Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Fri Oct 28 19:46:42 MDT 1994

On Fri, 28 Oct 1994, wesley david cecil wrote:

> I have been following the Labor theory of Value question and am
> confused.  As far as I can tell from Capital and Grundrisse, Marx never
> gives a very clear definition of what either Labor or Value are.  He
> tries in several places, most notably the early sections of Capital, but
> these seem very flimsy.  What is being used as a definition for Labor and
> for Value?
> Wes

For Marx, from C1, chap. 1,

Labor is the expenditure of human energy involved in transforming the
natural world to serve human purposes.

Use value is a property of objects in virtue of which they satisfy human
wants or needs.

Value is a property of objects transformed by labor (goods) "expressing" the
fact that they are produced by labor.

The measure of the magnitude of value is the (socially necessary) labor
time involved in producing a good. That is, how much value a good has is a
function of how long it takes on the average to make that sort of thing
with the prevailing best technology.

Exchange value is the property of goods in virtue of which they can be
exchanged for one another in stable ratios on a market, thus, 1 bushel
wheat = one yard linen = 1/10 oz. gold, etc.

Marx thinks that value is what underlies exchange value, i.e., goods can
thus exchange because and only because they embody determinate quantities
of socially necessary labor time. This is the labor theory of value.

All except the last of these statements are definitions for Marx.
The last is an explanatory thesis.

I'm here just reporting and not endorsing the view.

--Justin Schwartz


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