[OPE-L:3659] Re: "Labor Theory of Value"--not used by Marx!

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 12 Nov 1996 06:42:14 -0800 (PST)

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Paul Z asked in [OPE-L:3658]:

> Does anyone out there know when "labor theory of value" was first used?

(1) This turns out to be a pretty interesting "history of thought"
question, IMO. I looked through the standard history of thought reference
works and haven't been able to find an answer yet. I suspect that the
answer may indeed be the one suggested by Paul C, i.e. that this
_expression_ was a _classificatory_ designation that appeared following

(2) Related to Marx: when did he ever refer to a component part of *his*
analysis (as distinct from the theories he critiqued) as a "theory"?

(3) It seems to me that it is valid, necessary, and desirable *under
certain conditions* for historians of economic thought to develop
classificatory schemes even where economists did not use certain
expressions or self-descriptions. The object of these schemes, it seems,
is to identify areas of commonality and/or non- or dis-commonality among
different writers. I guess the question that should be asked re any
particular classificatory scheme is whether the scheme itself is valid.

(4) Some, following Marx's statements that he was indebted to Smith,
Ricardo, etc., have essentially argued that Marx was a "classical
economist" or a "post-Ricardian." This interpretation, it seems to me,
fails to understand what Marx viewed as unique about his own "project"
(especially as it related to his method of analysis and his revolutionary
politics). Others have argued that Marx's analysis represented a new
"paradigm." Yet, there are problems with the idea of interpreting Marx's
thought in this way as well since the idea of an "epistemological break"
in Marx does not capture well the evolution and development of Marx's own
thought (and _in extremis_ can result in an interpretation that says that
only a very small proportion of Marx's writings can be considered to be

(5) More broadly, I think that historians in general *sometimes* tend to
emphasize commonalities even where there is evidence that there are
dis-commonalities. This effort to place individuals and historical
experiences into neat little classificatory "boxes" may indeed have a
legitimate purpose but we can not overlook the particularness of different
historical experiences (broadly interpreted to also include the
development of thought) without doing an injustice to the subject matter
itself. In this sense, I suppose that the classification of any
group of writers as a "school of thought" is a "stylized fact."

In solidarity,