ArticlePDF Available

Concrete and Abstract Labour in Marx's Theory of Value

Authors:

Abstract

This paper presents an alternative reading of Marx's theory of value, which overcomes the dichotomy between production and circulation that characterizes several other approaches. This reading recognises that the subject of Capital is the capitalist economy, and it considers the relationship between labour and value from the viewpoint of the normalisation, synchronisation and homogenisation of labour. The formal possibility of existence of valueless money is discussed.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... Labour as a commodity expresses the social relationship between its concrete and abstract component as the "double nature of wage labour". Abstract labour is the source of value and surplus value, it is the historically determined formless expenditure of human labour involved in commodity production (for detail, see Sadd-Filho, 1997;Baronian, 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
It might seem odd to be talking about art in a journal about the political economy of communication, but I would counter that art is one of humanity’s oldest and most stable forms of communication. The decoration of the body and of the dwelling go hand in hand (literally) with human development. The creation of aesthetically pleasing and culturally symbolic artefacts and performance is a hallmark of human society. Art emerges alongside the use of tools, expanding material wealth, increased social interaction and the beginnings of class society. Art is also closely aligned with the aesthetic/spiritual development of humanity and, thus, is directly related to the development, content and dissemination of ideology, including religious beliefs and superstition. In a nutshell, art makes the subjective realm of mental production material through the application of creative concrete [1] labour. Further to this, the contemporary theoretical debate about the political economy of art—particularly, how to properly evaluate or theorise the labour of artistic producers—has resonance with similar issues in communication, such as the valorisation of play on social media platforms. Finally, I think communication scholars can also benefit from an engagement with the aesthetic that is often missing from studies of contemporary media forms.
... As a reaction to the ahistorical, Ricardian reading of Marx's account of the value-form, the 'new consensus' tends to see abstract labour as a purely historical, specific social form. See, among others, De Angelis 1995;Postone 1996;Reuten 1993;Arthur 2001;Saad-Filho 1997;Bellofiore 2009;Heinrich 2009;Mavroudeas 2004;McGlone and Kliman 2004. We have developed a more extended critique of this new consensus in Starosta 2007a and2007b. ...
... Value in production represents the general human labour power necessary to produce a particular commodity, and its specific measure is homogeneous labour-time. Because technical conditions of production differ between industries, homogeneous labour, defined as labour working with an average combination of productive forces, can be determined only within each particular industry (Saad-Filho 1997). Value in circulation indicates the general human labour power necessary to satisfy a particular social need, and its specific measure is the purchasing power, represented by the quantity of money needed to buy a particular commodity. ...
Article
Full-text available
Unequal exchange arises when spatial production of value is disjointed from its geographical distribution. A disaggregated monetary model of the world economy is presented on the grounds of Marx’s labor theory of value. All the forms of unequal exchange in international trade are explained, on the basis of a coherent definition of the forms of international value of traded commodities. Estimates of value transfers for recent years show the ongoing relevance of the unequal exchange in the modern capitalist world economy. JEL classifications: B51, D46, F63 Keywords unequal exchange, Marxist value theory, international trade, globalization Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0486613418773753
... 24 As a reaction to the ahistorical, Ricardian reading of Marx's account of the value-form, the 'new consensus' tends to see abstract labour as a purely historical, specific social form. See, among others, De Angelis 1995;Postone 1996;Reuten 1993;Arthur 2001;Bellofiore and Finelli 1998;Kay 1999;Saad-Filho 1997;Mohun and Himmelweit 1978;de Vroey 1982;Eldred and Haldon 1981;Bellofiore 2009;Heinrich 2009;Mavroudeas 2004;McGlone and Kliman 2004;Roberts 2004. I have developed a more extended critique of this new consensus in Starosta 2007a and2007b. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article aims to contribute to the literature on Marx's systematic-dialectical method through a critical reading and discussion of the significance and presentational 'architecture' of the section on commodity fetishism in the dialectical sequence of form-determinations in Capital. In order to undertake this task, the paper firstly explores the content and expositional structure of the first three sections of Chapter 1 of Capital. This sets the stage for a methodologically-minded close examination of Marx's presentation of the fetish character of the commodity, which shows that there is a precise systematic sequence which gives unity to the flow of his argument within the section on 'The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret'. The conclusion is that only through a proper grasp of the dialectical method can the full systematic significance and implications of Marx's account of commodity fetishism be uncovered.
... Although Marx (1887) famously begins Volume 1 of Capital with a discussion of capital's cell-form, the " commodity, " his focus is not the domain of consumption; rather it is on establishing how (surplus) value is generated within the production process and ferried in various attires until its realisation. The rub, as Marx himself noted (as tooLuxemburg 1913;Harvey 1982;Saad-Filho 1997, among others, after him), is that keeping the cycle of surplus value in motion—a requirement for capital accumulation—is far from guaranteed. The prospects for breakdown are ever-present, whether in the form of labour shortages or recalcitrant labour, raw material bottlenecks, or creaky infrastructure for production and marketing. ...
... Although Marx (1887) famously begins Volume 1 of Capital with a discussion of capital's cell-form, the " commodity, " his focus is not the domain of consumption; rather it is on establishing how (surplus) value is generated within the production process and ferried in various attires until its realisation. The rub, as Marx himself noted (as tooLuxemburg 1913;Harvey 1982;Saad-Filho 1997, among others, after him), is that keeping the cycle of surplus value in motion—a requirement for capital accumulation—is far from guaranteed. The prospects for breakdown are ever-present, whether in the form of labour shortages or recalcitrant labour, raw material bottlenecks, or creaky infrastructure for production and marketing. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduces a special issue of the EPW with a wide-ranging review of environment and development conflicts and complementarities in contemporary India.
Article
En el artículo se reconstruye y se muestra el debate marxista sobre la naturaleza y fuente del plusvalor extra apropiado por los capitales que introducen una innovación tecnológica. Hasta el presente, esta controversia ha sido tratada siempre como subsidiaria de otros debates. Sin embargo, su recurrencia y la evolución de los argumentos esgrimidos —en particular en las últimas décadas— muestran que tiene la entidad de un debate en sí mismo. Tras rastrear la presencia de esta controversia en distintos debates marxistas en contextos históricos e intelectuales diversos, se reúnen y sistematizan los argumentos presentados. En esencia, se identifican dos posiciones contrapuestas: por un lado, la que argumenta que el plusvalor extra es la representación del trabajo de los trabajadores empleados por el capital innovador; por otro lado, la que argumenta que se trata de la representación del trabajo empleado por otros capitales. En la medida en que los argumentos se apoyan en diversas lecturas de la obra de Marx, se dedica una sección a reunir y discutir la evidencia textual disponible. Finalmente, se realiza un breve balance crítico del debate en el que se concluye que la posición que argumenta en favor de transferencias de valor no implica recaer en una concepción naturalizadora del valor ni es incompatible con los fundamentos de la crítica marxiana de la economía política.
Chapter
In this chapter Steinhoff provides the theoretical foundation for the book by surveying an array of Marxist thinkers through the lens of the conceptual triad labour, capital and machine. Steinhoff’s survey begins with the classical political economists, then details Marx’s work before moving on to Soviet and Western Marxisms, labour process theory and the New Reading of Marx, as well as more recent Marxist writers that have grappled with an increasingly cybernetic capitalism after the Second World War.
Article
This article considers Theodor W. Adorno’s thesis of the ‘liquidation of the individual’ as a contribution to the critique of political economy insofar as it links structural economic imperatives of the capitalist order to transformations of consciousness and human conduct. For Adorno, such ‘liquidation’ amounts to not only the superfluity of bourgeois individuality as an anthropological type but also to the objective superfluity of actually living individuals. I develop Adorno's argument that the ‘form and organization of labor’ in capitalism produces these forms of superfluity by turning to Marx’s critique of value with an emphasis on the logic of ‘socially necessary labor-time.’ My argument is that as long as society is enthralled to the ongoing self-valorization of value (i.e. capital), social reproduction makes ‘socially necessary’ the superfluity of individuality as well as actually-living human individuals. In short, the anthropological decomposition of the bourgeois individual and the generation of ‘surplus populations’ are expressions of the same contradiction: the necessity and superfluity of labor in capitalism. After illustrating some current expressions of this contradiction evident in the global ‘crisis of work’ – including the displacement and transformation of labor by automation and the massive growth of the ‘global slums’ – I suggest that further analysis of the temporal contradictions of the law of value evinces the conditions of an emancipated individual in a post-work society.
Chapter
This chapter charts the differing interpretations of how value relates to labour within the New Reading of Marx and so-called ‘embodied labour’ approaches. The chapter first surveys the attempts to get to grips with value in the classical political economy of Smith and Ricardo, and the specificity of Marx’s critique. The chapter then outlines the divergent readings of Marx’s value theory between a traditional Marxism focused on the quantification of labour time as the key to value and the New Reading of Marx, which focuses instead on what Michael Heinrich calls the ‘social validation’ of abstract labour-time in commodity exchange. Finally, the chapter goes on to consider the concept of socially necessary labour-time, through the work of Alfred Sohn-Rethel and Chris Arthur.
Article
Conventional economic theory has its limitations, but not when discussing the intentions and capabilities of the OPEC. A discussion covers the aggregate economic situation in which OPEC operates; OPEC and its competitors; the Gulf of Mexico as the home of the Cantarell oil field; efforts to find and produce more conventional oil in non-OPEC countries; and upgrading unconventional oil such as tar sand oil to conventional oil.