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Marx's ‘Truly Social’ Labour Theory of Value: Part II, How Is Labour that Is Under the Sway of Capital Actually Abstract?

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In the first part of this two-part article, I argued that, unlike the asocial classical (Ricardian) labour theory of value, Marx's labour theory of value is a ‘truly social’ one. In fact, it is a purely social one. Marx's theory of value is nothing but his theory of the social forms distinctive of the capitalist mode of production. Thus, we may speak of those forms as value-forms, the (generalised) commodity, money (in its several forms), capital, wage-labour, surplus-value and its forms of appearance (profit, interest, and rent), and more. The labour that produces value, then, is labour of a peculiar social sort. This thought is entirely foreign to the classical labour theory of value, and, likewise, to Marxist accounts of value theory that mistake it for a radical version of Ricardian value theory. The gulf between the classical and the Marxian labour theories of value is wide.


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