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Appearances do mislead: Marxist economic theory and the demise of the labour theory of value.First part: The firm as a for-profit institution

Alberto Battistini

Department of Economics University of Siena from Department of Economics, University of Siena

Abstract: by completely abandoning the labour theory of value, Marxist economic theory has actually obliterated Marx’s own contribution to that theory and more generally to the critique of political economy: the theory of surplus-value, that is, the difference between use value and exchange value of labour power as the determinant of profit in perfectly competitive conditions and of the contradictory character of the capital accumulation process. Starting from the observation that such a contribution is instead still relevant and timely, both in theoretical and practical terms, it is shown in this paper how it could be made independent from its original analytical formulation in terms of labour quantity. It is indeed that analytical formulation, which Marx largely borrowed from Ricardo, that today seems useless, again for both theoretical and practical reasons. More specifically, the first part of this paper addresses the static part of the aforementioned theory, verifying in particular the hypothesis that the role played by the Ricardian notion of production cost, which Marx, differently from Ricardo himself, used to determine wages, could be played by the general notion of transaction costs, in the Coasean meaning of the costs of using the price system. The second part, instead, addresses the dynamic part of the same theory, verifying in particular the hypothesis that capital, in Marx’s definition as money in motion in the Money ? Commodity ? More Money circuit, can be taken as the unit of analysis in an evolutionary process substituting the so-called circular view of the production process, which Marx also borrowed from Ricardo but in fact goes back directly to Quesnay and, equally significantly, was conceived with reference to an agricultural economy. The final result is an evolutionary and institutional re-interpretation of Marx’s version of the labour theory of value.

Keywords: transaction costs; wealth effects; use value; exchange value; differential replication; methodological individualism. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-hme
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