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The labour theory of value and the coordination of economic activities

  • Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris, France


This is the English translation of a paper published in French in 1983: 'La loi de la valeur et le problème de la coordination des activités économiques' (in 'L'homme et la société', n. 67-68, 1983, pp. 153-177).
The labour theory of value and the
coordination of economic activities
Gilbert Faccarello
I. I. Rubin (1886-1937)
On the occasion of the various celebrations of the hundredth anniversary
of the death of Karl Marx, and while the pace of Marxian studies is
slackening after so many lively controversies, perhaps is it worth drawing
attention to an author who was disregarded for a long time and who,
Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris. E-mail: Trans-
lation of ‘La loi de la valeur et le problème de la coordination des activités
économiques’, L’homme et la société, 67-68, 1983: 153-177. Misprints and typos
in the French text have been corrected. The list of references has been adapted,
especially to take account of the availability of the texts in 2017. The underlying
theoretical principles of the analysis are to be found in Faccarello (1983), and are
summed up in English in Gilbert Faccarello, “Some reflections on Marx’s theory of
value”, published in Riccardo Bellofiore (ed.), Marxian Economics: A Reappraisal.
Essays on Volume III of Capital. Volume I: Method, Value and Money, London:
Macmillan, 1997: 29-47.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 2
almost as soon as he emerged from obscurity, was already neglected:
Isaak Illich Rubin.1Recently rediscovered thanks to a translation of his
Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value (third edition, Moscow, 1928) — his
major work — his thought can be better understood after the publication
of his History of Economic Thought (second edition, 1929) and a series of
talks he made in 1927 and 1929 on “Abstract Labour and Value in Marx’s
System” (Rubin, 1927) and “The Dialectical Development of Categories
in Marx’s Economic System” (Rubin, 1929b).
The importance of Rubin’s work is fundamental. As early as the
1920s, he had raised or solved certain problems that other authors thought
to raise or to solve some decades later. The question of the distinction be-
tween productive and unproductive labour, for example, recently settled
by Catherine Colliot-Thélène (1975), had already been solved in the Es-
says (1928a, chapter 19). The major themes of the nature of “abstract”
labour, the substance of value, and of the links between the theory of
value and the theory of “fetishism” — a major strand in the thought of
Lucio Colletti (see for example Colletti 1968, 1969) — already formed
a main theme in Rubin’s work. Likewise, the ambiguous status of the
deduction of concepts in Capital, to which Hans-Georg Backhaus drew
attention some twenty years ago in a short article (Backhaus, 1967), was
implicitly stressed by Rubin in 1928-1929. But the interest of Rubin’s
work does not simply lie in an anteriority that we should acknowledge.
His originality lies in the fact that he simultaneously and lucidly deals
with problems that others were only to discover separately and bit by
bit: here lies his strength. His weakness was that he did not follow his
approach to the end and draw the conclusion to which all his develop-
ments implicitly lead: the questioning of Marx’s developments and of
1Rubin’s biography is not well known. See the translator’s foreword in the French
edition of the Essays (in Rubin 1928b: 7-11). [Since the publication of this essay,
research on Rubin has made notable progress: see for example Ivan Boldyrev and
Martin Kragh, “Isaak Rubin: historian of economic thought during the Stalinization
of social sciences in Soviet Russia”, Journal of the History of Economic Thought,
37(3), 2015: 363-386.]
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 3
their meaning.2
But the analysis of Rubin’s main ideas is also of interest for another
reason, on which we focus here. His thought is the culmination of a
singular interpretation of the theory developed in Capital: the under-
standing of the labour theory of value as the way in which, in a society
of independent producers, economic activities are regulated and coordi-
nated. This line of interpretation has always remained marginal — and,
at times, totally inexistent — among Marx’s interpreters. It emerged and,
so to speak, died during the interesting period, full of debates, formed
by the five decades that followed Marx’s death.3Why is this approach
so singular? Because it was at the same time useful in debates with the
opponents to Marxism, and dangerous for the emerging (and then dom-
inant) orthodoxy. To grasp this point, it is necessary to situate Rubin’s
work within the history of this approach, even if only in broad terms. Of
course, in this perspective many problems are neglected, which do not
directly concern the subject.
To deal with the problem of the status and meaning of the theory of value,
one point must be stressed: while the question of the “transformation” of
labour values into production prices is also here implied, this was not in
today’s view dictated by Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz in 1906-1907. Today,
it is well known that Marx’s attempt, in Volume 3 of Capital, is a failure.4
In retrospect, the questions raised during the years 1880-1910 about the
relevance of the concept of value seem justified. But, at that time, this
questioning could seem arbitrary.
2The present paper is a brief historical inquiry about some theoretical principles
developed in two previous papers (Faccarello, 1981, 1982) and in a book (Faccarello,
3For an overview of these debates, see Colletti (1968, 1969), Dostaler (1978,
especially chapters 2 and 4), Finzi (1977, papers on Antonio Graziadei), and the first
volumes of Histoire du marxisme contemporain, Paris: UGE 10/18, 1976.
4See Faccarello (1983, chapters 6 to 8).
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 4
The discourse was generally the following. Insofar as commodities are
not exchanged according to their values, but to their production prices,
the meaning of the theory of value becomes less clear, as does the theory
of exploitation that it is supposed to establish. The labour theory of
value was in fact conceived as determining the exchange ratios between
commodities, and everything that might question this determination un-
dermines the very foundations of this theory. This opinion might have
seemed natural to authors like Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk for example,
but it is surprising to find it in Werner Sombart and above all in Conrad
Schmidt:5does not the latter also acknowledge that “the way in which
Marx’s derivation of average profit rate from surplus-value provides an
answer, for the first time, to the question never even raised by previous
economists as to how the level of this average profit rate is determined,
and how it comes to be, say, 10 per cent or 15 per cent and not 50 per
cent or 100 per cent” (Engels, 1895: 1032)? The obvious solution — that
the prices and the rate of profit could not be known without value calcu-
lations — is thus curiously discarded from the outset.6As a consequence,
those who, like Sombart and Schmidt, intended to maintain a role for the
concept of value, tried to justify their views in a more indirect way.
Sombart insists on the fact that value represents a theoretical idea
that only expresses the particular way in which the social division of
labour acts in a commodity society.
He [Sombart] . . . arrives at the following result. Value is not
present at the phenomenal level, in the exchange relationship
of capitalistically produced commodities; it does not dwell
in the consciousness of the agents of capitalist production; it
is not an empirical fact but an ideal or logical one; Marx’s
concept of value, in its material specificity, is nothing more
5On Conrad Schmidt, see Besnier (1976).
6It is, however, accepted by Rubin (1928a: 223 and 250-253). In the Essays,
the understanding of the transformation is traditional and certainly forms the less
interesting aspect of the book (chapter 18: 223-257). Surprisingly, Rubin did not
grasp the pertinence of Bortkiewicz’s arguments — an author that he knows and
occasionally quotes (Rubin, 1928a: 102, n. 4).
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 5
than the economic expression of the fact that the social pro-
ductivity of labour is the basis of economic existence; the law
of value is what ultimately governs economic processes in a
capitalist economic order, and its general content for such an
economic order is that the value of commodities is the spe-
cific historical form in which the productivity of labour which
ultimately governs all economic processes has its determining
effects. (Engels, 1895: 1031-32)
Obviously embarrassed by this view, Engels just adds that “it cannot
be said that this conception of the significance of the law of value for
the capitalist form of production is incorrect”, but that “it in no way
exhausts the whole significance that the law of value has for those stages
of society’s economic development that are governed by this law” (1895:
As for Conrad Schmidt, value is for him a simple scientific hypothesis,
a necessary fiction.
He calls it a scientific hypothesis put forward to explain the
actual exchange process, which proves the necessary theoret-
ical point of departure, illuminating and indispensable even
for the phenomena of prices under competition, which ap-
pear completely to contradict it. Without the law of value,
in his opinion too, any theoretical insight into the economic
mechanism of capitalist reality is impossible. (1895: 1032)
Curiously enough, Engels at first misinterprets Schmidt’s assertions:
“you reduce the law of value to a fiction, a necessary fiction”, he writes, “in
much the same way as Kant reduced the existence of God to a postulate
of practical reason. Your objections to the law of value apply to all
concepts regarded from the standpoint of reality . . . [T]he concept of an
object and its reality run side by side like two asymptotes which, though
constantly converging, will never meet . . . Because a concept . . . does
not ipso facto and prima facie correspond to the reality from which it has
had first to be abstracted, that concept is always something more than a
fiction, unless you declare all reasoned conclusions to be fictive” (letter to
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 6
Conrad Schmidt, 12 March 1895, in Marx and Engels, 1892-1895: 463-
64). However, Engels realised that he was mistaken: the question is not
that of the relationship of a concept (value) to the reality (the price),
but of the theoretical validity of a conceptual discourse. “I am most
indebted to you for your tenacity over the ‘fiction’. There is in fact a
difficulty here which I only mastered as a result of your insistence upon
the ‘fiction’ (to Schmidt, 6 April 1895, in Marx and Engels, 1892-1895:
492). The solution he proposes, on the basis of a passage excerpted from
Volume 3 of Capital, hinges on the understanding of the transformation
process as essentially a historical question, the concepts of value and price
corresponding to two steps in the empirical transformations of markets.7
It is well known that Engels’s answer does not solve the problem but
increases the difficulty instead. “The ‘historical’ setting of the problem”,
Rubin was correctly to note, “thus leads to ignoring the historical char-
acter of the category value” (Rubin, 1928a: 257). But for our purpose,
part of the stage is set: the question is that of the law of value as a
historical expression of the social division of labour, or as a simple con-
ceptual tool, a necessary fiction. At the beginning of the 20th century,
the first approach was developed by Rudolf Hilferding (1904 and 1910);
and the second especially by Franz Petry (1915), who, in the context of
7While Rubin generally accepts some of Engels’s methodological assumptions,
he rejects the “historical” conception of the transformation and tries to explain the
related passages from Marx’s writings that Engels quotes in support of his own view
(see Rubin, 1928a: 254-57). “The historical question of whether commodities were
exchanged in proportion to labour expenditures before the emergence of capitalism”,
he rightly writes, “must be separated from the question of the theoretical significance
of the theory of labour-value. If the first question were answered affirmatively, and
if the analysis of the capitalist economy did not require the labour theory of value,
we could regard that theory as a historical introduction to political economy, but
not in any way as a basic theoretical foundation on which Marx’s political economy
is built. Inversely, if the historical question were answered negatively, but if the
indispensability of the labour theory of value for the theoretical understanding of
the complex phenomena of the capitalist economy were proved, this theory would
still be the starting-point of economic theory, as it is now. In brief, no matter how
the historical question about the influence of the law of labour-value in the period
before capitalism were solved, this solution would not in the least free Marxists from
their responsibility to accept the challenge of their opponents on the question of the
theoretical significance of the law of labour value for an understanding of the capitalist
economy” (Rubin, 1928a: 256).
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 7
“interpretative” sociology, made a radical division between the quanti-
tative aspect of Capital, belonging to the realm of the natural sciences
and being a crippling legacy of political economy, and the qualitative as-
pect, belonging to the realm of the historical and social sciences, allowing
an “interpretative” analysis of the capitalist reality, and presented as a
legacy of Hegelian idealism and the real meaning of the Marxian theory
of value.
For our purpose, the other elements to consider are Böhm-Bawerk’s
pamphlet (1896) against Marx’s theory of value — and at the same
time against Sombart’s defence of it — and Hilferding’s response (1904).
Marxists have too often focused their attention on the first three sections
of the 1896 pamphlet and on the rather obvious responses provided in
1904. The fourth and fifth sections, “The error in the Marxian system:
its origin and ramifications”, and “Werner Sombart’s apology”, were on
the contrary neglected. Yet, developing some points already expressed
in 1884 (Böhm-Bawerk, 1884), they have much more important criti-
cal weight. There, Böhm-Bawerk criticised especially the way in which
Marx introduces the concept of value; the link established between value
and embodied labour alone; and the way in which “abstract” labour, the
substance of value, is introduced. He questioned the relevance of a dis-
course in terms of “natural prices” independent from demand. Finally, he
sharply criticised the meaning of the conception of value as a “conceptual
fact” (Sombart). All these points are in fact delicate issues, which are
often avoided by Marx’s followers.
Hilferding deserves credit for having tried to answer one of Böhm-
Bawerk’s strong arguments: the arbitrary nature of the identification
of value and labour in Capital. As this point was not well understood
afterwards, it is necessary to focus on it for a while. Rubin’s developments
often refer to this question.
Böhm-Bawerk’s critique is based on the implicit hypothesis that the
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 8
labour theory of value is nothing other than a theory of exchange ratios
between commodities: Marx’s deduction of the commensurability of com-
modities and of the equality of values in the exchange, through abstract
labour, seems to depend on it. Although he contradicts himself at a later
stage, Hilferding shifts the question. The theory of value, he stresses, is
not essentially a theory of exchange ratios, and the foundations of value
in labour is neither deduced nor proved by Marx, but it simply and more
immediately expresses the very object of the inquiry. “Böhm-Bawerk’s
critical question to which Marx is alleged to have given so fallacious an
answer is the question: what right had Marx to proclaim labour to be
the sole creator of value? Our counter-criticism must in the first instance
consist of a demonstration that the analysis of the commodity furnishes
the desired answer” (Hilferding, 1904: 129).
Hilferding’s ability is to state an “analysis of the commodity” dif-
ferent from the traditional one presented in the first pages of Capital.
Picking up a theme outlined by Sombart, his response stresses the par-
ticular character of the social division of labour in a market society. Of
course, this theme is also explicitly present in many pages of A Contri-
bution to the Critique of Political Economy and Capital, and above all
in those devoted to the “fetishism of the commodity”. But it is probably
a letter from Marx to Kugelmann, dated 11 July 1868, which inspired
Hilferding in his response.8There, Marx stresses that “even if there were
no chapter on ‘value’ in my book, the analysis of the real relationships
which I give would contain the proof and demonstration of the real value
relation” (Marx to Kugelmann, 11 July 1868, in Marx, 1862-1874: 73).
The meaning of the phrases “real relationships” and “real value relation”
remains of course to be explained. “The nonsense about the necessity
of proving the concept of value”, Marx goes on, “arises from complete
ignorance both of the subject dealt with and of the method of science.
8Marx’s letters to Kugelmann were published in 1902, after the death of their
recipient. We also know that, according to Hilferding, the main part of the response
to Böhm-Bawerk, published in 1904, had already been written in 1902. The striking
analogy between Marx’s celebrated letter dated 11 July 1868 and the developments
of Hilferding’s text suggests that Hilferding drew inspiration from it.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 9
Every child knows that a country which ceased to work . . . would die”
(Marx, 1862-1874: 73). Contrary to the usual approach, the analysis is
then led at the global level of the branches and of the distribution of
“social labour”.
Every child knows, too, that the mass of products correspond-
ing to the different needs require different and quantitatively
determined masses of the total labour of society. That this
necessity of distributing social labour in definite proportions
cannot be done away with by the particular form of social
production, but can only change the form it assumes, is self-
evident” (Marx, 1862-1874: 73)
This “necessity” has the strength of a “natural law”. But, in this global
perspective, what is the meaning of the notion of “value”? In a society
where any a priori regulation of the production is lacking, it is simply the
particular “form” through which “social labour” is distributed. “What can
change, in changing historical circumstances, is the form in which these
laws operate. And the form in which this proportional division of labour
operates, in a state of society where the interconnection of social labour is
manifested in the private exchange of the individual products of labour,
is precisely the exchange value of these products.” (Marx, 1862-1874: 73:
In a society of separate and independent producers, exchange alone
forms the social link, which is lacking prima facie. Individual and private
labour is not immediately social, but must become so. How and by what
means? Through the proof of its social utility, that is, by the fact that its
product finds a buyer in the market. The role of exchange, of the market,
and, implicitly, of money, is now propelled to the fore. In 1904, Hilferding
picked up this approach in the same terms as the letter to Kugelmann.
He summed it up clearly in 1910 in the first chapter of Finance Capital,
referring more, this time, to the analysis of “commodity fetishism”.
In principle the human productive community may be con-
stituted in either of two ways. First, it may be consciously
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 10
regulated. Whether its scale is that of a self-sufficient patri-
archal family, a communistic tribe, or a socialist society, it
creates the organs which, acting as the agents of social con-
sciousness, fix the extent and methods of production and dis-
tribute the social product thus obtained among the members.
Given the material and man-made conditions of production,
all decisions as to method, place, quantity and available tools
involved in the production of new goods are made by the pa-
ter familias, or by the local regional or national commissars
of the socialist society. The personal experience of the former
gives him a knowledge of the needs and productive resources
of his family; the latter can acquire a like knowledge of the
requirements of their society by means of comprehensively or-
ganised statistics of production and consumption. They can
thus shape, with conscious foresight, the whole economic life
of the communities of which they are the appointed repre-
sentatives and leaders in accordance with the needs of the
members. The individual members of such a community con-
sciously regulate their productive activity as members of a
productive community. Their labour process and the distri-
bution of their products are subject to central control. Their
relations of production are directly manifest as social rela-
tions, and the economic relations between individuals can be
seen as being determined by the social order, by social ar-
rangements rather than by private inclination . . . Matters
are different in a society which lacks this conscious organ-
isation. Such a society is dissolved into a large number of
mutually independent individuals for whom production is a
private matter rather than a social concern. In other words,
its members are individual proprietors who are compelled by
the development of the division of labour to do business with
one another. The act by which this is accomplished is the ex-
change of commodities. It is only this act which establishes
connections in a society otherwise dismembered into disparate
units by private property and the division of labour. (Hilfer-
ding, 1910: 27; see also Hilferding, 1904: 130-132)
Exchange and exchange ratios settle the place of everybody in the
social division of labour, in production, in an indirect and compelling
way. This is the form of regulation specific to the commodity society
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 11
(1904: 133-134).9It is now easy to see why, according to Hilferding, the
foundation of “value” in “labour” arises from the very way in which the
question is asked and does not require any other “proof”. “Value” is but
the “social” aspect of commodity, its use value being its “natural” side.
This is the first meaning of Marx’s assertion that value must be brought
back to the “socially necessary labour time”. “But labour time as such is
not expressed directly, as it is in the society envisaged by Rodbertus, in
which the central authority establishes the unit of labour time which it
will accept as valid for each commodity. Labour time is expressed only
in the exchange commensurability of two articles. Thus the value of an
article, i.e., its average time of production, is not expressed directly as
eight, ten or twelve hours, but as a specific quantity of another article”
(Hilferding, 1910: 31), money (1910: 32).
The value of an article is a social relationship and is always
represented in terms of another article . . . Such a definition
of value is implicit in, and inseparable from, the nature of
commodity production. A use value belonging to one per-
son becomes a commodity and then a use value to another
person, thereby giving rise to the social relationship peculiar
to members of a commodity producing society in which all
are under the same compulsion to exchange their goods. The
producer does not learn whether his commodity really satis-
fies a social need or whether he has made the correct use of
his labour time until after the completion of the exchange.
The confirmation that he is a fully-fledged member of a com-
modity producing society does not come to him from some
person authorised to speak in its name . . . The only proof he
has of his usefulness as a member of society is another article
which he obtains in exchange for his own. (Hilferding, 1910:
9Rubin uses here a rather accurate comparison. “The fluctuations of market
prices are in reality a barometer, an indicator of the process of distribution of social
labour which takes place in the depths of the social economy. But it is a very unusual
barometer; a barometer which not only indicates the weather, but also corrects it”
(Rubin, 1928a: 78).
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 12
It is now easy to imagine how Hilferding’s approach could have been at
the same time welcome and embarrassing. While it seems to directly
counter an important argument of Böhm-Bawerk’s critique, it neverthe-
less raises important problems for the traditional interpretation of Marx-
ist theory. The role of market and exchange — and not “production”
strictly speaking — as the place for the socialisation of individuals can
be bewildering, especially if it is realised that it implicitly questions the
content of the labour theory of value. “It is therefore because labour is
the social bond uniting an atomised society, and not because labour is the
matter most technically relevant, that labour is the principle of value and
that the law of value is endowed with reality” (Hilferding, 1904: 134).10
This simple sentence, which sums up the previous developments, is cer-
tainly not insignificant: it implies a specific, sociological and historical
understanding of political economy and its concepts, limited to the study
of the capitalist mode of production and its reified reality. But Böhm-
Bawerk could have legitimately answered that this characterisation is not
sufficient, and that Marx’s theory of value entails an unavoidable quan-
titative aspect, which seems to be omitted here. Is Hilferding’s approach
compatible with the definition of value as a quantity of “socially neces-
sary” labour embodied in a commodity? Does the global, sociological,
perspective not conflict here with the individual and technical perspec-
tive linked to the expense of labour? Just like Marx, Hilferding does not
see any contradiction between the different aspects of the analysis:
The outcome of the social process of production thus quali-
tatively determined is quantitatively determined by the sum
total of the expended social labour. As an aliquot part of
the social product of labour . . . the individual commodity is
10 See Rubin, 1928: 61: “However, Bohm-Bawerk’s entire critique stands or falls
together with the assumptions on which it is built: namely, that the first five pages
of Capital contain the only basis on which Marx built his theory of value. Nothing is
more erroneous than this conception”.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 13
quantitatively determined by the quota of social labour time
embodied in it. (Hilferding, 1904: 132)
Yet, how is it possible to reconcile this assertion with the previous
statements, that the quantity of labour which forms a value cannot be
expressed as such, before the exchange, and that it is only after the lat-
ter occurs that it is possible to know the quantity of value? It seems
that value no longer determines the exchange ratios, but instead that ex-
change ratios determine value: and to call the latter “quantity of labour”
validated through exchange seems purely arbitrary. This is a question of
taxonomy, which makes the analysis confused.
The transfer of the determination of the quantity of value to the
global level of the society and the branches is thus an important issue.
To consider that “[t]he total product of labour presents itself as a total
value, which in individual commodities manifests itself quantitatively as
exchange value” (Hilferding, 1904: 131), is it not in a way to neutralise
the market? The global quantity of value, determined by the “social
labour”, is given and is diversely distributed over the different masses
of commodities according to the volume of the social needs. It thus
matches adequately, partially, or imperfectly, the actual quantities of
labour expended in the different branches or by the different producers
within each branch. The exchange does not create anything and limits
itself, at the most, to generating “transfers”, if one is allowed to reason by
analogy with the “transformation” scheme (from which Hilferding could
have been inspired) and though this term is improper here.
Such is Hilferding’s approach, as it can be deduced from some brief
and rather confused passages dedicated to this last point. “We must
therefore discover the law which governs this society as a producing and
working community. Individual labour now appears in a new aspect, as
part of the total labour force over which society disposes” (Hilferding,
1910: 29-30). “The quantity which is turned over in exchange, however,
counts only as a part of social production, which itself is quantitatively
determined by the labour time that society assigns to it. Society is here
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 14
conceived as an entity which employs its collective labour power to pro-
duce the total output, while the individual and his labour power count
only as organs of that society. In that role, the individual shares in the
product to the extent that his own labour power participates, on aver-
age, in the total labour power (assuming the intensity and productivity
of labour to be fixed)” (1910: 30). If the worker works too slowly or pro-
duced useless things, Hilferding adds, “his labour power is scaled down
to average labour time, i.e., socially necessary labour time” (1910: 30).
Of course, this reasoning — independently of the problems it raises
at the level of internal logic (the combination of the two levels of the
analysis: private-individual and social-global) — depends on the defini-
tion of this “collective” or “social” labour. Is it a structure or a sum?
The first solution (a vector of quantities of concrete labours) does not
have any meaning here. But if it is a sum, what is to be added? All the
quantities of labour spent in commodity production? Or only those that
are validated through exchange? The second case supposes the problem
solved; only the first is thus to be retained: it corresponds to the idea,
already expressed, of a correspondence between private and social. But
the problem remains of the homogeneity of the magnitudes to be added
together. And, on this point, Hilferding is evasive. When he speaks of
the process of abstraction of labour, he refers to the social determina-
tion; when he deals with the “collective labour”, he speaks of “abstractly
human” labour, or labour in its “universal human form”. To be short, he
does not realise that the problem of the abstraction of labour in Marx,
raised by Böhm-Bawerk, to which he believed he had responded (Hilfer-
ding, 1904: 131-132), does not disappear with the shift in the level of the
analysis, and remains unsolved.
A certain orthodoxy, in the end, has the upper hand and Hilferding
misses the mark. But his approach, while remaining a minority view, was
nevertheless developed later. To my knowledge, very few authors adopted
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 15
it. One finds it in Nikolai Bukharin, in the first pages of his Economic
Theory of the Leisure Class (1919: 48-49), where it is implemented in
relation to the problem of commodity fetishism and the simultaneous
end of the capitalist mode of production and of political economy as a
science. It is developed more extensively by Rubin. But it would be a
mistake to neglect an important intermediary link: Rosa Luxemburg.
Why this rarefaction of the theme? Perhaps it was enough for a
generation of authors to learn, often by hearsay, that the 1904 essay had
“once and for all” refuted Böhm-Bawerk’s arguments, for them not to
worry anymore about these questions. They could stick more quietly to
the Engelsian-Kautskyan (and soon Leninist) vulgate and possibly opt
for point-scoring in the other debates — in particular about the theory of
imperialism, and then about the building of the Soviet society: to discuss
value was supposed to be the problem of the opponents of the second,
and then the third, International. The subsequent political evolution
of Hilferding also helped to discredit his principles, as did the minority
position of Luxemburg, whose final failure buried her thought with the
opprobrium and oblivion that are the fate of the vanquished. Stalinism
was to complete the job.
Compared with the previous developments, Rosa Luxemburg’s views
form at the same time a partial retreat and a notable strategic progress:
it is a partial retreat insofar as, in order to maintain the consistency of her
discourse, she is less faithful than Hilferding to the global approach, and
resorts to classical economic mechanisms; but it is a strategic progress
because of the rigorous developments she confers on the socio-economical
themes. This last point is obvious if one compares the first pages of The
Accumulation of Capital (1913), in which the problem of coordination
is only recalled, with Introduction to Political Economy (posthumously
published in 1925), where it is brilliantly detailed and developed (see
1925, chapter 4 in particular, concerning a commodity society) and dic-
tates the structure of the essay. Better than Hilferding, and with remark-
able theoretical acuteness, Luxemburg develops the link with the theory
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 16
of fetishism11 (1925, chapter 1), an important aspect of which consists in
the identification of the categories of political economy with reified social
relationships (see for example 1925: 234-242), and with the necessary
monetary aspect of the exchanges of commodities (1925: 244 ff).
Commodity exchange without money is in fact inconceivable,
and the price fluctuations that these people wanted to abol-
ish are in fact the only means for indicating to commodity
producers whether they are making too little of a particular
commodity or too much, whether they are spending more or
less labour on its production than it requires, whether they
are producing the right commodities or not. If this sole means
of communication between the isolated commodity producers
in the anarchic economy is abolished, they are completely
lost, being not only struck dumb, but blind into the bargain.
Production necessarily comes to a standstill, and the capital-
ist tower of Babel shatters into ruins. The socialist plans for
making capitalist commodity production into socialist simply
by the abolition of money were thus pure utopia (Luxemburg,
1925: 260)
Of course, all the problems are posed again: in particular, what rela-
tionship to establish with the labour theory of value? How to specify the
role of the market? “Not all labour, therefore, be it ever so diligent and
solid, now has a definite purpose and value in advance from the point of
view of society; only a product that is exchangeable has value; a product
that no one takes in exchange, no matter how solid, is valueless work,
work thrown away” (Luxemburg, 1925: 238), a work that remains private
and does not become social. It is on this point however that Luxemburg’s
approach is more timid than that of Hilferding. On the one hand, the
11 Rubin considers that the theory of fetishism is of the utmost importance and
devotes seven chapter to it (Rubin, 1928a, first part of the book: 5-60). “Marx did not
only show that human relations were veiled by relations between things, but rather
that, in the commodity economy, social production relations inevitably took the form
of things and could not be expressed except through things. The structure of the
commodity economy causes things to play a particular and highly important social
role and thus to acquire particular social properties . . . The theory of commodity
fetishism is transformed into a general theory of production relations of the commodity
economy, into a propaedeutic to political economy” (Rubin, 1928a: 6).
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 17
definition she gives of global “social labour” as the “sum of the labours
of the members of society for each other” (1925: 238 and 543, n. 91)
seems to imply, in this context, the effective (and not only potential) role
of the exchange: labour embodied in overproduced commodities is not
social labour (1925: 238-239). This is probably an ad hoc definition that
brings us back to the questions of taxonomy referred to above. On the
other hand, Luxemburg clearly abandons the “global” definition of value
when she implements a purely “economic” discourse. Her consistency is
thus different from that of Hilferding. It simply consists in avoiding the
problem and sticking to the classical mechanism of the gravitation of
market prices around natural prices: this is at least what it is possible
to infer from the first pages of The Accumulation of Capital (1913: 11).
This is obviously a bogus solution because, to say the least, the gravi-
tation mechanism supposes everything that the new approach precisely
questions, and is moreover itself in need of proof.
Such is the theoretical legacy accepted by Rubin in the midst of contro-
versies, the subjects of which are given by the titles of articles and books
quoted in the 1928 Essays but which are still not very well known (for
an example, see Rubin 1929b). Faced with the partially convergent ana-
lyses just recalled above and with the many questions they raise, Rubin
tried his best to clarify the various theoretical positions and, through an
accurate and logical analysis of Marx’s works, to define rigorously the
concepts used and their reciprocal relationships in Capital.
Only after Hilferding’s work did one begin to understand ac-
curately the sociological character of Marx’s theory of value.
The point of departure of the labour theory of value is a
determined social environment, a society with a determined
production structure. This conception was often repeated
by Marxists; but until Hilferding’s time, no one made it the
foundation-stone of the entire edifice of Marx’s theory of value.
Hilferding deserves great praise for this, but unfortunately he
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 18
confined himself to a general treatment of the problems of the
theory of value, and did not systematically present its basis.
(Rubin, 1928a: 61)
It is of course impossible to review here the different aspects of Ru-
bin’s comments. Only what forms a direct attempt to solve or clarify the
problems mentioned in the previous sections will be retained. In order to
better grasp them, it is necessary to recall the starting point of the anal-
ysis: the outright reversal of the traditional approach. The theoretical
development no longer starts from value and the exchange ratios in order
to trace the substance of value, that is, labour; it starts from “labour” to
characterise the concept of value. Rubin stressed this point repeatedly
and very clearly.
Here our starting point is not value, but labour. It is erro-
neous to represent the matter as if Marx had started with the
phenomena related to value in their material expression and,
analysing them, had come to the conclusion that the com-
mon property of exchanged and evaluated things can only be
labour. Marx’s train of thought moves precisely in the op-
posite direction. In the commodity economy, the labour of
individual commodity producers, which directly has the form
of private labour, can acquire the character of social labour,
i.e., can be subjected to the process of mutual connection
and coordination, only through the ‘value’ of the products of
labour. Labour as a social phenomenon can only be expressed
in ‘value’. The specific character of Marx’s labour theory
of value lies in the fact that Marx does not base his theory
on the properties of value, i.e., on the acts of equalisation
and evaluation of things, but on the properties of labour in
the commodity economy, i.e., on the analysis of the working
structure and production relations of labour. (Rubin, 1928a:
81; see also 1928a: 61-62)
Thus, “the subject matter of the theory of value is the interrelations
of various forms of labour in the process of their distribution” (Rubin,
1928a: 67). In this perspective, the qualitative aspect of the theory of
value is first stressed: that is, its sociological, historical character, as the
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 19
expression of reified social relationships. But is this reversed approach
capable of dealing with the quantitative aspect of the labour value, on
which the traditional approach almost exclusively insists? This is what
Rubin asserts, criticising Franz Petry12 for having rejected the quan-
titative aspect of the theory after rightly insisting on the sociological
foundation of Marx’s view. Therefore, the questions stressed above arise
again: what is value if it is not only the “form of exchangeability” of the
products of labour? How are social labour and abstract labour to be
defined, if they are not simple qualitative characteristics, but also mag-
nitudes, which can and should be determined? Finally, what is the role
of the market and exchange in this view? In the end, in spite of all his
efforts, Rubin could not stick together again the pieces of the vase which
he had himself helped to break. After the writings of Rudolf Hilferding
and Rosa Luxemburg, Rubin’s work certainly represents the final step of
aMarxist commentary of Marx.
The 1928 Essays thus try to develop simultaneously a double analysis,
quantitative and qualitative, starting from the initial concept of “labour”.
In what follows, and in order to examine the validity of his construction,
the different strands of his argumentation must be disentangled.
We are already familiar with the qualitative approach. The structure
of a commodity economy demands that the social link be established in
the market, through the exchange of products. The equality of products
in exchange, their permutation, generates the social equality of inde-
pendent producers, and hence the equality of their labours. But is it
possible to specify the very nature of this “equality”, which transforms
private labour into social labour? Three kinds of “equal labour” must be
distinguished: the “physiologically equal” labour, the “socially equalised”
labour and “abstract” labour (Rubin, 1927, section II; 1928a, chapter 2).
Criticising the physiological conception of abstract labour (1928a, chap-
ter 14), Rubin immediately discards the first meaning. In contradistinc-
tion to Marx’s socio-historical conception, the concept of a physiological
12 See Rubin, 1928a: 87 and 133-34. On Petry, see Faccarello, 1983, chapter 13.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 20
labour can only be a very general condition of the division of labour, of
the changing distribution of labour within society: “this physiologically
homogeneous labour is not the object but rather the presupposition of
economic research. In reality, if labour as the expenditure of physiologi-
cal energy is a biological presupposition of any human economy, then the
physiological homogeneity of labour is a biological presupposition of any
social division of labour” (Rubin, 1928a: 137).
What about socially equalised labour and abstract labour? Insofar as,
in organised economies, concrete labour is immediately social, the con-
cept of abstract labour is specific to a commodity economy: it means that
the process of socialisation, linked to exchange, equalises in an indirect
way the various forms of labour, abstracting from any concrete character
of commodities and labour. Moreover, in a “planned” economy, labour is
not necessarily “equalised” or, at least, this character is only a side aspect
of the process of the distribution of social labour (1928a: 65-66, 95-96).
In a commodity economy, by contrast, labour becomes social only insofar
as it is “equalised”, and it is “equalised” only because, in the market, any
difference is ignored:13
Thus if a commodity economy is compared to a socialist com-
munity, the property of social labour and the property of
socially equalised labour seem to have changed places. In
the socialist community, the property of labour as equal or
equalised was the result of the production process, of the
production decision of a social organ which socialised and
distributed labour. In the commodity economy, labour be-
comes social only in the sense that it becomes equal with all
other forms of labour, in the sense that it becomes socially
equalised. Social or socially-equalised labour in the specific
form which it has in the commodity economy can be called
abstract labour. (Rubin, 1928a: 97)
Obviously, however, the word “equal” does not have here any quan-
titative or “substantial” connotation. It only denotes the matching of a
13 On this point, Rubin simply adopts Hilferding’s formulations.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 21
given type of labour with all others through exchange. It confirms the
social equality of independent producers.
In this sociological approach, with this first definition, Rubin then
connects abstract labour, value and labour. As market prices act as
correcting barometers (see above, footnote 9), the distribution of social
labour changes with the modification of the exchange ratios.
One climate can replace another without an indication on a
barometer. But one phase of the distribution of social labour
replaces another only through the fluctuation of market prices
and under their pressure. If the movement of market prices
connects two phases of the distribution of labour in the so-
cial economy, we are right if we assume a tight internal re-
lation between the working activity of economic agents and
value. We will look for the explanation of these relations in
the process of social production, i.e., in the working activity
of people, and not in phenomena which lie outside the sphere
of production or which are not related to it by a permanent
functional connection. (Rubin, 1928a: 78-79)
In this way, a link is re-established between value, abstract labour and
the process of labour. This link is obviously not the one that is usually
stressed. In particular, it does not say anything about the quantitative
determination of exchange ratios (see below, section VIII). But the tra-
ditional vocabulary is kept, and this allows Rubin to connect with the
quantitative analysis.
Through abstract labour, value is at the same time connected
with the social form of the social process of production and
with its material-technical content. (Rubin, 1928a: 73)
The transition to this second kind of analysis is imperceptible, in
spite of the fact that it entails substantial modifications. The definition
of the process of abstraction is apparently maintained (1928a: 73), but
abstract labour is now understood as “socially necessary labour”, defined
by Rubin as technically necessary on average for the production of a given
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 22
commodity (whatever the definition of this average: see 1928a, chapter
16). He thus reverts here to the traditional, technical analysis in terms
of “embodied labour”. The role of the market and of exchange vanishes,
and the conditions of production alone matter. The analysis leaves the
global and social level to revert to an individual and private aspect, which
shapes again the end chapters of the Essays (chapters 16 to 18, and an
important part of the previous chapters). The only echo of the previous
developments is the frequent occurrence of the gravitation mechanism,
which is supposed to cancel out, as in Rosa Luxemburg, the disturbances
due to the intrusion of the market.
The deviation of market prices from values is the mechanism
by means of which the overproduction and underproduction
is removed and the tendency toward the reestablishment of
equilibrium among the given branches of production of the
national economy is set up. The exchange of two different
commodities according to their values corresponds to the state
of equilibrium among two given branches of production. (Ru-
bin, 1928a: 65)
Obviously, Rubin is convinced that he has brought together the two
aspects of Marx’s analysis. “The definition of value as the expression
of production relations among people does not contradict the definition
of value as an expression of abstract labour which we gave earlier. The
difference lies only in the fact that earlier we analysed value from its
quantitative aspect (as a magnitude), and now from its qualitative aspect
(as a social form). Consistently with this, abstract labour was presented
earlier in terms of its quantitative side, and is now being treated in terms
of its qualitative side, namely as social labour in its specific form which
presupposes production relations among people as commodity producers”
(Rubin, 1928a: 69-70).
However, the restatement of his discourse leads us to a different con-
clusion: the theoretical unity is illusory and only based on a common
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 23
vocabulary, which takes on a different meaning in each kind of analysis.
Whatever the author may say, the fact of having reversed the traditional
analysis to establish the sociological conception of the theory of value
does not allow him surreptitiously to pick up the traditional view again
in order to determine the normal exchange ratios. The two approaches
conflict radically.14 The assimilation of the two is only possible through
a misuse of language: because two different realities are both called “ab-
stract” or “equal” labour, because the price movements and the role of
the market, so specific to the historical approach, and the classical mech-
anism of gravitation are seen as equivalent, and finally because, for the
historical view, a link is stated between value, abstract labour and the
production process, which only shows a vague homonymy relationship
with the analysis of “embodied labour”. Despite all its qualities, Rubin’s
reasoning displays, on this point, a rhetoric involving simple analogies.15
Orthodoxy finally holds the upper hand. The following excerpt, which
mixes the different kinds of analysis, is a good illustration thereof.
The magnitude of value changes in dependence on the quan-
tity of abstract, socially-necessary labour, but because of the
twofold character of labour the changes in the quantity of
abstract, socially-necessary labour are caused by changes in
the quantity of concrete labour, i.e., by the development of
the material-technical process of production, in particular the
productivity of labour. Thus, the entire system of value is
based on a grandiose system of spontaneous social account-
ing and comparison of the products of labour of various types
and performed by different individuals as parts of the total
social abstract labour. This system is hidden and cannot be
seen on the surface of events. In turn, this system of total
social abstract labour is put into motion by the development
of material productive forces which are the ultimate factor
of development of society in general. Thus Marx’s theory of
value is connected with his theory of historical materialism.
(Rubin, 1928a: 119-20)
14 See Faccarello, 1983, chapters 5 and 14.
15 The ambiguous character of Rubin’s developments obviously did not escape his
opponents: see Rubin, 1929b.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 24
A good illustration of the previous conclusions can be provided by exa-
mining what Rubin says of “social labour” and the role of the market. His
hesitations on this subject are noticeable, and express well the conflict
between two contrary and irreconcilable approaches.
The total social labour, on the one hand, is conceived as the sum of
the quantities of labour expended in the different branches of production.
This definition remains implicit, but forms the background of numerous
passages. “The production of cloth thus either outruns the demand . . .
or lags behind it . . . In other words, the quantity of social labour which
is expended on the production of cloth is either too large or not large
enough” (Rubin, 1928a: 64). “Labour is social if it is examined as part
of the total mass of homogeneous social labour or, as Marx frequently
said, if it is seen in terms of its ‘relation to the total labour of society’
(1928a: 141). Or again:
An hour of labour of the bootmaker and an hour of labour of
the clothmaker are equal to each other, each of them repre-
senting an equal share of the total labour of society distributed
among all the branches of production. Labour, which creates
value, thus appears not only as quantitatively distributed
labour, but also as socially equalised (or equal) labour, or
more briefly, as ‘social’ labour which is understood as the to-
tal mass of homogeneous, equal labour of the entire society.
(Rubin, 1928a: 65)
This approach obviously presupposes the traditional view that labour
is already considered as “abstract” in the production process, and thus
homogeneous and aggregable. The process of abstraction remains of
course problematic.
On the other hand, some other passages define social labour as the one
that is validated through exchange, the one that produced a commodity
which met a buyer. Stress is put here on the real exchange, and not
simply on production aimed at exchange.
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 25
Private labour of separate commodity producers is connected
with the labour of all other commodity producers and be-
comes social labour only if the product of one producer is
equalised as a value with all other commodities . . . This
means that the private labour of separate individuals does
not acquire the character of social labour in the concrete form
in which it was expended in the process of production, but
through exchange which represents an abstraction from the
concrete properties of individual things and individual forms
of labour . . . But, first of all, this equalisation of labour car-
ries with it a preliminary character ‘represented in conscious-
ness’. The equalisation must still be realised in the actual act
of exchange. (Rubin, 1928a: 70)
The analysis is pursued in chapter 14 (1928a: 131-158), after Rubin
had specified the essential role played by the general equivalent (chapter
The exchange of cloth for gold “equalises” the labour of the tailor and
that of the producer of gold, and the former “is thus also equalised and
connected with all concrete forms of labour. Equalised with them as
a form of labour equal to them, the labour of the tailor is transformed
from concrete to general or abstract. Being connected with the others in
the unified system of total social labour, the labour of the tailor is trans-
formed from private to social labour. The comprehensive equalisation
(through money) of all concrete forms of labour and their transformation
into abstract labour simultaneously creates among them a social connec-
tion, transforming private into social labour” (Rubin, 1928a: 129-30).16
Here the sociological approach prevails, and the quantitative determina-
tion is, in turn, problematic.
Faced with these difficulties, Rubin’s trouble becomes visible when
he tries to answer his opponents (Rubin, 1928a: 147ff.). To the question
16 It is also possible to find intermediary formulations in which social labour seems
to refer to the totality of the expended labour, and abstract labour to the fraction
which is validated through exchange. “Abstract labour is the designation for that
part of the total social labour which was equalised in the process of social division of
labour through the equation of the products of labour on the market” (Rubin, 1927:
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 26
of whether abstract labour, defined as a “social substance”, can receive
a quantitative determination, he simply reaffirms his position,17 and the
parallel he draws with the measure of labour (equally problematic) in a
socialist society remains unconvincing. As for the question of the role
of exchange, he tries to overcome it with a distinction between exchange
proper — a step succeeding the production process — and exchange in
general, the structure of a commodity society.18 Abstract labour would
result from the second meaning, and would exist prior to the first. How-
ever, Rubin cannot help but add that this pre-existence is finally only
virtual and “still subject to very rough verification in the process of ex-
change” (1928a: 150) in the first meaning of the word. And he specifies:
“All of these statements show that we must not think of the problem too
literally” (1928a: 151).
Here one may beg to differ. If the problem is to be solved, it is only by
taking seriously and literally Marx’s statements, neglecting none of them.
This is the price to pay to understand his discourse and reconstruct its
possible coherence — thus discarding any over-simplifying discourse that
only selects suitable passages. But it is true that this consistency does
not necessarily imply the cohesion of the various statements it is formed
of. It seems, however, that the logic initiated by Hilferding and inter-
rupted after Rubin led to this reappraisal. Perhaps the one proposed in
another publication, of which the present historical note forms the com-
plement, is not the only possible one. This is possible, and even probable:
but, at least, one should finally take seriously the many questions raised
during the years 1883-1933. Even if in a confused way, they express real
difficulties that only dogmatism could conceal.19
17 “Abstract labour means ‘social determination of labour’, and value, the social
property of the product of labour” (Rubin, 1928a: 152).
18 See Rubin, 1928a: 149-51.
19 Only one aspect — essential, it is true — of Rubin’s thought is examined here.
Some other problems, such as the dialectical deduction of the concepts in Capital, are
left aside: they are dealt with in Faccarello, 1983, chapters 15 and 16. Note also that,
if Rubin reasons on value and “simple commodity production”, while rejecting Engels’s
historical interpretation, it is because, for him, this theme has a logical status. For
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—— (1928a). Ocherki po teorii stoimosti Marksa. Third edition, Moscow and
The labour theory of value / On Isaak Illich Rubin 30
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Red, 1972.
—— (1928b). Ocherki po teorii stoimosti Marksa. Third edition, Moscow
and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe Izdate. French translation from the English
edition by Jean-Jacques Bonhomme, Essais sur la théorie de la valeur de Marx,
Paris: François Maspéro, 1978.
—— (1929a). Istoriya ekonomicheskoi mysli. Second edition, Moscow: Go-
sizdat RSFSR. English translation by Donald Filtzer, A History of Economic
Thought, London: Ink Links, 1979.
—— (1929b). Dialekticheskoe razvitie kategorii v ekonomicheskoi sisteme
Marksa. Probleme Ekonomiki, 4/5. German translation by Eva Mayer and Pe-
ter Gerlinghoff, Die dialektische Entwicklung der Kategorien im Ökonomischen
System von Marx, in I. I. Rubin, S. A. Bessonow et alii, Dialektik der Kat-
egorien, Berlin: Verlag für das Studium der Arbeiterbewegung (VSA), 1975,
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This volume is concerned with the re-evaluation and criticism of Capital itself. it is in three parts, each covering a specific area of Marxist theory. The first part contains an investigation into Marx’s theory of value and considers the types of questions and modes of analysis to which this theory leads. in the second part the nature and implications of necessary economic ‘laws of tendency’ in the capitalist mode of production are covered. Finally there is an analysis of the role of class structure and economic agents in Marxist theory. © A. J. Cutler, Barry Hindess, Paul Q. Hirst and A. Hussain. All rights reserved.
Zur Dialektik der Wertform
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Backhaus, Hans-Georg (1967). Zur Dialektik der Wertform. In Alfred Schmidt (ed.), Beiträge zur marxistischen Erkenntnistheorie, second edition, 1970, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 128-152. As in H.G. Backhaus, Dialektik der Wertform. Untersuchungen zur Marxschen Ökonomiekritik, Freiburg: Ca Ira Verlag, 1997, 41-64.
Conrad Schmidt et les débuts de la littérature économique 'marxiste
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Besnier, Bernard (1976). Conrad Schmidt et les débuts de la littérature économique 'marxiste'. In [Auctores varii], Histoire du Marxisme Contemporain, Paris: UGE 10/18, 1976, volume 1, 383-445.
Erste Abtheilung: Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzinstheorien. Innsbrück: Verlag der Wagner'schen Universitäts-Buchhandlung, 1884. English translation by William Smart, Capital and Interest. A Critical History of Economical Theory
  • Eugen Böhm-Bawerk
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Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von (1884). Kapital und Kapitalzins. Erste Abtheilung: Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzinstheorien. Innsbrück: Verlag der Wagner'schen Universitäts-Buchhandlung, 1884. English translation by William Smart, Capital and Interest. A Critical History of Economical Theory, London: Macmillan, 1890. --(1896). Zum Abschluss des Marxschen System. in Otto von Boenigk (ed.), Staatswissenschaftliche Arbeiten. Festgaben für Karl Knies, Berlin: Haering, 1896, 87-205. English translation by Alice M. Macdonald and Paul M.
The Economic Theory of the Leisure Class. English translation
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Bukharin, Nikolai (1919). The Economic Theory of the Leisure Class. English translation, New York: International Publishers, 1927.
Bernstein e il marxismo della seconda internazionale. Introduction to Eduard Bernstein
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Colletti, Lucio (1968). Bernstein e il marxismo della seconda internazionale. Introduction to Eduard Bernstein, Socialismo e Socialdemocrazia, Bari: Laterza. English translation by John Merrington and Judith White, Bernstein and the Marxism of the Second International, in L. Colletti, From Rousseau to Lenin. Studies in Ideology and Society, New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1972, 45-108.
Contribution à une analyse des classes sociales. Critique de l'Économie Politique
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Colliot-Thélène, Catherine (1975). Contribution à une analyse des classes sociales. Critique de l'Économie Politique, 19, 27-47, and 21, 93-126. --(1979). Afterword. In I. I. Rubin, A History of Economic Thought, English translation by Donald Filtzer, London: Ink Links, 385-431.