The labor theory of value (LTV) offers a lucid and forceful example of a “theory” thought to stand outside “history.” Considered as an “objective” form of theorizing, the LTV seeks transhistorical truths about the relationship between humans and nature – whereby, as everyone knows, value in the world is produced by the fundamental force of human labor power. Marx is typically taken to have subscribed to some form of the LTV, and thus to have signed on to this form of theorizing. This article refuses to treat Marx as an analytic, ahistorical theorist who would either affirm or deny the LTV. Rather, I read Marx as a genealogist who excavates the story of labor and value within the specific historical context of an emerging capitalist social formation. This genealogical approach to Marx, and particularly to his less-often-discussed, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, shows plainly that Marx never subscribed to the LTV, but more importantly that he eschewed the form of theory that the LTV presumes. Rather than seeking to make transhistorical theoretical claims about the relation between labor and value, Marx meant to demonstrate to his readers something about the way in which a definite and concrete (historically situated) capitalist social formation establishes value. A capitalist social formation establishes its own specific value relations, by first constituting, and then dissimulating, a link between labor and value.
Chambers, S. (2017), "What Kind of Theory is the Labor Theory of Value? Marx as Genealogist in
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