is value labour?

From: Asfilho@AOL.COM
Date: Wed May 07 2003 - 09:45:14 EDT

I seem to remember that we have already been through this issue years ago, on
this list.

My comment, below, draws on Ben Fine's "Marx's Capital", 3rd ed, 1989, p.6 (a
4th edition is currently in preparation, by Ben and myself, and it will be
launched later this year by Pluto Press):

Marx develops the labour theory of value from Smith and, especially, Ricardo.
But what is Marx's own contribution - the difference between his writings and
those of Ricardo? The difference is that, for Marx, it is insufficient to
base the source of value on labour time of production, as Ricardo presumes.
Thus, "value is labour" is not so much wrong as Ricardian - for Marx, this
claim is partial and potentially misleading.

The trouble with such Ricardian views as "value is labour" is that they take
for granted the existence of exchange, prices and commodities. That
commodities are worth more because they embody more labour begs the questions
of *why there are commodities at all*, and *why it is a relevant abstraction
to assume, at certain stages in the analysis, that commodities exchange at
their labour time of production*.

This illustrates an important feature of Marx's method: what the economists
(including Ricardo) tend to assume as timeless features of humans and
societies, Marx wanted to root out and understand in historical context.


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