Forces of production in Marxian terms, is the essential component of the economic system of society. Forces of production refers to the materials used in the production of goods as well as the tools, knowledge and techniques used to transform these materials. Forces of production does not include the class structure or relations of society, known as the relations of production.
The productive forces and the relations of production must be seen as two contradictory aspects of a single totality: the productive activity of people in society. In particular, the relations of production must not be entirely reduced to the legal relation of ownership, nor must they be entirely abstracted from the forces of production. The forces of production must not be conceived simply as machinery and techniques, in abstraction from the relations of production.
Forces of Production and Relations of Production in Socialist Society - Sean Sayers
Karl Marx outlines his account of historical development in the following well-known words: It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - what is merely a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within the framework of which they have hitherto operated.
From forms of development of the
productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. At that point an era of social
revolution begins. With the change in the economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more slowly or more rapidly transformed.
For, according to this account, a socialist society, by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production, thereby abolishes the material and economic basis of class differences; and so classes are destined to die out in socialist society as the forces of production are developed.
The Forces of Production
As well as distorting the Marxist concept of the relations of production, the traditional interpretation also has an impoverished picture of the productive forces. It sees the major task of socialist society as being to develop the productive forces; but this task is itself conceived in a one-sided and mechanical fashion. The productive forces are regarded as comprising only machinery and techniques, and thus the development of production is seen solely in technical and economic terms.
However, machinery and techniques must not be seen in abstraction. A machine requires people to build, operate and maintain it - only in this contest is it a productive force.
Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation by David F. Noble - Review author: Leon Grunberg - The American Political Science Review, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Jun., 1985), pp. 537-538.