“Real” value: Comments on the “labor theory of value” and the wealth of capitalist society

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Joined: 11-07-08
Oct 17 2011 00:10
“Real” value: Comments on the “labor theory of value” and the wealth of capitalist society


If the facts of the financial crisis are rejected in the name of the “labor theory of value” or reduced to mere appearances of a different reality, then unfortunately it seems that both the starting point of Marx’s three volumes of Capital, the analysis of the commodity, and the subsequent derivation have not been understood correctly. Perhaps it is worthwhile to clarify what Marx's commodity analysis means when he concludes that exchange value results from value and that labor is the source and measure of that value.

Joined: 9-03-10
Oct 18 2011 10:24
The kind of labor that creates value is performed under the command and in the interest of capital. Educated Marxists know that labor not only has to create value for its employer, but surplus value – more value than workers receive in the form of wages. Capitalists can achieve this difference between cost and yield by having their employees work long, intensive, and productive hours; and they can just as easily get the same effect by paying their workers poorly. In any case, the latter work longer than would be necessary for them to produce the means of subsistence they can buy with their wages. So when they are paid by the day or by the hour, they perform “unpaid labor,” the fruits of which fall to capital and make up its profit.

That is all true, but to construe that as a great injustice in which the wealthy non-workers take away the workers’ product and appropriate it for themselves is to underestimate the matter. If one only criticizes how the fruits of labor get distributed, then production itself gets left aside as a neutral, reasonable matter, as if production in capitalism was about performing the labor needed to create means of consumption. According to this view, the problem with the economy – and what makes it truly capitalistic – is that workers receive too little of their value-product, which gets conflated with the concrete goods they produce, because others nab the lion’s share. Or the problem is that workers are forced to work longer than necessary – i.e., necessary for producing society’s collective means of consumption. By equating capitalism with other systems of exploitation throughout the history of humankind, however, one fails to grasp the irrationality of the most modern system of exploitation.

indeed. all too often im guilty as accused here. the critic of surplus value is not a good critic of capitalism at all.