Karl Marx's Contribution to Labor Theory of Value Essay

Karl Marx's Contribution to Labor Theory of Value Essay

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Contrary to popular belief, the origin of the Labor Theory of Value (LTV), which states that the value of a commodity is proportional to the amount of labor consumed to produce it, is not attributable to Karl Marx. While this may be true, the LTV is most familiar to economists as the cornerstone of Marx’s argument against capitalism in Capital. In studying Marxism, it is important to understand the degree to which Marx expounded upon the preexisting LTV.
It is generally agreed that the primary theory of value was first put forth by Aristotle in Politics. He asserted that the value of a commodity is derived from its usefulness or utility. Being that Aristotle lived in a slave society, he observed labor itself as a commodity which could be owned and exchanged. This is why, Marx states, Aristotle had “no concept of value.” But Marx, who revered Aristotle, is careful to illustrate the reasoning behind Aristotle’s shortsightedness in the following passage:
There was, however, an important fact which prevented Aristotle from seeing that, to attribute value to commodities, is merely a mode of expressing all labour as equal human labour and consequently as labour of equal quality. Greek society was founded upon slavery, and had, therefore, for its natural basis, the inequality of men and their labour powers. The secret of the expression of value, namely, that all kinds of labour are equal and equivalent… cannot be deciphered, until the notion of human equality has already acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice… The peculiar conditions of the society in which he lived, alone prevented him from discovering what, “in truth,” was at the bottom of this equality. (Marx 69)
Regardless of Aristotle’s subjective theory of value standing i...


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...n that “the directing motive, the end and aim of capitalist production, is to extract the greatest possible amount of surplus value, and consequently to exploit labour-power to the greatest possible extent” (Marx 363). Under the framework of this argument, the laborer that produces more than the wages required for his subsistence is being exploited and robbed by his or her employer.
As can be assumed, there are many unanswered questions left in the construction of the LTV. Even Ricardo himself, who made great strides in the development of LTV, made apparent his concerns with the theory, including the repercussions of changes in market demand as well as the existence of entities with economic value that have no labor embodied in them, such as nature. Of course, one cannot assume that one will find all of the answers in the introductory chapters of Marx’s life work.

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