Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Tue Nov 8 15:13:47 MST 1994

On Tue, 8 Nov 1994, eugeneh wrote:

>      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.

Actually he holds, or uses, both. In my decidedly nonstandard view he sets
forth an LTV as a theory of prices (actually he assumes that commodities
trade at values) in C1 and then takes this back when things get more
complex in C2 and C3. The LTSV is a distinct theory which he does not take
back as a theory of SV, but he does take it back as a theory (a complete
an exhaustive one, anyway) of profit in C3.

>      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,

The general exploitation theorem is a theorem. See R.P.. Wolff,
Understanding Marx, for a nontechnical treatment.

 but one effect is that
>      factors other than labor can be "exploited" and thus contribute to
>      surplus value.

Well, you can calculate the rate of exploitation of corn in corn units,
etc. The theorem says that for any commodity that commodity is exploited
if and only if its rate of exploitation is positive, i.e., it produces
more value calculated in terms of that commodity than it takes to produce

  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,

No, no. Since all commodities are universally exchangeable against each
other, any commodity is equivalent to ("contains") some quantity of another.

This doesn't mean that we can't insist that most profit derives from the
exploitation of labor, or put that in terms of surplus value produced by

 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.
No. the value of eliminating the labor market is the abolition of classes,
the end of exploitation (appropriation of SV by exploiters), an end to
domination in production and a reduction of alienation. You don't even
need a theory of value to say that if you charactertize exploitation in
terms of profit rather than value.


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


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