MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



Object and Subject

Subject and Object are crucial concepts in Epistemology, the study of knowledge. ‘Subject’ refers to the active, cognising individual or social group, with consciousness and/or will, while ‘object’ refers to that on which the subject’s cognitive or other activity observes.

In the dialectical theory of knowledge, the important thing is to understand the subject and object as a unity and to see both the activity of the subject (which had been developed by idealism – see Theses on Feuerbach No. 1) and the independent existence of the world of which the subject is a part (which had been emphasised by materialism).

See also: also subjectivism, objectivism (indicating errors in a person's approach to problems), Subjective Idealism, Objective Idealism (indicating trends in the history of philosophy), Subjectivity, Objectivity (referring to divisions of the Doctrine of the Notion in Hegel's Logic), Subjective Logic and Objective Logic (referring to the two Parts of Hegel's Logic).

Further Reading: Hegel: “By 'object' is commonly understood not any sort of actuality, but something independent, concrete, and self-complete”. For further discussion of the subject-object relation: see Hegel’s Subjective Logic and The Notion and The Idea and Vygotsky.


Object/Subject of Labour

What labour is applied to (for example: labor, raw materials). Subject/Object of Labour is one of the Means of Production.

See also: Subject of Labour.



The manifestation of human activity into a materially existing form. For example, when a person makes something, and the product of their labour thereby expresses their personality and the social relations in which the labour was carried out. In De-objectification, objectively existing, material things are incorporated into social relations and ‘humanised’ through the significance they take on for other human beings.

Both these processes are characteristic of human labour in all its historically developed forms and the concepts are central to Marx’s understanding of the relation between humanity and Nature and the individual to society. Objectification needs to be contrasted with Alienation, which refers to objectification under conditions when the product of a person's labour not only becomes objective to them, but foreign, and Reification, which refers to the transformation of relations between people to relation between things which appear to exist independently of humanity, and is exhibited in Fetishism.

Objectification is also used in the sense of social relations which transform people into objects rather than subjects.


Objective & Subjective

Pertaining to the object itself, independently of the ‘observer’ or subject. ‘Subjective’ means pertaining to the point of view of the subject, rather than to the object under consideration.

Further Reading: Object & Subject, and Objectivism & Subjectivism Hegel’s critique of Kant.


Objective Idealism

Those philosophical trends which see all nature and history working in accordance to a set of pre-conceived ideals, for example certain "laws" pertaining to all history.

Marx regarded Hegel as an objective idealist and showed that Hegel's views are close to those of consistent materialism.


Objective Logic

Hegelian Philosophy: Objective Logic, with the divisions of Being and Essence, is the logic of the way a new idea or social movement or organisation comes into being, its genesis, as opposed to the Subjective Logic, which is the logic of the way an idea or social movement or organisation develops, grows and matures.

In the first stage of the Objective Logic, Being, successive forms come and go without any development. This is referred to as "in itself". In the second stage, Essence, the content shows itself in a succession of contradictory forms, until a form true to the content arises and the object actualises itself and becomes self-conscious, initiating the Subjective Logic.

Further Reading: Hegel: The Notion as Such, Science of Logic and Ilyenkov's Dialectics as Logic.



Philosophical standpoint which refrains from making value judgements, or intervening in the object and fails to recognise the fact that the subject is part of the object. See Objectivity in the Hints.



Objectivity refers to that aspect of cognition which pertains to the Object itself, rather than the Subject. Over-emphasis on objectivity leads to a position of powerlessness in reality and “Objectivism”.

In Hegel's system, Objectivity refers to the second Division of Notion (i.e. the Subjective Logic, NB), where a new Notion confronts the entire existing body of theory with which it must merge if it is to become a mature theory or Idea.

Objectivity in Hegel's system is the second part of The Notion, after Subjectivity and followed by The Idea. The Notion (Subjectivity = the abstract notion, the Judgement and the Syllogism) is the domain of "Pure Reason" and confronts itself in Objectivity = independent existence outside the subject in the objects, processes and life of the world outside thought and subjectivity. The synthesis or resolution of the contradiction between subjectivity and objectivity takes place through The Idea - Life, Cognition and The Absolute Idea (conscious practical activity).

To stop at objectivity is the standpoint of "Objectivism", withholding critical appraisal and partisan intervention, abstaining from life, though Hegel assigns it to Leibnitz or superstition.

See also: Subjectivism
Further Reading: summary of The Object in the Shorter Logic, Mechanism - Chemism - Teleology and Mechanism, Chemism and Teleology.



The Russian peasant commune, obshchinas decided what crops they would grow, and regulated crop rotation of all its members. Land was redistributed among households, in accordance to the lesser or greater needs of each family.

Although the beginning of the Obshchina is disputed, it is thought to have origins at least as early as the 1500s, before feudalism took root in Russia. In later centuries the commune became responsible for the payment of the poll-tax, and issued passports (for work outside the commune). In 1906, tsarist minister Stolypin issued a law favouring the kulaks, and hurting the Communes – "allowing" peasants to sell the land they tilled; which in practice became rich landlords brutally forcing peasants to sell their land.

Amongst aversity and class struggle, the commune became the heart of rural soviets, and on the creation of the Soviet government, the ancient commune achieved real political safety and power, though it would not last for long. By the 1930s, brutally enforced collectivisation stripped the peasantry of its power and focused power solely within the walls of the bureaucracy, destroying the commune that had endured through the reign of such people as Ivan IV and withstood such devestating events as the first World War.



Perception of the objective world with the aim of providing primary data for scientific research, in which the investigator endeavours not to influence the object being observed. Thus the investigator isolates the object from the active intervention of themselves, but does not limit the "reality" (interconnection with all other processes and things in the world).

In the history of science, observation plays a vital role from Aristotle onwards, but only from Bacon's time becomes systematic. Observation is the characteristic method of Empiricism, but there is never a time when Observation is not fundamental; Observation is developed in combination with the active side with Experiment and Practice.

Observation is about the dialectic of Being.