property and not-property by devolution, exchange, expropriation, etc. Once exploitation is established it becomes, we may say, property and not-property by exploitation. Likewise, the primary similitudes and differences that unite the two groups internally and divide them from each other lose their original adventitious character as historical givens, and acquire a class basis, structurally determined by the antagonistic mode of production through which exploitation occurs.


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  1. 16.
    As maintained, for example, by H. Kelsen, in General Theory of Law and State (New York, 1961) pp. 175ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Torrance 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Torrance
    • 1
  1. 1.Hertford CollegeOxfordUK

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