Sociology Index


Labor theory of value is a fundamental component of Karl Marx's analysis of capitalist exploitation. Labor theory of value is an integral component of the economic and social theories of Karl Marx. In Marx's labor theory of value, commodities should in principle be exchanged in the market place for prices that exactly correspond to the necessary labour time embodied in them. Labor theory of value also appears in the theories of earlier classical liberal economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Marx's labor theory of value argues that the value of any commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time that goes into its production. Marx uses the term ‘socially necessary labour time’ in his labor theory of value because the labour time required to create a commodity depends on the society's levels of technology and craft. Labor theory of value is generally associated with Marxist economics.

Mainstream neoclassical economics tends to reject the need for a labor theory of value, concentrating instead on a theory of price determined by supply and demand. When a commodity is exchanged, or sold, for more than its labour value, a surplus value is realized. The labor theory of value provides the foundation of Marx's claim that labor is exploited in a capitalist society: the capitalist, through the power of capital ownership, is able to pay the worker less than the market value of the commodities produced and the surplus value is captured by capital and largely re-invested to augment the means of production. The labour theory of value has become the principal target for all opponents of Marx. 

The Labor Theory of Value: Materialist versus Idealist Interpretations. Andrew Brown, Economics Division, Maurice Keyworth Building, Leeds Univ. Business School, Univ. of Leeds.
Abstract: This paper presents a novel interpretation and affirmation of Marx’s initial arguments for the labour theory of value in Capital. The materialist principles that

(i) powers are materially based, and

(ii) ‘labor’ articulates nature and society,

are developed so as to validate and emphasise Marx’s opening arguments. The argument is presented as a novel addition to existing critiques of ‘systematic dialectics’ and of ‘value form theory’.

A Monetary Labor Theory of Value. Riccardo Bellofiore
Department of Economics, Istituto Universitario, 24100 Bergamo, Italy. Abstract: A critical survey of the recent literature on the labor theory of value is offered, focusing upon the view of Marnian labor theory of value as a macroeconomic theory of exploitation within the money circuit of capital. The paper claims that Rubin's insight, that in the end value is created in exchange but that the substance of value is latently present in production, can be pursued within a theory of money as a symbol. In this perspective the concept of exploitation as the extraction of surplus labor can be seen to be compatible with the concept of a non-commodity money. This reading of abstract labor theory of value argues that the quantitative aspect of Manes argument is relevant not for the setting of prices of production but rather for shedding light on the actual process of incessant change in the economic structure.

Recent Developments in the Labor Theory of Value. Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. Abstract: This paper reviews the historical roots of Marx's labor theory of value and some contemporary contributions to the critique of this theory. Modern commentary on Marx's labor theory of value based on dual system of parallel prices and embodied labor coefficients loses sight of the theory's roots in the philosophy of historical materialism and its function as a theory of money. Recently developed empirical single system approaches, including the New Interpretation that identifies the monetary expression of labor time with the ratio of money value added to living productive labor expended in its production, address these problems, and open the possibility of a progressive research program based on Marx's labor theory of value.

The Classical Labor Theory Of Value And The Future Of American Power.
TSAGANEA, Doru (Metropolitan College of New York)
Abstract: In the present article the author makes an eloquent inquiry regarding the current economic and financial crisis and its relationship with the classical labor theory of value. As a conclusion, the author presents some of the key actions and policies strongly needed for The United States in order to remain the preeminent superpower of the world in the 21st century.

Labour Theory of Value in Cognitive Capitalism
Article: Life put to work: Towards a life theory of value. By Cristina Morini and Andrea Fumagalli. Abstract: "Starting from the recognition that only a ‘labour theory of value’ is able to provide a measure of the value of the surplus, in this essay we’d like to pose the question of how the labour theory of value must dynamically adjust to the capitalist system and the succession of different modes of accumulation. That the labour theory of value - intended primarily as a theory of value-time work - requires a redefinition that is able to grasp the qualitative changes that have overtaken and undermined the traditional theory of value labour. In particular, it will be considered a specific form of value creation: one linked to the concept of affective labour. Conclusion: The labour theory of value must be rethought and newly modulated. It can no longer be considered as the ‘objective’ measure of value.

The Human-As-Waste, the Labor Theory of Value and Disposability in Contemporary Capitalism. Michelle Yates.
Abstract: This paper takes issue with various theoretical perspectives that examine waste within the context of consumption, distribution, or excretion, yet fail to address capitalism as a totalizing mode of production. In failing to do this, these theories are not able to make the conceptual leap to the human-as-waste. By contrast, this paper engages in a production-level theoretical standpoint and argues that capitalism, in its reduction of labor to a factor of production, speaks a logic of human disposability. On the one hand, the body of the laborer is used up or wasted at accelerated rates so as to secure the most profit.

The 'Intuitive' Labour Theory of Value is Counterintuitive. Joseph S. Fulda.
Columnist, The St. Croix Review; Columnist, Journal of Information Ethics; Associate Editor, Sexuality & Culture, Economic Affairs, September 2007.
Abstract: The labour theory of value appears to have intuitive appeal, appeal which has infected personal, interpersonal, and social discourse, and also underlies much public policy. In this article, we trace the history of value from More, Hobbes, and Locke to Smith, Marx, and George culminating in the views of the late Milton Friedman. Then we give two counterexamples to the labour theory of value, which should demonstrate even to skeptics that the correct theory of value is the subjective theory put forward by the Austrian School.