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Essay: Marx and labor theory of value

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Marx and labor theory of value



To the extent that a particular human society has become poor, the greater the degree of importance within it, the struggle for subsistence, dominating all aspects of daily life of this society, is binding on all social activities, even those not directly linked to production of the means to ensure their survival.

Marx had already concluded, after considering the legal relations of society and the ways in which the institution had “state” that the anatomy of civil society must be sought in political economy, namely that:

” en su la producci�n social existence, los hombres contraen certain relaciones independientes which are necessary and su voluntad, relaciones of producci�n una determined that the corresponding phase desarrollo sus fuerzas productivas materials. El relaciones set of these forms of producci�n her economic structure of sociedad la, la la real foundation on which rises un building (Uberbau) legal y politico ya what color it responden certain forms of social conscience “[1]

It is therefore located where his main interest. In the study of the society as a whole in the process of social modification, the key transformation of social rests on the movement of the production process.

Thus, as we discuss in this work only a small part of Marx’s intellectual production – especially that related to his critique of political economy – do not want to give it a greater importance within the Social Philosophy that characterizes the thinking of Marx, but only to emphasize the methodological basis of his reasoning.

Marx’s method is in its innermost essence, history. The social reality and the process of transformation inherent in a given set of relations, which has historically determined stopping point or purpose.[2]

Anyway, we will focus on the approach of Marx concerning the exchanges in capitalist society and its specification-Labor Theory of Value.


In a study of the exchange, Marx begins by analyzing the simple commodity production, ie, in which each producer and owner of his own means of production and meet their multiple needs through exchange with other producers in similar situations, and in so doing follows a tradition in Economic Thought[3] , which is not the cop put his dissenting position in relationship to the classical school

For Adam Smith, for example, the exchange is linked in the most intimate possible to the main technological fact of economic life, ie the division of labor[4] . This division of labor is the basis of any increase in productivity, inherent to human nature[5] . But Adam Smith is unable to conceive of the division of labor regardless of the exchange: this is in fact responsible for the anterior and division of labor.

Marx, on the other hand, recognizes the relationship between commodity production and division of labor, but by no means a direct and intimate as proposed by Smith. For the production of goods, he says, is a necessary division of labor, which does not imply, but a reciprocity.

He denies, therefore, that the production of goods is a universal form of economic life, and only one way that can not claim to be a direct manifestation of human nature. It is not a natural phenomenon, which can be studied in a historical way. It involves social relations and allows us to see not only a quantitative relationship between the products, as did Smith, but also a relationship between producers historically conditioned.

Exchange value appears at first sight as a list of goods among themselves, and it seems even less than the value in use, be a social relationship, as it presents itself as a quantitative relation between things. It is however, according to Marx, an external appearance of the social relationship between the owners of the goods or between simple commodity producers. They, thus, work alone, but produces, in effect, to one another. The social character of their work is reflected only in the exchange. Because there are societies with division of labor and independent producers, is that the exchange value becomes important and significant.

Notes that the exchange takes place between the beginning and communities is accidental and direct, but that over time, permutations arise within communities and greatly expands the volume of trade. The output for sale, ie, the production of goods progressively expands to finally become dominant.[6]

Marx states that the value of any commodity is given by the labor time required to socially its production, ie the time spent by unskilled workers, the average efficiency, operating under normal conditions, using the current methods of production and that in his reckoning, must include the portion corresponding to the subjects of materials consumed and wear of the instruments in the course of the production process.

With the production in any system, there are three factors, elementary: a human activity, the object of work (soil, raw materials, etc..) And the instruments, the latter two constituting the means of production. In the particular case of capitalism, workers operate under strict control to which belong the capitalist means of production and products resulting therefrom. The first seconds to sell their labor power, which means the set of physical and mental abilities at their disposal, and carrying the produce use values. The sale of labor power, a condition for the existence of capitalist production, on the other hand requires that workers are free, that is, devoid of any properties, which do not have means of subsistence.


When you say the ability to work as merchandise purchased by the capitalist, and should be noted that this does not mean the use of brains and muscles that constitute the real work. This, in fact, the use of capacity for work, and this last, in the strictest sense, and the worker himself.

In capitalism, given the limited nature of the contracts legally, obscures the fact that the worker sell himself for a certain period of time, under similar conditions will a slave society. The value of work capacity as a commodity for Marx, and given the time needed for production. The production of the working capacity is the reproduction of the individual or maintenance. Therefore, lead time and production time equal to the livelihood of the worker. It is noted, then the possibility of working capacity is reduced to a more or less defined quantity of goods.[7]


The capitalist buys their goods by the equilibrium values, and then to combine them in a productive process, sells its products by the equilibrium values, with only one difference: – at the end of the transaction, the capitalist has more money than principle. How could the creation of additional value? Clearly he does not appear only in the movement of goods. There is no justification for a price increase, no matter has a hidden power to increase its price as a product. Higher productivity allowed by physical machines and buildings can not be confused with the additional production value.

It therefore remains only one option: – that the ability to work is the source of surplus value. The employee receives the employment of their ability to work a sum equal to the value of their livelihood, but as we know, the worker produces in a day more than necessary for a day of their livelihood. This surplus labor is considered as added value and is held by the capitalist, is responsible for the increase in quantity of money at the end of the transaction.

3.1 Capital Constant and Variable Rate of Surplus Value

� portion of the capital used to purchase the means of production consumed in the production process and whose value merely reproduces Marx called “constant capital” (c), and the portion used to purchase the labor force, called “variable capital” (v) . The value of the surplus obtained by the exploitation of labor is called “surplus value” (m), the value of total output given by the sum: c + v + m, where c + v is the total invested capital. � relationship between SEM, Marx called “rate of surplus value,” or “exploitation rate”.

Given a certain rate of surplus value, the greater the variable capital, the greater M (total mass of surplus value).


n = no. of workers;

te = surplus labor;

tn = work required;

p = value of labor and

v = variable capital total.

is – that:

what follows it will produce the same capital asset unequal if they differ their varying degrees, and which apparently contradictory. Variations contrary in variable capital, and the intensity of exploitation can leave M unchanged since its effect is opposite offset. However, one must consider that the compensation to reduce the number of employees by intensifying the exploitation of labor, has a certain limit, because the day has only 24 hours, this insurmountable limit-of-day value, and therefore , the added value of the worker.

Assuming no possibility of the capitalist to purchase labor power below its value and increase the rate of surplus value, being given a particular variable capital, the total increase in surplus value can only be achieved by longer working hours or by reducing the necessary labor time. In the first case, there will be the creation of absolute surplus value and the second, which may involve the assumption of technical progress, or the intensification of work, there is the creation of relative surplus value.


Some critics will labor theory of value, the accused is not very general, and only ap1icavel certain types of goods produced by the working conditions of competition. Schumpeter, for example, says:

” Marx lined up between the theorists of later times also, by making the theory of value the cornerstone of his theoretical framework. His theory of value is that of Ricardo. There is a difference in the presentation of the theory, in their methods of deduction and sociological conclusions, but no paddles and in itself, and only this is of interest to theoretical today. Both Ricardo and Marx say the value of each commodity is (in equilibrium and perfect competition) proportional to the amount of work since it contained this work is consistent with the existing level of production efficiency (the amount of labor socially necessary). Both measure this quantity in hours of work, and use the same method to reduce different qualities will work as one . “[8]

While some critics of Marx’s value theory, argue that the reduction of labor enabled the work simple and circular reasoning. It is understood why the greatest ability to create value of skilled labor is deducted from the higher value of their product. It should however be taken for granted as there are workers who, although they showed great capabilities in certain special sector of activity, overall production capacity is no longer the same.

On the other hand, also the theory of surplus value has suffered heavy criticism. Again Schumpeter emphasizes:

” the common level of the theory of a steady economic process, it is easy to show that, by their own chances of Marx, the doctrine of surplus value is unsustainable. The labor theory of value, even considering we valid for any other commodity, can never be applied to the good working, because this would mean that the workers, as with machines are produced in accordance with the calculated cost reason. Since there are produced, there is no reason to suppose that the capacitance value of TRA is balho proportional to the man-hours that go into its production. From a logical point of view, Marx me lhoraria his position if he accepted the iron law of wages of Lassalle or simply argued on Malthusian lines, as did Ricardo. But how much prudently refused to do so loses his theory of exploitation, from the beginning, one of their essential support . “[9]

Schumpeter still continues its vigorous criticism by arguing that the right balance can not exist in a competitive situation in which all capitalists have employers operating benefits, because in that case, try to individually expand production and the overall effect of this would inevitably tend to increase the basis of wages and to reduce the profits of that kind, zero.

In fact, if recu�ssemos a little more time, we would find that the labor theory of value appears first as a basis for a systematic approach to the exchange process, the work of Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”. After clarification at the end of Chapter IV, the distinction between use value and exchange value, starts Chapter V, saying:

” Every man is considered rich or poor according to his ability to purchase the objects they are necessary and appropriate and to enjoy the pleasures of human life. Once you have deployed the division of labor, 50 a small part of these objects can be obtained by each man through his own work, and produced most of the work of people, which leads us to consider a rich man or poor con form the amount of work he may have at your disposal or you can buy. Logo , the value of any goods to the person who possesses it, and does not intend to use it or consume it but return it for others, and an equal amount of work that allows you to purchase. Therefore, the work is the measure real exchange value of all commodities . “[10]

However, this means to Smith, the division of labor makes workers not only producers, but also for owners and sellers of goods. The economic society and therefore composed of a multiplicity of independent producers who exchange their goods as a proportion of working time spent on its production. Under these conditions the salary of each producer, correspond to the time spent working in the production of goods, or rather the value of the work would be proportional to the amount of goods that each producer could acquire.

When Smith tries to implement the same reasoning to a capitalist society in which working conditions, or the means of production belong to the class and the labor force will be another slide explainable by other, establishing that the profit and something left for the entrepreneur who risks his capital on an adventure.[11]

Even David Ricardo, one of the great founders of that classical political economy, already in chapter I of his “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.” starts by saying:

” The value of a commodity, ie, the amount of any other commodity that can be changed depends on the relative amount of work necessary for its production, and not the greater or less compensation which is paid for this work . “[12]


The approach here has sought to make a fundamental objective: to try to analyze what Marx treated it as the foundation of his conception of the capitalist order, its constitution, contradictions and the way it handles the production and destination of goods in society and how this flow determines the social conditions

As presented prof. RL Heilbroner, in his “Introduction to the History of Economic Ideas,” citing Engels,

” the materialist conception of history assumes that the production and as production, exchange of products is the basis of all social order. ” In every society the distribution of products and with it the division of society into classes or layers is determined by what is pro duced, as it is produced and the form of existing exchange. Thus, the cause of all social changes are not in the minds of men, in their understanding of eternal truth and justice, “but in changes the mode of production and exchange ” .[13]

It is more or less as Hegel noted in the introduction to his “Philosophy of History”:

” the process of scientific understanding is important that the key is distinguished and put in contrast with the non-essential. But to make this possible, we must know what is essential . “[14]

And it seems to us essential, Marx was able to point out, from your analysis to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society.

[1] Marx, Karl, “Introducci�n a la General de la Critique Political Economy 1857,” notebooks Gift of Pasado y / l. Ediciones Pasado y Presente, Cordoba 1973, 7th. edicion, p. 35.

[2] There is a continuous movement of increase of the productive forces of destruction in social relations, training ideas, but there is no immutable abstraction of movement – mors immortalis. “Marx, Karl, The Poverty of Philosophy, Exposition of the Book bookstore, St. Paul, s / d, pg. 95.

[3] In this respect we could say that this concern is present in the classic authors of Western philosophy such as Plato, Aristotle and even S. Tomas de Aquino.

[4] See also in this respect, urn celebrate passage of the “Republic” where Plato weaves the threads of an initial theory of labor value, from its division in society: – “heck what? And I need you make each letter of its own for the whole community, for example, the farmer provides, – he alone – food for four and used four times more time and effort in preparing the wheat for the benefit of others? how many who, without worry – with them, only to produce itself the fourth part of the wheat in one quarter of his time, devoting the other three quarters, making a home in another dress, the other shoe, and that instead of molesting up the community takes care only for himself and for himself his own business. ” Plato, The Republic, p. 140.

[5] Also Aristotle in ‘Nicomachean Ethics “takes the idea of Plato, according to which the change arises from the division of labor, adding the idea of justice – thanks to proportionality. Aristotle, “Nicomachean Ethics”, Book V, sections 8 and 9, Ed April, The Thinkers Collection, Vol. IV, la. Ed, Jan/73, Sao Paulo, pags. 332/336.

[6] Marx spends the entire Chapter I of Book 1 of “Capital” to describe the concepts of use value and exchange value, and Chapter II, and III, to examine the process of exchange and movement of goods. See: Marx, Karl, Capital, Critique of Political Economy, Book 1, Volume 1, Ed Brazilian Civilization, 29th ed. 1971, Rio, pgs. 41 to l6l.

[7] The value of the labor force and determined like any other commodity, by the labor time required in the production and, consequently, their reproduction … The necessary labor time to produce the workforce, reduces, therefore, the labor time necessary to produce these means of subsistence, or the value of the labor force and value of the means of subsistence necessary to maintain its possessor. Marx, Karl, Capital, op. cit., pag. 191.

[8] Schumpeter, Joseph A., “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,” Ed Fund for Culture, 19th edition, July 1901, Rio, p. 33.

[9] Schumpeter, Joseph A., “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,” Ed Fund for Culture, 19th edition, July 1901, Rio, p. 39.

[10] Smith, Adam; Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Ed April, The Thinkers Collection, Vol. XXVIII, 19a. and d., jan/74. St. Paul, p. 33.

[11] ) “When you change the object manufactured for money, labor or other goods. for a price higher than they need and pay for materials used and workers’ wages, something must be for those who risked their reserves of goods in this adventure “. Smith, Adam, op.cit. pag. 48.

[12] Ricardo, David. ‘”Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.” The Thinker Collection, Vol. XXVIII. Ed April 1st. ed., jan/74, New York, p. 225.

[13] Heilbroner, RL, “Introduction to the History of Economic Ideas”, Ed Zahar, fourth. ed., 1974, Rio, p. 128.

[14] Hegel, GWF “The Philosophy of History” cited by the American translation of J. Sibrec, Cooperative Publication Society, New York, 1900, p. 65th.

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