Continuing Relevance of the Marxian Labor Theory

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* Article: Harry Cleaver. Work, Value and Domination On the Continuing Relevance of the Marxian Labor Theory of Value in the Crisis of the Keynesian Planner State. The Commoner,



"During the last decade or so, in the midst of a profound and lengthy international crisis of capitalist command, the Marxian labor theory of value has been subjected to severe critiques on both theoretical and historical grounds. The major theoretical critique—from Steedman and other Social Democrats—reformulated earlier attacks on the so-called metaphysical character of the theory and called for the abandonment of a value theory that was neither meaningful nor necessary. This attack, as others before it, has been been rejected, more or less convincingly depending on the character of the arguments, by Marxists of all stripes. More serious than this rejection on abstract grounds, have been a series of arguments that the Marxian labor theory of value, while perhaps once pertinent for the understanding of the dynamics of capitalist development, has been rendered obsolete by the historical evolution of capital accumulation. In other words, new theory is needed to understand and fight new forms of domination which emerged out of the old dynamics of the class relationship itself. This paper analyses and responds to two of the more interesting formulations of this perspective: those of Claus Offe and Toni Negri. "


Reading Notes from Michel Bauwens:

The LTV (Labor Theory of Value) gets 2 kinds of main critiques:

- 1) the metaphysical critique claims that the theory has no grounding (Steedman)

- 2) the obsoleteness critique admits it was once true, but it has been superseded (Clauss Offe, Negri)

Offe argues the following:

- 1) work has become differentiated. Cleaver responds that has always been the case, and that, in any case, it is all still work

- 2) work is no longer 'central' to life. Yes that is true, responds Cleaver, but the consumerism that has replaced it is still related to the work system in essential ways.

The essay ends with a review of Negri's position. Cleaver agrees with the conclusion but not with the premises that the value theory is obsolete.