Living Reference Work Entry

The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

pp 1-3

Date: Latest Version

Abstract and Concrete Labour

  • Anwar ShaikhAffiliated with


The reproduction of society requires the production and distribution of the mass of products which forms the material basis of its existence. This in turn means that each society must somehow ensure that its available social labour time is regularly directed, in particular quantities and proportions, towards the specific applications needed to ensure social reproduction. As Marx points out, ‘every child knows that a nation which ceased to work … even for a few weeks, would perish’ (Marx 1867a).