political implications of labor theory of value

Fred B. Moseley fmoseley at mhc.mtholyoke.edu
Wed Nov 2 09:12:18 MST 1994


I want to second Hans Ehrbar on the importance of the political
implications of the labor theory of value.

In my view, the main implication of the labor theory of value is that
workers are exploited in the precise sense that they produce more value
than they are paid, i.e. that profit is produced by the surplus labor of
workers.  The labor theory of value destroys the illusion of an equal
exchange between capitalists and workers, i.e. that the wages workers
are paid are equal to the value they produce.  The fact that workers are
paid a money wage makes it appear that the relation between capitalists
and workers is one of equality, that all the workers' hours of labor are
paid for (no surplus labor) and that workers receive an equivalent to
what they produce.  This appearance of an equal exchange between
capitalists and workers is the single most important justification for
capitalism, among workers as well as capitalists and economists.  All
notions of the justice and fairness of capitalism are based on this
notion of an equal exchange between capitalists and workers.

The labor theory of value destroys this illusion and reveals the reality of
exploitation beneath the appearance of an equal exchange.  The
payment of wages is only the first phase of the relation between
capitalists and workers; the second phase is the process of production.
The labor theory of value argues that in production workers produce more
value than they are paid.  Without the labor theory of value, one
cannot oppose the notion of an equal exchange in terms of value between
capitalists and workers.

Without the labor theory of value, exploitation can be defined more
broadly in terms of the capitalists' appropriation of the surplus
product (because of their ownership of the means of produciton), but
this alternative definition says or implies nothing about the value
produced by workers.  Therefore, it cannot dispel the illusion of an
equal exchange between capitalists and workers in terms of value.  At
best, exploitation without the labor theory of value can be explained
as a general phenomenon common to all class societies (appropriation of
surplus product).  The specific features of exploitation in capitalism -
the payment of a money wage and the production of a value greater than
this wage - can be explained only on the basis of the labor theory of
value.


Fred Moseley




     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list