In analysing a mode of production, for example capitalism, Marx’s starting point is always production. In any society the object of production is use-values, that is to say useful things such as food, clothing, houses, and immaterial products like plumbers’, GPs’ or nurses’ services. Thus the production of use-values can be taken for granted, just as production itself can be. In addition, at the first level of abstraction, it is unnecessary to explain the distribution of use-values in production, that is, the relative quantities of each product produced. This would depend upon a whole host of influences, for example ideology, technology, and the distribution of income, which could only be studied themselves after the basic relations of production had been uncovered. Contrast this with modern economics with its neutral government and given utility functions and factor endowments.
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