[OPE-L:699] Re: LTV an assumption?

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Sun, 10 Dec 1995 11:30:06 -0800

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Steve Keen (681) wrote:

I have to agree with Fred's general argument that the LTV--or indeed the
utility theory of value--cannot be "proven" in the sense that it
rests on a set of "methodological presupposutions about how a theory
of capitalism should be constructed", and that these presuppositions
are unprovable.

These presuppositions themselves cannot be "proven", and in
this sense Fred is correct that, when comparing Marx's
analysis to neoclassical theory, the choice ultimately comes
down to how well they enable the practitioners to analyse

Where I differ from Marxists on this point, as Fred would
remember from debates on the marxism list, is that
... I believe that the labor theory of value
does *not* follow of necessity from Marx's

My reply:

Steve, thanks very much for your comment. I am glad that we may agree on
the general nature of Marx's derivation of the labor theory of value. I am
afraid that I do not remember all the details of our earlier debate and I
don't have my files with me in Mexico. So would you please indicate more
precisely why you think that the labor theory of value does not follow of
necessity from Marx's fundamental methodological presuppositions.

To facilitate this, I will breifly summarize below my understanding of
Marx's derivation of the labor theory of value from his analysis of the
commodity. Would you tell me which points you disagree with and/or which
points do not follow of logical necessity. Thanks in advance for your response.

1. Marx's analysis of the commodity is based on two methodological
a. Capitalism should be analyzed in terms of its objective characteristics.
b. The commodity is analyzed as a GENERAL EQUIVALENT to all other
(You have indicated I believe that you agree at least in part with this

2. Marx then argued that the general equivalence of commodities requires
which their equivalence is determined.

3. Marx quoted Aristotle approvingly on these two points:
There can be no exchange without equality,
and no equality without commensurability. (C.I. 151)

4. Marx argued further that the useful qualities of commodities cannot
serve as the common property that determines their equivalence because there
is no way to reduce any of these useful qualities to a homogeneous unit of
measure; i.e. that there are not and cannot be meaningfully made to be

5. Marx concluded that the only possible candidate for a common,
homogeneous property of commodities which determines their equivalence is
the abstract, homogeneous labor contained in them.