Subject of labor

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Subject of labor, or object of labor, is a concept in Marxist political economy that refers to "everything to which man's labor is applied." (Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., 1957) The subject of labor may be materials provided directly by nature like timber or coal, or materials that have been modified by labor. In the latter case, the subject of labor (e.g., yarn in a textile mill or semi-conductor chips in a computer assembly factory) are called raw materials. [1]

The subject of labor is one of three basic factors of the production process (Marx, 1967, p 174), along with human labor, and the means of labor (tools and infrastructure used to transform the subject of labor).

The subject of labor and the means of labor comprise the means of production of society (Institute of Economics, 1957).

Subject of labor is sometimes called object of labor (e.g., Sheptulin, 1978). In both cases, the term refers to what is being worked on.


Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. (1957). Political Economy: A Textbook. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Marx, Karl (1867 | 1967). Capital Vol. I. New York: International Publishers. Internet copy.

Sheptulin, A. P. (1978). Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. Moscow: Progress Publishers.


  1. This usage of the term "raw materials" is given in, for instance, Capital, Part III, Chap. 7