[OPE-L:2227] Re: testing marx

Duncan K Foley (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Wed, 15 May 1996 08:56:41 -0700

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On Wed, 15 May 1996, Paul Cockshott wrote:

(among other things)

> At the time we wrote it, we were unaware that there was a body
> of opinion that disputed that Marx had a labour theory of value.

I think it is very important to be careful about language on this point,
because the phrase "labor theory of value" means different things to
different people. To Ricardo and to most of the 20th century critics and
commentators on Marx, the LTV meant "an embodied labor coefficients theory
of relative prices". To some people (Rubin, Rosdolsky, for example) the
LTV meant the claim that labor was the substance of value in the sense of
the total money value produced. Obviously people on one side of this
debate are going to be upset if people on the other appropriate the term
LTV to mean their interpretation without any qualification.

I think there is a real question as to what Marx meant by the LTV, and the
relation of his work to Ricardo's development of the LTV. I myself think
that Marx saw the LTV (in the second sense) as a crucial link to the
general point of view of historical materialism that he had been
developing for a long time. His idea was that the key to understanding the
dynamic of a society was to find out how surplus product was appropriated.
The LTV in the second sense fits this question as a key fits a lock, by
showing how the surplus value that drives capitalist societies is linked
to surplus product and surplus labor.

In any case, maybe it will help us all to be quite explicit about which
sense of the term "LTV" we are using at any moment.