[OPE-L:611] Re:

Steve.Keen@unsw.edu.au (Steve.Keen@unsw.edu.au)
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 13:42:38 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Fred poses

|How can the labor theory of value be anything other than an assumption? To
|be sure, this assumption is made not out of thin air, but is instead based
|on a certain type of analysis of the commodity. But this anlysis of the
|commodity is itself based on certain methodological presuppositions (e.g. to
|analyze capitalism in terms of its objective characteristics, rather than in
|terms of the subjective choices of individuals), which are not
|self-evidently true, and in fact have been disputed be many people. So in
|what sense can Marx's derivation of the labor theory of value be a PROOF?

Fred and I have already debated this one--to no mutual conclusion--on
the Marxism list. Fred's position is similar to that of
Meek, who said that the concept that labour is the source of value
was not susceptible to a logical proof "of the type used to prove
a theorem in geometry", but that its "proof" rested on being able
to establish that this theory was capable of solving the important
problems set before it: "It was also necessary to
demonstrate that a theory of value erected on the basis of
this particular concept was in fact capable of providing a real
solution of the problems which were put before it. The really
important part of `Marx's proof of the Labour Theory of Value'
was contained in the subsequent sections of *Capital*, in which
Marx applied the theory to the analysis of economic reality,
and in particular to the problem of distribution." (Meek, p. 164)

I have argued that in fact Marx did believe he had proved
the labor theory of value, by working from his analysis of
the commodity.

Fred's statement that some axioms must be taken as given
is true, and prior to the Grundrisse, Meek's argument
that "If the basic relation between men as
commodity-producers in fact determined their exchange
relations it could only do so per medium of the relative
quantities of labour which they bestowed on these
products" (p. 164) was a good paraphrase of Marx's

But after the Grundrisse, Marx began instead with
dialectically founded axioms about the commodity as
the essential unity of capitalism, and from these
axioms he derived the proposition that labor was the
source of value.

Fred alludes to this, where he says that the analysis
of the commodity is based on "certain methodological
presuppositions (e.g. to analyze capitalism in terms
of its objective characteristics, rather than in
terms of the subjective choices of individuals)",
and here I agree completely that the choice between
the two perspectives--objective vs subjective
value theory--can only be based on their results.
However, the fact that Marx began from a set of
axioms which did not presuppose the conclusion that
labor is the only source of value is a methodological
advance over beginning with that assumption.

Steve Keen
Meek ref. is _Studies_, 2nd edition.