The Standard Model of the Social-Historical Universe
March 1, 2021
The Standard Model of the Social-Historical Universe
In Capital, Karl Marx lists the “elementary factors of the labour process,” citing, (1) laborers, (2) their aims (3) labor, (4) materials, (5) means of labor, and their (6) products, and suggests that these elementary factors are organized in (7) different historical ways, constituting what he later calls different historical modes of production.*
I suggest that the elementary factors of the labor process include three more elementary parts: (7) space, (8) time, and (9) the relationships between all of these elements.
The expanded labor process then includes the following ten elementary parts:
10 Mode of Organization
Standard Model: I suggest that this extended, expanded formulation of the labor process constitutes a Standard Model of the Social-Historical Universe. The analogy is to the “Standard Model” of the physical universe formulated by physicists but definitely does not suggest any extra-human, physical determining. Quite the opposite.
Actors: Humans are individuals and members of groups, and classes. Group actors include armies, bureaucrats, capitalists, corporation managers, critical thinkers, data crunchers, dictators, emotion manipulators, factory and office workers, families, friendship networks, historians, idea makers, lawmakers, police forces, presidents, public intellectuals, and value judgment producers (critics), etc. Actors are socially, historically, and variously distinguished by ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, ideology, influence, intelligence, power, race, religion, sex, sexuality, and values. These are particular historical ways of actors’ self-and-other making. Human actors initiate human actions pointing to the responsibility of particular humans and human groups for the making and determination of the social-historical world.
Aims: This is a theory that every mode of construction includes subjective human aims and objective materials and means. Human aims include desires, feelings, ideas, judgments, longings, lusts, objectives, purposes, wants. This theory includes subjective human aims in the basic structure of production, power, work, action. Subjective human aims and material means of production, construction, and action are contained within and fundamental to the same system. There is no ideal “superstructure” distinguished from a material “base.”
Action/Construction/Production: This theory stresses the identity of human action, construction, creation, labor, making, production, reproduction, and work. The distinction between capitalist wage work and all other kinds of activity is only one historically specific way of organizing and conceptualizing human activity. The theorizing about women’s unpaid labor in the home helped to focus attention on the work of reproducing the human species, a form of work largely outside the capitalist wage labor system. But there are many other kinds of creating, making, production, and work outside the wage labor system dominant under capitalism. This theory of the structuring of human labor also constitutes a general theory of human action. It posits that all human actions include these same, ten elementary parts.
Mode of Production: This theory posits that the social universe is simultaneously a mode of human production, an organization of all types of human construction, a structure of human making, a system of human action.
Social Construction: This theory posits a social construction theory identical to mode of production theory.
The Economy: This is a theory that the economy refers not just to the organization of wage labor under capitalism, but to the organization of all kinds of human activity in every society. This is a theory that the social-historical world is simultaneously a way of structuring human action, a mode of construction, a productive order, an economy.
Means of Power: This is a theory that means of action constitute means of power, a theory positing that some means of action, construction, and production have more effect than others. This is a theory that those who control the means of effective action, construction, and production control power. This is a theory that different classes of humans have different amounts of power based on their control over effective means of action.
Class: This is a theory that different classes of humans are constituted by their relationship to different means of action, construction, production. This is a theory that different class interests are the basis for class cohesion and class conflict.
Time: The inclusion of time as one of the elementary factors of the labor process makes this a theory of the human making of changing as well as relatively stable social-historical worlds. This is a universal theory of historically particular societies. This is a theory that, over time, human actors have made and make essentially different social-historical worlds.
Space: The inclusion of space and thus geographical location as a fundamental element of the action/construction/production process stresses the importance of specific local conditions as well as global, world-wide interconnections in that process.
Tool: I suggest that this abstract, universal model is a tool for researching, interpreting, and understanding evidence of historically specific societies. The model does not tell us anything specific about the structure of any particular society, it is a tool for investigating and interrogating the evidence of past and present social structures, social systems.
Determinism: This is a theory that the means of power are the means of determining the character of the social universe. This is a theory of the human determination of the social-historical world.
Relevance: This hypothesis is a contribution to human action theory, anthropological theory, critical race theory, historical theory, Marxist theory, power theory, queer theory, social construction theory, social structure theory, social systems theory, and sociological theory.
Worldview: This theory constitutes a worldview, a way of understanding our present and past everyday worlds. This Standard Model is a way of envisioning the world we humans make.
This is an orthodox revision and extension of Marx’s mode of production theory.
My suggesting the existence of such a thing as a Standard Model of the Social-Historical Universe is a bid for discussion of the issues involved.
*See Marx on the three “elementary factors of the labour-process,” Capital, Volume 1, Section 1: “The Labor Process or the Production of Use-Values,” Capital, Volume 1, p. 127; https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf
For a scholarly discussion of the above theory see
Jonathan Ned Katz, “Envisioning the World We Make,”
February 2, 2016, OutHistory.org,