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Un Coup du Tonnerre

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Very nice new blog up at

To my mind, this new page distinguishes itself b

For instance, take Brad Delong’s recent post about Marx and the labor theory of value. (Comes complete with dorky pictures), which settles down eventually to this:

The labor-theory-of-value model is simply not a good or useful model.
Marx’s measures of "exploitation" and "rates of surplus value" don’t
tell you very much about what is really going on. It’s a swamp you
really don’t want to enter.

As pas au dela says, the post "demonstrates either his indifference to or ignorance of Marx, or some combination thereof." In short, this sort of thing pisses us off… But the problem is, I don’t know how to answer it… Out of my field… Sat staring at the comment entry form on the website… Just wasn’t going to happen.

And then along comes Reason Thunders and look at what we get:

Let me say first that I agree with Brad’s claim
that the labor theory of value is not a "useful analytic category" for
evaluating relative standards of economic injustice. His stick-figure
proof makes that clear enough: the quantity of surplus value extracted
doesn’t line up neatly with our everyday notion of exploitation.

There are good reasons, however, to resist jettisoning it completely:

The labor theory of value is indispensable as an index of the absolute
(i.e. not relative) exploitation of capitalist production. Profit
derives most generally from the discrepancy between what workers earn
and what they contribute. That is the essence of the concept of
the labor theory of value—that the source of profit is the difference
between the price workers are paid and the value of what they provide.

The labor theory of value participates in a now abandoned effort to
understand value. Economists have all but given up on the notion of
value, preferring instead the less freighted notion of price. The
difference between value and price is not economic. It is
philosophical, having to do with the ancient debate over the
localization of essence (now migrated to the sphere of capitalism). How
are the attributes of a thing related to its thingness? With the
attribute called value, the relation is profound: the value of a thing
inheres in its thingness. With price, the relation is incidental: the
price of a thing is only what someone is willing to pay for it. If we
abandon the notion of value for that of price, then we have no ground
from which to critique the priorities of economic life (how, for
example, can you argue for increased pay for teachers if their worth is
already perfectly established by their current salary?) The Labor
Theory of Value is an attempt, however flawed, to reorient economic
priorities to a more human measure of worth.

What’s fantastic (and relatively unprecedented in "our" line of blogs) is that RT is actually answering
Delong, in his own terms, but from the left. An actual response. Unlike Delong’s post – or the critical comments posted under it – I learned something from this post. And I even think Delong might too… Whether he’d admit it or not.

Anyway, go check out the new site.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 10, 2005 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Weblogs

One Response

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  1. DeLong isn’t stupid; he’s dishonest.In the past, he’s flaunted his knowledge of the history of economics (a notoriously ahistorical discipline), so he knows about the transition from value to price.All the classical economists, Locke, Smith, Malthus, Richardo, and, of course, Marx, were labor value theorists of some sort or another, i.e., Locke’s notion that the foundation of property is that one “mixes” one’s labor with nature.
    Then there’s the role commodity fetishism (properly understood, that is [ plays in Marx’s LTV.If, per Marxian commodity fetishism, the “hieroglyphic” of price obscures the social relations that gives rise to a product and is imputed to be a property of a commodity, then the price of labor (wages) comes to be seen as a property of labor instead of a socially determined factorand under capitalism, this is the perogative of the capitalist…
    What’s funny about all this is that your average business owner is usually a nave labor theorist who believes in exploitation, as is your average stockholder, etc.If, on average, a business is not making money per employee, then the business is not in good shape.Brad DeLong is today’s Nassau Senior…

    et alia

    April 11, 2005 at 2:52 pm

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