LTV -> LTSV

eugeneh eugeneh at HUMANITIES1.COHUMS.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Tue Nov 8 11:22:53 MST 1994


     I really liked a formulation Justin Schwartz used to designate what I
     take to be Marx's "labor theory of value": JS said that what Marx
     actually held was a labor theory of *surplus* value (LTSV) rather than
     a theory of value (and hence as theory of prices).  I had
     (laboriously) referred to Marx's theory as a critical-dialectical
     labor theory of value, but I claimed it explained surplus-value rather
     than value per se, and so find LTSV an excellent and superior rubric.

     Hence my surprise and confusion at a more recent JS posting (11/3 on
     my system): here JS suggests that

     >We can use corn or oil or steel or any other commodity as the value
     >numeraire... the choice of labor is... not strictly demanded.

     I'm not sure how seriously JS meant this, but one effect is that
     factors other than labor can be "exploited" and thus contribute to
     surplus value.  That concerns me.  Labor is the unique commodity that
     creates more value than it costs, according to (my reading of) Marx,
     and is thus the sole source of surplus value.  While one might use
     corn or oil -- or *gold* -- as value numeraire, none of these
     commodities is common to all commodities, as labor is; so using labor
     as the "common measure" is certainly indicated, and -- given Marx's
     LTSV -- it is also necessary (strictly demanded).

     One political implication of the LTSV -- as Justin Schwartz has also
     explained -- is that outlawing the purchase/sale of labor-power as a
     commodity (e.g. in cooperative production) would spell the end of
     capitalism without necessarily entailing the elimination of markets
     altogether.  I know this is a whole 'nother debate (which I don't
     intend to raise primarily here), but the value of eliminating the
     labor-market seems to me to derive from the exclusivity of labor as
     *the* source of surplus value.

     Any clarifications on this, Justin (or anyone else)?

     Gene Holland



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