Joan Robinson and the Labor Theory of Value

labour_creates_all_wealth

Here’s an interesting thought from Geoff Harcourt on Joan Robinson’s relationship with the Marxist economist (and possible Soviet infiltrator) Maurice Dobb which also goes into what she thought about the labour theory of value (excuse the Americanised spelling in the title, but you must fish for hits on Google…). I think I should comment on it because I really dislike the labour theory of value for the same reasons as Robinson and I think Harcourt and King (the interviewer) are being immensely unfair here:

She thought [Dobb] was schizophrenic. She could never understand him. Here he was, this great Communist, Marxist, out of office hours, teaching Marshall in office hours. And I think Maurice thought that she was an upper-class bourgeois liberal with pinkish overtones who wouldn’t go the whole hog. And also, I think, he was offended by her rather philistine, very British, attitude to the philosophical problems of the labor theory of value, whereas he argued that the labor theory of value was the base on which you should erect Marxism, in his essay on “The Need for A Theory of Value” in Political Economy and Capitalism (Dobb 1937: Chapter I). And of course he recognized — I know you [the interviewer: John King] don’t agree with me on this, but it’s what I think — that the labor theory of value was really an explanation of the origin of profits in the capitalist mode of production, and as a byproduct of that you have to explain why the prices of production don’t coincide with underlying labor values. And I think Maurice always thought of it like that, and I think Sraffa did as well, whereas to Joan it was always gobbledegook. She said, “It’s great metaphysics for stirring the workers up, but it’s not a theory. You don’t need it.” She said, “I don’t need the labor theory of value to explain why the chaps who’ve got the finance can push around the chaps who haven’t.” And it was that sort of English philistine contempt for European philosophy, I think, which rather annoyed Maurice. But this is conjecture. Joan did say to me that he was schizophrenic in his intellectual thought.

I include the biographical detail merely because I find it a part of the interesting tapestry that was the left-wing in Britain in the post-war years. But what I really want to focus on a few points.

First of all the notion that people who dislike the labour theory of value (hereafter: “LTV”) are “philistines” who don’t understand continental philosophy. This is an accusation often thrown around by Marxists who believe in the LTV. It is one that permeates the whole of the interview with both Harcourt and King talking as if Robinson didn’t have the intellectual sophistication to understand the LTV. It is an absolutely odious criticism for two reasons. First of all, because numerous continental philosophers have criticised Marx’s materialist philosophical views on which the LTV is based as being inconsistent with the tradition he was following — and have done so fairly consistently throughout the 20th century.

Secondly, and tied to this, the most powerful criticism of the LTV is precisely from a continental philosophical viewpoint. Marx borrowed his arguments from Hegel but largely misunderstood him — as was often pointed out to him by his friend and hand-picked heir to Hegel Bruno Bauer. For Hegel and for most other actual continental philosophy materialism makes no sense at all because you cannot assume that there exists an “out there” independent of what is in your head. This leads to many conclusions, such as that value is entirely relative — as I have argued before from the viewpoint of contemporary continental philosophy — and cannot be measured in terms of physical human exertion which is completely arbitrary.

It is the Marxists who have a poor understanding of continental philosophy, not their opponents. Their version of continental philosophy is handed down to them, frankly, by a second-rate Hegelian who always refused to recognise the contradictions of deploying Hegelian/Idealist thought to a naive materialism. You can see this in the way Marxists banish such debates by turning the term “Idealism” into a pejorative among themselves and never engaging with genuinely Idealist critiques beyond deploying their crudely constructed pejorative. If you’re dubbed an “Idealist” you’re below debate in Marxist circles; such is enough to disqualify you. Why? Because Marx said so; that’s why.

The other point I want to deal with is more so economics than it is philosophy. Harcourt says that “the labor theory of value was really an explanation of the origin of profits in the capitalist mode of production, and as a byproduct of that you have to explain why the prices of production don’t coincide with underlying labor values.” He also says this as if Robinson didn’t “get” it at some level. I think she “got” it perfectly well but she recognised it for what it is: a moral judgment and not an economic judgment.

Such a statement is, as Robinson would always point out with such statements, circular. It gets its result from its assumptions and then hides its assumptions behind its result. Yes, the LTV “explains” profits in a capitalist economy perfectly well if we take the a priori view that the capitalist is simply a leech and that all value should by rights belong to the worker. Let’s put that same statement another way: the LTV “explains” profits in a capitalist economy if one is a Marxist socialist or communist.

It does no such thing, however, if one does not subscribe to such a viewpoint. If I, for example, believe that capitalists actually perform a useful social function then the LTV “explains” nothing about profits because it assumes that all value comes from workers and none from capitalists. So, really the political judgment is already “baked in” to the theory, making the theory not a theory at all but an ideology. That is what Robinson always recognised and what she always insisted upon. At no point in the discussion do Harcourt and King, who both seem to be LTV believers, actually lay out why Robinson was wrong; instead they talk among themselves like members of a church about why their deceased friend always failed to see the light and find salvation.

Addendum: Before someone points out to me the popularity of Marxism among certain 20th century continental philosophers let me just anticipate this. It is true that certain very prominent continental philosophers such as Levi-Strauss, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty were indeed Marxist in their politics. However, this was because Marxism was fashionable in certain groups at the time and their politics never really gelled with their philosophies — apart from the case of Sartre who actually altered (and I would say: debased) his philosophy later in life to try to line it up with Marxist ideas. All of this didn’t last long and what today is scorned by Marxists as “postmodernism” eventually cleared out the last remaining vestiges of Marxism among continental philosophy. Where it appeared after this it was usually just faddish rhetoric or political posturing.

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About pilkingtonphil

Philip Pilkington is a London-based economist and member of the Political Economy Research Group (PERG) at Kingston University. You can follow him on Twitter at @pilkingtonphil.
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30 Responses to Joan Robinson and the Labor Theory of Value

  1. Tom Hickey says:

    Nice analysis of Hegel-Marx. However, as much as I like the Idealist POV philosophically, it is a way of seeing, just as materialist/realist POV is a way of seeing. One has to start somewhere and the starting point cannot itself be proved without falling into circular reasoning or an infinite regress. Different ways of seeing result in different consequences, e.g., for action. So in the end, the criterion become pragmatic and they depends on a lot of factors including cultural and institutional one like class status.

    In the historical context in which Marx was writing, the big economic shift happening was the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Classical economics is a reaction to feudalism. Adam Smith and the English proto-economists lined up on the side of capitalism as their champion to replace the feudal order based on titled land ownership.

    Until the 18th century, almost all common law property ownership depended on proving a link of possession from a royal grant of title to the property owner. Although the feudal system was rapidly disappearing from England in the 18th century, to be replaced with a system of taxation, in theory the feudal chain of title still exists, although it is a formality.Wikipedia

    The idea at the time was that agriculture was economically dominant, since most workers were involved in agricultural production, and the land was owned by rentiers. By this time the former aristocratic estate has been diluted by the manor system, where not all estate was titled in the aristocratic sense of the great lords that controlled duchies and counties. But few workers actually owned the land they worked as tenants or land-bound serfs.

    It seemed quite obvious at the time that in an agricultural society, the workers did the work and the rentiers reaped most of the benefits, which allowed them to lead a life of leisure. It was this class that stood on the way of the Enlightenment ideal of human freedom and the value of the person that was the basis of emergent thinking about rights in the 18th century.

    This is the environment in which the Classical economists were working, including Marx subsequently. Most of the Classical economists had some sort of LTV as a philosophical premise in their opposition to economic rent as the chief block to universalizing economic as well as political freedom.

    In the transition to capitalism, workers were being shifted from agricultural work to factories as agriculture began to be mechanized and fewer agricultural workers were needed, while there was a dearth of labor for newly emerging capitalistic enterprise, where the landlord was being replaced by the capitalist. It was essentially the same rentier-based system in another guise, where those who had access to capital were entering the privileged class in addition to land owners.

    This cease to be so much the case with the rise of the joint stock corporations that replaced individual capitalists and the entrepreneur rose to the top of the heap among workers, since in addition to being an owner, the entrepreneur was also a manager involved in day to day operations in a way that landlords were not. Subsequently, entrepreneurship was replaced by managerialism, with the managerial class at the top of the heap, able to dictate to shareholders.

    So the situation has become much different from the time at which the Classical economists were writing. If some concept of the LTV is to stand, it has to take into account this development of ownership, rentierism, and work.

    • I don’t think it is just a way of seeing — at least not for someone who adheres to dialectics. Dialectics is an Idealist philosophy. It began in its modern form in the chapter of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason entitled ‘The Transcendental Dialectic’. It was then taken over by Hegel as the basis of all philosophy. For both, the dialectic is a transcendental — therefore it must exist “in here”, not “out there”.

      Marx just bastardised this. He never laid out any philosophical justification for what he was doing (his philosophical writings are second-rate, so I don’t think he was capable). He just started saying that the dialectic exists “out there” because… well… because Marx said so. Then Engels picked up on this nonsense and wrote the incomprehensible Dialectics of Nature.

      I really don’t think this is a “matter of perspective” argument. If you want to use Hegel/Kant you must accept their framework, which is painstakingly argued. To pick out bits you like and arbitrarily turn them upside-down and back-to-front is the sign of an amateur at work. Which, of course, was what Marx was: an amateur.

      • Tom Hickey says:

        Well, I wouldn’t argue that point. Marx was not a philosopher on the level of Kant or Hegel, who are on the top rung of Western philosophers. But none of the “worldly philosophers” rose anywhere near this height either. Among them, Marx ranks pretty highly.

        I think Marx was probably astute enough philosophically to realize that ancient philosophy was about being ‚ what is there? — and modern philosophy was about knowledge — what can we know about what is? (His doctorate was in philosophy.) Once one enters the trap of modern philosophy there is not way out of some sort of idealism or subjectivism like Humean empiricism.

        That’s easily a dead end for someone who is trying to inspire populist action since most people are naive realists who regard idealism and subjectivism as counterintuitive. Materialism also got rid of one of the chief obstacles to social change — institutional religion. So is possible that Marx’s choice was strategic.

        But his stance did not come out of nowhere.

        Marx became interested in the recently-deceased German philosopher G.W.F Hegel, whose ideas were then widely debated among European philosophical circles.[36] During a convalescence in Stralau, he joined the Doctor’s Club (Doktorklub), a student group who discussed Hegelian ideas, and through them became involved with a group of radical thinkers known as the Young Hegelians in 1837; they gathered around Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer, with Marx developing a particularly close friendship with Adolf Rutenberg. Like Marx, the Young Hegelians were critical of Hegel’s metaphysical assumptions, but adopted his dialectical method in order to criticize established society, politics, and religion from a leftist perspective.

        Marx’s early associates were radical leftists and atheists, impressed by Hegel as a thinker while being in reaction to what they saw as his metaphysical excesses. Feuerbach would go on to write The Essence of Christianity, which influenced Marx’s concept of alienation and his critique of religion.

        In more contemporary terms, Marx was a DFH and a member of SDS, as well as a spoiled “rich kid” with a conscience. He was even married to the daughter of an aristocrat.

      • I don’t think it was just a political maneuver for Marx. That would have been too vulgar. He just ignored Bauer and followed Feurbach. He seems to have taken the latter’s philosophical basis for materialism at face value (i.e. on authority) and totally dismissed (I suspect: did not understand) the former’s criticisms.

        The difference between the two is clear: Bauer was supposed to be Hegel’s heir; Feurbach was one of the many mediocre Hegelians that sprung up in Prussia and elsewhere at the time. Marx chose Feurbach because he adopted a teenage angsty radical posture.

      • Tom Hickey says:

        Marx chose Feurbach because he adopted a teenage angsty radical posture.

        🙂

        Probably true psychologically.

        I see more in terms of the dialectic. Just as Descartes began the dialectic that became known subsequently as modern philosophy, Hegel ended it and the reaction to Hegel ushered in Post Modern philosophy.

        In a broad sense, what became Postmodernism can be seen as divided along idealist and subjective lines and realist and objective lines. Marxism is an example of the latter, where as ultramodernism is allied with the former. Marx is notable for founding a particular branch of what developed into the Postmodern dialectic.

        Wittgenstein sought a middle ground by attempting to elucidate that neither idealism nor realism can be stated descriptively. They are epistemic positions indicative of different POVs.

        So the dialectic continues with out resolution for lack of agreed upon criteria. Such is the history of Western philosophy.

  2. woodyslaugh says:

    “Such a statement is, as Robinson would always point out with such statements, circular. It gets its result from its assumptions and then hides its assumptions behind its result. Yes, the LTV “explains” profits in a capitalist economy perfectly well if we take the a priori view that the capitalist is simply a leech and that all value should by rights belong to the worker. Let’s put that same statement another way: the LTV “explains” profits in a capitalist economy if one is a Marxist socialist or communist.”

    i dont presume to know what mrs robinson would have pointed out, as i never met her. but you may well be right on that.
    however, from the point of view of logic every logical conclusion must follow invariably from its assumptions. thats inevitable, theres no way around, it cannot be differently.
    from assumptions such as “all dogs are mammals” and “billybob is a cat”, you cannot conclude anything LOGICALLY. assumptions MUST imply their own conclusion.
    if mrs robinson didnt know that (personally, i hope youre wrong), that speaks volumes of her logic… and yours.

    • You seem a little confused. You first statement “all dogs are mammals” is indeed circular. But the logic behind it is that there is some good reason to catagorise animals we call “dogs” as “mammals”. Your second statement is clearly an empirical statement. It is to be assumed that have have examined billybob and concluded that it is a cat.

      My point regarding the LTV, which you seem not to have read properly despite having quoted it in full, is that it is an arbitrary category based on a moral judgment. In order for the circularity to work we must, as I said, “take the a priori view that the capitalist is simply a leech and that all value should by rights belong to the worker”. That is a subjective moral judgement.

  3. “If you’re dubbed an “Idealist” you’re below debate in Marxist circles; such is enough to disqualify you. Why? Because Marx said so; that’s why.”

    [citation needed]

    “I think she “got” it perfectly well but she recognised it for what it is: a moral judgment and not an economic judgment.”

    No, it is an empirical question: if labour is the source of value, we would expect to see something, in this case a falling rate of profit. It has very little to do with individual prices and Marx never argued otherwise.

    • Right, this is a bit haphazard… Okay, two things.

      (1) I am not dealing with LTV as an empirical proposition; I am dealing with it as a metaphysical proposition which is how it is introduced in Volume I.

      (2) Most Marxists recognise that the TRPF is a “tendency” in Marx, not a definitive “law”. So, even if we were dealing with the empirics of the LTV — which is not the proper way to approach it — there would be no need for a falling rate of profit to “prove” it. This is pretty widely recognised among Marxian economists for, oh I don’t know, the past century. You’d be better off running regressions on wages, productivity and prices or something like that. But you’d still be missing the key philosophical point being made in the post.

      • Hedlund says:

        Not sure what you mean, Phil.

        1) It’s not a metaphysical proposition, but rather one grounded fundamentally in capitalist accounts.

        2) It’s not the “law of the rate of profit to fall” but rather the “law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.” So it’s both, in a sense. To put it more concretely, in more modern terms: the law pertains to procyclical movements in the economy’s average capital intensity, which has corresponding countercyclical effects on the rate of profit in aggregate. There are countervailing forces (e.g., changes to the rate of surplus value) that can push the rate of profit up even against this movement, but said forces are bounded such that they cannot do so indefinitely. Hence, it is a law (describing the insuperable effects of growing capital) about a tendency (describing the RoP’s meandering walk downward).

        Lastly: Dealing with the empirics is the proper way to determine the fitness of any self-consistent theory. Seriously, what other way could be more “proper” in discourse purporting to be scientific? (Of course, you could also be arguing that it’s not consistent. In that case, you really owe it to yourself to take a look at this, just to see whether your critique is novel. If not, then it is certainly addressed in there.)

      • 1) That paper is rubbish. The LTV is not “grounded in capitalist accounts”. Indeed, what on earth are “capitalist accounts”? I want a link to the “capitalist account” website. On a more serious note, (although I find that paper so laughable that I can barely be serious) I want firm proof that the LTV is contained within contemporary corporate accounts. (Hint: you won’t find it because I took a course that included corporate accounting and its not there).

        Here is a sample set of accounts. Please locate the LTV within it and I will do a post on my blog which I will then send to people who study this. They will be fascinated.

        2) Whatever. Semantics. My point against UE still stands. In Marxian theory if we do not see a fall in the rate of profit this is not “empirical disproof” of the theory as there can, within the TRPF theory, be countervailing tendencies. I was just pointing out that UE does not have a firm grasp of Marxist theory.

        3) Dunayevskaya does not have a firm grasp of the philosophy behind the dialectical materialist argument. No Marxists do. Because Marx didn’t. And if you start with garbage philosophy, your followers will also adhere to garbage philosophy.

      • Hedlund says:

        Rubbish, sure. None of the historical context presented therein is of interest? Nah. None of the perspectives on how studying accounting (based on the actual books kept by business owners, as made available by Engels) directly impacted Marx’s study of political economy? Laughable, apparently.

        It seems you read the whole thing, dismissed it, and wrote your reply in a scant six minutes. I had no idea what caliber of genius I was engaging.

        Secondly, it depends on the timescale being examined. It’s not as though the theory is unfalsifiable. For instance: illustrating a rate of profit showing a secular rise over decades followed by a sharp dip during a depression would pose quite a significant challenge to the whole affair.

        Thirdly: that seems like a non-sequitur. Care to elaborate on how that has anything to do with the LTV in particular? Or why a theory (any theory) should somehow be expected to do more than try to explain observed phenomena?

        It is starting to look kind of like you’re just dismissing everything I’m saying out of hand. If that’s your game, then I guess I’ll take my ball and go home. It’d be a real shame, though.

      • 1) Yes. The paper is full of conjecture. The LTV does not “come out of capitalist accounting”. The authors seem to forget that Marx took the theory over from the classical economists, not from Engels’ 19th century accounts. Complete rubbish.

        2) No. You can just put forward offsetting factors. Many Marxists do this.

        3) This is not a “non-sequiter”. It’s the content of the post which is about the philosophical background of the LTV. In Volume I Marx applies what would later become known as the “materialist dialectic” to show how the LTV works. However, as I said to Tom above, the dialectic is derived from Hegel who in turn derived it from Kant’s “Transcendental Dialectic” chapter. If you are familiar with these works and actually understand them you know that the method cannot be applied to any “materialist” discourse. Marxists don’t understand this because they think Marx actually made viable philosophical arguments. He didn’t. He was a total charlatan when it came to philosophy. And all the Marxists continue to make his mistakes. Dunayevskaya, who I read briefly one time, is a particularly amateurish philosopher.

      • Hedlund says:

        1) Nothing you’ve said here leads me to believe you’ve actually read the paper. Of course Marx was building on the works of the Classics. You’re looking downright silly right now.

        2) Certainly. And then we need to take an honest look at those offsetting factors. Believe it or not this happens in every science. And improving our knowledge has shown us at key points that even ideas believed “falsified” (naively, as it turns out) were not understood well enough under the prevailing paradigm. Feyerabend explores examples of this.

        3) Marx never actually wrote his intended volume on dialectical logic. Are you sure you’re not confusing Capital vol 1 with something else?

        To the extent that his ideas were Hegelian, they are often explicitly inversions of, or breaks with, Hegel’s concepts. They didn’t always see eye to eye. If we’re getting hung up judging the faithfulness of his reproduction of Hegel’s ideas in his own, maybe this is a less-productive avenue of inquiry. Much of Kant’s transcendental idealism represents a response to the gauntlet Hume threw down; we can’t exactly rebut Kant by saying “yeah, but Hume felt differently about knowledge!”

      • 1) I scanned it. Complete rubbish. Typical Marxist claptrap where fanboys read various theories in Das Kapital that don’t exist. It’s like Talmudic scholarship. Oh, and who looks “silly” is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe that garbage then you’re not a very serious person in my eyes. So, it’s all subjective, bud.

        2) Okay. Great. Still doesn’t impact my point to UE.

        3) Yes, my point is that you cannot “invert” the logic. To do so doesn’t make sense. Read my comments to Tom Hickey. Then read some actual philosophy rather than Marxist gibberish and you might begin to see why. Marx never justified his taking of the dialectic — which is a transcendental category — and positing it as the basis of material processes. He just made it up. And Marxists, in their blind devotion, don’t even check.

      • Hedlund says:

        1) So your rebuttal to the substantive points therein consists of a summary dismissal and a statement of opinion. I seriously have no idea what you’re even driving at. For example: what “theories” was he reading into Capital that don’t exist? Even providing one would improve your intelligibility tremendously right now.

        It’s one thing to become impatient and dismissive over exegetical debate if it occurs to the exclusion of actually developing a coherent scientific theory. But then when Marxists say “oh, but that’s a side discussion at this point; I’ve solidified my view and turned out this theory, so take a look,” that’s not the time to insist that it can’t possibly be right a priori because YOUR interpretation holds something different. At that point, you become guilty of the very crime you raised, yes?

        2) Considering you’ve conceded this line of thought on all counts so far, we’ve determined that you pretty much had no point to UE. You were just being pugilistic. And he appears to have taken the high road and just went on his merry way. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two from him.

        3) I’ve actually read considerably less philosophy along Marxist lines (some Marx himself, some Gramsci, and a bit of Badiou and Habermas pretty much covers it) than what you no doubt mean by “real” philosophers. Is it really that hard to see how positing a materialist ontology can preserve the structure of a dialectics? We can debate the merits and faults of saying so (and honestly I would find that to be a much more interesting discussion), but none of this actually addresses the fundamental LTV analysis in question, which actually doesn’t particularly care whether or not you like materialist monism or whatever. Its foundations are in the social form of the commodity, and any serious critique of it would have to start there.

        Dismissing this or that because “Marxists think” is as empty as dismissing something because “Phil Pilkington thinks.” Ditto Dunayevskaya, which raises another point: that book I linked was actually written by Kliman, who is in fact a completely different person from Dunayevskaya, with his own thoughts, opinions, and ideas. I believe he was a student of hers at one point, though. So not only are we dismissing an argument based on its proponent rather than its content, but we’re dismissing it based on someone the proponent once associated with. Seriously, man, you have to know that’s bad form.

        It’s not enough to say “this isn’t good philosophy” or “Very Serious People disagree with you” or even “I don’t like him/her/that tradition!” Of course people disagree, because this happens to be a subject, and subjects are notoriously debated. Nothing much to be done for it, except to suss it all out and see where it leads.

      • 1) This is turning into a boring internet argument. Yawn.

        2) UE implied that a falling rate of profit would prove/disprove the LTV. That is bullshit for any number of reasons. First, the reason I gave: Marxists consider that the TRPF can have offsetting features, so if the profit rate doesn’t fall that doesn’t disprove — for Marxists — the LTV. I also could have pointed out that some Marxists have different explanations for falling profit rates that do not require the LTV — like Robert Brenner. In that case a falling rate of profit would not necessarily prove the LTV. I was making the point that UE, as is often the case on his blog, isn’t actually very familiar with the theories he discusses.

        3) First of all, yes, you cannot ground the dialectic in materialism. And you have just confirmed why you think you can: all the philosophers you just cited think you can but never lay out why.

        If you don’t understand why the LTV requires the materialist argument I suggest you read the chapter on the commodity in Capital Volume I and get back to me. I’d also suggest reading Alexandre Kojève and how value is attributed to things in a Hegelian reading and you might see how the dialectic — which is a transcendent category and thus not reducible to “material reality” (which is an abstraction) — deals with the issue of value.

        4) Regarding you saying stuff about my “form” etc: I don’t really care. If I’m being rude to you its probably because I don’t think you have a strong enough grasp of the issues involve to engage on a level that might interest me. I might be wrong — although from the sort of paper’s your citing I don’t think I am — but then that’s my loss, isn’t it? I’ve argued with enough Marxbots to know what how far their understanding of these issues typically goes. And its not very far, so the discussions are usually unfruitful.

        Update: I wrote a post on materialism and the LTV here.

      • Hedlund says:

        1) This is turning into a boring internet argument. Yawn.

        If it is, then the transformation is exactly the fruit of remarks like this. But if that’s what you want, then so be it, I guess. It’s your blog.

        2) UE implied that a falling rate of profit would prove/disprove the LTV. That is bullshit for any number of reasons.

        It’s not bullshit, though. It’s only bullshit if we admit certain assumptions about the way science works — in particular, the sort of naive falsificationism I alluded to earlier. The falling rate of profit is one of the central contentions of the tradition, and thus it stands or falls with it. This is true. The fact that the exact nature of the fall can be disputed does not change this; it just means it requires the additional work of ruling out possibilities. This is something that even has to be confronted in the “hard” sciences. It can be even more of a sticky wicket in the social sciences.

        Your solution seems to be to deny the possibility of a theory of value, which to me seems tantamount to throwing up one’s hands and denying that there can ever be a coherent account of the movement of capitalist economies.

        3) If you don’t understand why the LTV requires the materialist argument I suggest you read the chapter on the commodity in Capital Volume I and get back to me. I’d also suggest reading Alexandre Kojève and how value is attributed to things in a Hegelian reading and you might see how the dialectic — which is a transcendent category and thus not reducible to “material reality” (which is an abstraction) — deals with the issue of value.

        I omitted Kojeve because I’ve only read the first half of his Introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology. Tragically, I’ve been unable to locate my copy since I moved recently. But I still have more boxes to dig through, so I’ve not given up hope!

        4) I might be wrong — although from the sort of paper’s your citing I don’t think I am — but then that’s my loss, isn’t it?

        Fair enough, I guess.

        I read your response post and I will direct my own reply to it accordingly.

      • Respond to the other post if you want. It’s not a response directed to you though. Try to keep it coherent and not drag the discussion down nonsense paths about accounting and other obtuse garbage, Thanks,

      • Hedlund says:

        Try to keep it coherent and not drag the discussion down nonsense paths about accounting and other obtuse garbage

        …He says, without one whit of irony.

      • Just keep to the content of the posts, Marxbot7685.

      • Hedlund says:

        Haha, nice “othering.”

      • You people are usually known as “Marxoids” but I thought I’d try to be original.

    • Regarding the “citation needed” point — which is dumb anyway, I was making a general observation — I will give you a random one from Althusser:

      The earlier idealist (‘bourgeois’) philosophy depended…

      This is a typical rhetorical tactic among Marxists. They dismiss idealism as “bourgeois” and then dismiss it as being wrong by asserting — yes asserting — the primacy of the material world. The philosophy is never really debated — indeed, it is rarely understood — it is just an exercise in rhetoric.

      Does the above quote prove my assertion that this is typical of Marxists generally? No. That is a personal observation. Asking me to prove it is silly and indicative of a confusion in the distinction between a blog and an academic paper on your part.

  4. javirl says:

    Is the LTV a moral jugdment? Yes, it is. But it’s not one made by the theoreticians, Adam Smith, David Ricardo or Karl Marx. It’s made by humankind. “Fairness” of economic transactions is considered worldwide in relation to the amount of human effort interchanged. If you ask: do real prices match LTV predictions? The answer is: amazingly so. And if you ask: where do the deviations come from? The answer is: from differences of power. Because not all transactions are fair. If you’re starving and I’m not, and I have food, I can get whatever I want from you.

    Classical economics is good economics: Smith-Ricardo and Marx. Neoclassical economics was an invention created by the establishment when they realized that economics was becoming a real science, and that was pretty dangerous. We had to wait until Keynes and Fisher to have good economists again, but only in the macro regime, because they wouldn’t accept the LTV: Has marginalism ever explained anything? Please.

    • (1) Not all of humankind believes in the “fairness” concept of the LTV. I am, shockingly enough, human myself and I do not believe it.

      (2) Do real prices match LTV predictions? To some extent yes. Why? Because there is a simpler theory of prices that says that they largely reflect input costs and wages are a major input. This theory explains prices better than LTV. And whatever the LTV does predict is as a result of the wage bill being included in the price.

      (3) I am not a marginalist as can be seen from statement (2) and also from the piece I linked to in the above criticising all theories of value.

      • I’d like to pose Javirl’s comment somewhat differently, and suggest there is nothing in the LTV which actually necessitates the presumption of a leeching capitalist. Presuming all commodities are sold at their value and that labor power is the only commodity capable of producing more value than its worth (two key propositions in Marx), then the LTV holds. The moral question (is it right for capitalists to appropriate a portion of the labor time expended in production?) strikes me as tangential to the kinds of questions that the LTV is meant to answer.

      • “Presuming all commodities are sold at their value…”

        Your logic is circular.

        Define “value” in the above sentence.

  5. Kevin Lopez says:

    “This leads to many conclusions, such as that value is entirely relative — as I have argued before from the viewpoint of contemporary continental philosophy — and cannot be measured in terms of physical human exertion which is completely arbitrary.”
    Link appears to be dead.

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