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The value-form or form of value (German: Wertform)[1] is a concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy,[2] Marxism,[3] the Frankfurt School[4] and post-Marxism.[5] It refers to the social form of a tradeable thing as a symbol of value, which contrasts with its physical features, as an object which can satisfy some human need or serves a useful purpose.[6] The physical appearance of a commodity is directly observable, but the meaning of its social form (as an object of value) is not.[7]

Narrating the paradoxical oddities and metaphysical niceties of ordinary things when they become instruments of trade, Marx seeks to provide a brief morphology of the category of economic value as such—what its substance really is, the forms which this substance takes, and how its magnitude is determined or expressed. He analyzes the forms of value in the first instance[8] by considering the meaning of the value-relationship that exists between two quantities of commodities.


Basic explanation[edit]

When the concept of the form of value is introduced in the first chapter of Capital, Volume I,[9] Marx clarifies that economic value becomes manifest in an objectified way only through the form of value established by the exchange of products. People know very well that any product represents a value, i.e. there is an economic cost of supply for the product (some people have to work to produce and supply it, so that others can use it). But how much value? And how does that value exist? What is the source of that value? What explains differences in value?

Value relation[edit]

What something is economically "worth" can be expressed only relatively, by relating, weighing, comparing and equating it to amounts of other tradeable objects (or to the labour effort, resources or sum of money those objects represent).[10] The value of products is expressed by their "exchange-value": what they can trade for, but that exchange-value can be expressed in many different ways. Since exchange-value is most often expressed by a "money-price", it then seems that "exchange value", "value", "price" and "money" are really all the same thing. But Marx argues they are not the same things at all.[11]

This point becomes very important, if we want to understand economic value and how markets work. Precisely because the political economists kept conflating and confusing the most basic economic categories, Marx argued, they were unable to provide a fully consistent theory of the economy. One might be able to quantify and measure economic phenomena, but that does not necessarily mean that they are measured in a way that they are fully understood.

In a preface to the first edition of Capital, Volume I, Marx stated:

I have popularised the passages concerning the substance of value and the magnitude of value as much as possible. The value-form, whose fully developed shape is the money-form, is very simple and slight in content. Nevertheless, the human mind has sought in vain for more than 2,000 years to get to the bottom of it.[12]

Marx gives various reasons for this ancient puzzle. The main obstacle seems to be that trading relations refer to social relations which are not directly observable. What these social relations are, has to be conceptualized with abstract ideas. The trading ratios between commodities and money are certainly observable, via prices and transaction data. Yet how exactly the things being traded get the value they have, is not observable. It seems like "the market" does that, but what the market is, and how that happens, remains rather vague. This story does not get much further than the idea, that things have value, because people want to have them, and are prepared to pay money for them.

Marx's comment clarifies, that according to Marx the value-form of commodities is not simply a feature of industrial capitalism. It is associated with the whole history of commodity trade ("more than 2,000 years").[13] Marx claimed that the origin of the money-form of value had never before been explained by bourgeois economics, and that "the mystery of money will immediately disappear" once the evolution of value-relations has been traced out from its simplest beginnings.[14] This was probably a vain hope, since, as discussed below, even today economists and economic historians cannot agree about what is the correct theory of money. Wolfgang Streeck states that "money is easily the most unpredictable and least governable human institution we have ever known".[15] Put another way, the possibilities for arranging any type of trade or deal are extremely diverse; the only operative requirement is that the trading partners agree to the terms of the arrangement, however simple or complicated it may be. It follows that, what specific role money has in the given arrangement, can vary greatly.

Only when market production and its corresponding legal system are highly developed, does it becomes possible to understand what "economic value" actually means in a comprehensive and theoretically consistent way, separate from other sorts of value (like aesthetic value or moral value). The reason is that, to a large extent, the different kinds of value have become practically separated in reality and become increasingly universal in their applications. When Marx considers "value" as such or in itself, as a general social form in the economic history of humans, i.e. "the form of value as such", he is abstracting from all the particular expressions it might have.

Marx admitted that the form of value was a somewhat difficult notion, but he assumed "a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself."[16] In a preface to the second edition of Capital, Volume I, Marx claimed that he had "completely revised" his treatment, because his friend Dr. Louis Kugelmann had convinced him that a "more didactic exposition of the form of value" was needed.[17] Usually Marx-scholars refer to both versions anyhow, because each of them provides some extra information which does not occur in the other version.[18]

Commodity form[edit]

Marx calls the commodity form, as a basic form of value, "the economic cell-form of bourgeois society", meaning it is the simplest economic unit out of which the "body" of West European capitalist civilization was developed and built up, across six centuries.[19] Wares trade for money, money trades for wares, more and more money is made from this trade, and the markets reach more and more areas - transforming society into the world of business.

The capitalist mode of production is viewed as "generalized" (or universalized) commodity production, i.e. the production of commodities by means of commodities, in a circular self-reproducing flow of actions and transactions (money is exchanged for commodities (including the commodity labour power), used to produce new commodities exchanged for more money, financing more production and consumption).[20] Already in his Grundrisse manuscript of 1858, Marx worked out his insight that "The first category in which bourgeois wealth presents itself is that of the commodity"[21] and that became the opening sentence of his 1859 Critique and the first volume of Capital (1867).

The "forms of value" of commodities are only the first of a series of social forms which Marx analyzes in Das Kapital, such as the forms of money, the forms of capital, the forms of wages, and the forms of profit.[22] All of these are different forms of value, normally expressed by prices, yet they all presuppose the exchange of tradeable wares. In Marx's dialectical story,[23] each of these forms is shown to grow out of (or "transform" into)[24] other forms, and so all the forms are connected with each other, step by step, logically and historically.[25]

Each form is expressed with categories, the content of which evolves or mutates to some degree in response to new distinctions or circumstances.[26] At the end of the story, all the forms appear seamlessly integrated with each other in a self-reproducing, constantly expanding capitalist system, of which the distant historical origin has become hidden and obscure; the fully developed system appears other than it really is, and does not transparently disclose its real nature.

If the workings of the capitalist system were perfectly obvious and transparent, Marx argues, then there would be no need for any special economic "science"; one would just be stating platitudes.[27] They prompt further inquiry, because they turn out to be not as obvious as they seem, and indeed become rather puzzling or even mindboggling, on further reflection. Economists are constantly trying to "second-guess" what the market will do, and what the overall effects might be of transaction patterns, but in truth they often don't succeed any better than astrologers.[28] A critical re-examination is then called for, of precisely those ordinary phenomena which were previously taken for granted.

After his first cryptic attempt at telling the story (in 168 pages) flopped when he published it in Germany,[29] Marx resolved to tell it another time, in a much more interesting, intriguing and elaborate way, so that people would really grasp the significance of it—beginning from exactly the same starting point. That became Das Kapital (1867-1894), which is still being read and discussed today.[30]

Marx initially defines a product of human labour that has become a commodity (in German: Kaufware, i.e., merchandise, ware for sale) as being simultaneously:

  • A useful object that can satisfy a want or need (a use value); this is the object valued from the point of view of consuming or using it, referring to its observable material form, i.e., the tangible, observable characteristics it has that make it useful, and therefore valued by people, even if the use is only symbolic.
  • An object of economic value generally; this is the value of the object considered from the point of view of its supply cost, commercial value, or "what you can get for it". The reference here is to the social form of the product, which is not directly observable.

The "form of value" (also a reference to phenomenology in the classical philosophical sense used by Hegel)[31] then refers to the specific ways of relating through which "what a commodity is worth" happens to be socially expressed in trading processes, when different products and assets are compared with each other.

Practically speaking, Marx argues that the product values cannot be directly observed and can become observably manifest only as exchange-values, i.e., as relative expressions, by comparing their worth to other goods they can be traded for (usually via money prices). This causes people to think value and exchange-value are the same thing, but Marx argues they are not; the content, magnitude and form of value must be distinguished, and according to the law of value, the exchange value of products being traded is determined and regulated by their value. His argument is, that the market prices of a commodity will oscillate around its value, and its value is the outcome of the average, normal labour requirements to produce it.


Marx argues that the forms of value are not "static" or "fixed once and for all", but rather, that they develop logically and historically[32] in trading processes from very simple, primitive expressions to very complicated or sophisticated expressions. Subsequently, he also examines the various forms taken by capital, the forms of wages, the forms of profit and so forth. In each case, the form denotes how a specific social or economic relationship among people is expressed or symbolized.[33]

In the process of circulation, production, distribution, and consumption, value metamorphoses from one form to another.[34] Different forms of value – currencies, commodities and capitals – all trade for each other, where buyers and sellers convert money into goods, and goods into money, or convert one type of capital asset into another type of capital asset, in markets where prices fluctuate all the time.

According to Marx, the individual acts of exchange in themselves cannot alter the underlying value of goods and assets, at least not in the ordinary situation.[35] Put differently, value is ordinarily conserved through successive acts of exchange (a “conservation principle”) even although the forms that value takes can change. If goods and assets did not at least hold their value upon exchange, then warehousing, freighting and commercial trade itself would very likely break down. That insight existed already in ancient times.[36] In speculative activity, the conservation principle is, however, not always true.[37]

Primitive exchange[edit]

Initially, in primitive exchange,[38] the form that economic value takes does not involve any prices, since what something is "worth" is very simply expressed in (a quantity of) some other good (an occasional barter relationship).[39] Some scholars, such as Hans-Georg Backhaus, argue that for this reason value simply did not exist in societies where money was not used, or where it played only a marginal role.[40] The old Friedrich Engels claimed that "in primitive communism value was unknown", because there was no regular commodity trade.[41]

Marx, though, acknowledged that product-values "of a sort" did exist in primitive economies, although value did not exist as a separate "thing" in such communities. Establishing "how much products were worth", he says, followed "customary practices", rather than purely a comparison with the value of other products, or reckoning with money; thus, the valuation of products was expressed in a different way (see also archaeology of trade). An "economy of labour-time" existed, although no supremely exact measures were available for work effort, time, storage and energy.[42] All the time, that is, people knew quite well that their products had value, because it cost work-effort to replace them, and, consequently, they also valued their products. They could hardly afford to trade products on very unfavourable terms, because that would take them beyond the limits of their own available work-time; that mattered, because average labour productivity was low - it took a lot of time to produce food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons. Whatever the trading custom was, it had to be at least compatible with survival requirements. If not, the custom would die out.

  • In the most primitive (simplest) situation, people acquire objects for which they have a use by borrowing, trading or bartering, in exchange for other goods that they don't particularly have a need for themselves. They value things directly because of their useful qualities and because it takes work-time to get them (their own work and/or the work of others). In the process, customary norms develop for what counts as a normal, balanced exchange. There isn't just one way to trade a good, goods could be traded on all kinds of terms, but to pick the appropriate method, all kinds of factors might have to be taken in consideration.[43] If a good was traded in the wrong way, for example because cultural conventions were not respected, it might have consequences that the traders were not really looking for.
  • At the most abstract, developed level though, the value form is only a purely monetary relationship between objects, or an abstract earnings potential or credit provision, based on some assumptions, which may not even refer to any tangible object of trade anymore at all. There is, for example, only a number on a computer screen. At that point, it appears that the value of an asset is simply determined by the amount of income that could be obtained if the asset were traded under certain conditions, and within a given time interval.

Social relations[edit]

By analyzing the forms of value, Marx aims to show that when people bring their products into relation with each other in market trade, they are also socially related in specific ways (whether they like it or not, and whether they are aware of it or not), and that this fact very strongly influences the very way in which they think about how they are related.[44] It influences how they will view the whole human interactive process of giving and receiving, taking and procuring, sharing and relinquishing, accepting and rejecting—and how to balance all that.[45]

Some social relations we choose and make ourselves, but we are also socially related simply by being part of a community and a nation (or part of a family, an organization etc.), whether we like that or not. In trading roles, people have to deal with both of these kinds of social relations - simultaneously competing to get the best deal, and co-operating to obtain what they want.[46] The trading process has both a voluntary aspect (freedoms, things to choose) and an involuntary aspect (constraints, things that have to be worked with to make a deal). To make the trade, buyers and sellers must respect each other's right to their own property, and their right to do with their own property what they want, within the framework of laws, customs and norms (Marx discusses the notion of the formal equality of market actors more in the Grundrisse).[47] If the market actors simply grabbed stuff from others, that would not be trade, but robbery (which would not qualify as civilized conduct, and carries a reputational risk as well as being subject to legal sanctions).

The forms of value of products do not merely refer to a "trading valuation of objects"; they refer also to a certain way of relating or interacting, and a mentality,[48] among human subjects who internalize the forms of value, so that the manifestations of economic value become regarded as completely normal, natural and self-evident in human interactions (a "market culture," which is also reflected in language use).[49] Marx himself refers surrealistically to "the language of commodities",[50] the talk and signals they send and receive in the topsy-turvy world (verkehrte Welt)[51] of trading processes, and he adds satirically in a footnote that “in a certain sense, people are in the same situation as commodities…”.[52] The suggestion is that, by analogy, the recognition of a person's identity and worth occurs only through contact with other people, and that one person becomes the species-model for another, just as commodities need to relate to each other and to money to establish what the magnitude of their value is.

Marx's description of what goes on in commodity exchanges highlights not only that value relationships appear to exist between commodities quite independently of the valuers, but also that people accept that these relationships exist, even although they do not understand exactly what they are, or why they exist at all.[53] We know that a particular market exists, if there are buyers and sellers. With experience, we can identify them, and estimate a normal turnover. However, the totality of interactions and transactions in all markets combined simultaneously, can easily appear as an unfathomable abstraction.[54]

Genesis of the forms of value[edit]

Marx distinguishes between four successive steps in the process of trading products, i.e., in the circulation of commodities, through which fairly stable and objective value proportionalities (Wertverhältnisse in German) are formed that express "what products are worth". These steps are:

  • 1. The simple form of value, an expression that contains the duality of relative value and equivalent value.
  • 2. The expanded or total form of value, a quantitative "chaining together" of the simple forms of expressing value.
  • 3. The general form of value, i.e., the expression of the worth of all products reckoned in a general equivalent.
  • 4. The money-form of value, which is a general equivalent used in trading (a medium of exchange) that is universally exchangeable.

These forms are different ways of symbolizing and representing what goods are worth, to facilitate trade and cost/benefit calculations. The simple form of value does not (or not necessarily) involve a money-referent at all, and the expanded and general forms are intermediary expressions between a non-monetary and a monetary expression of economic value. The four steps are an abstract summary of what essentially happens to the trading relationship when the trade in products grows and develops beyond incidental barter.

Simple form of value[edit]

The value relationship in Marx's economic sense begins to emerge, when we are able to state that one bundle of use-values is worth the same as another bundle of (different) use-values. That happens when the bundles of products are regularly traded for each other, and thus are regarded as instruments of trade. It is a quantitative relationship between quantities, implicitly expressed in the same unit of measurement. The simplest expression of the form of value can be stated as the following equation:

X quantity of commodity A is worth Y quantity of commodity B

where the value of X{A} is expressed relatively, as being equal to a certain quantity of B, meaning that X{A} is the relative form of value and Y{B} the equivalent form of value, so that B is effectively the value-form of (expresses the value of) A. If we ask "how much is X quantity of commodity A worth?" the answer is "Y quantity of commodity B".

This simple equation, expressing a simple value proportion between products, however permits several possibilities of differences in valuation emerging within the circulation of products:

  • the absolute value of X{A} changes, but the absolute value of Y{B} stays constant; in this case, the change in the relative value of X{A} depends only on a change in the absolute value of A (The absolute value, Marx argues, is the total labour cost on average implicated in making a commodity).
  • the absolute value of X{A} stays constant, but the absolute value of Y{B} changes; in this case, the relative value of X{A} fluctuates in inverse relation to changes in the absolute value of B, meaning that if Y{B} goes down then X{A} goes up, while if Y{B} goes up then X{A} goes down.
  • the values of X{A} and Y{B} both change in the same direction and in the same proportion. In this case, the equation still holds, but the change in absolute value is noticeable only if X{A} and Y{B} are compared with a commodity C, where C's value stays constant. If all commodities increase or decrease in value by the same amount, then their relative values all remain exactly the same.
  • the values of X{A} and Y{B} change in the same direction, but not by the same amount, or vary in opposite directions.

These possible changes in valuation enable us to understand already that what any particular product will trade for is delimited by what other products will trade for, quite independently of how much the buyer would like to pay, or how much the seller would like to get in return.

Value should not be confused with price here, however, because products can be traded at prices above or below what they are worth (implying value-price deviations; this complicates the picture and is elaborated only in the third volume of Das Kapital). There are value-structures and price-structures. For simplicity's sake, Marx assumes initially that the money-price of a commodity will be equal to its value (ordinarily, price-value deviations would not be very great); but in Capital, Volume III it becomes clear that the sale of goods above or below their value has a crucial effect on aggregate profits.

The main implications of the simple relative form of value are that:

  • The value of an individual commodity can change relative to other commodities, although the real cost in labour of that particular commodity stays constant, and vice versa, the real labour cost of that particular commodity can vary, although its relative value remains the same; this means that goods can be devalued or revalued depending on what happens elsewhere in the trading system and on changes in the conditions of producing them elsewhere. It would therefore be wrong to claim, as some Marxists (Mandel, Ollman, Carchedi)[55] argue, that for Marx "economic value is labour"; rather, the economic value of products really refers to the current social valuation of average labour effort implicated in products.
  • That the absolute and relative values of commodities can change constantly, in proportions which do not exactly compensate each other, or cancel each other out, via haphazard adjustments to new production and demand conditions.[56]

Marx also argues that, at the same time, such an economic equation accomplishes two other things:

  • the value of specific labour activities is implicitly related in proportion to the value of labour in general, and
  • private labour activities, carried out independently of each other, are socially recognized as being a fraction of society's total labour.

Effectively, a social nexus (a societal connection or bond) is established and affirmed via the value-comparisons in the marketplace, which makes relative labour costs (the expenditures of human work energy) the real substance of value. Obviously, some assets are not produced by human labour at all, but how they are valued commercially will nevertheless refer, explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, to the comparative cost structure of related assets that are labour-products.

A tree in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest has no commercial value where it stands. We can estimate its value only by estimating what it would cost to cut it down, what it would sell for in markets, or what income we could currently get from it — or how much we could charge people to look at it. Imputing an "acceptable price" to the tree, assumes that there already exists a market in timber, or in forests, that tells us what the tree would normally be worth.[57]

Expanded form of value[edit]

In the expanded form of value, the equation process between quantities of different commodities is simply continued serially, so that their values relative to each other are established, and they can all be expressed in some or other commodity-equivalent. The expanded value-form expression really represents only an extension of the simple value form, where products alternate as relative and equivalent forms in order to be equated to each other.

Marx argues that, as such, the expanded form of value is practically inadequate, because to express what any commodity is worth might now require the calculation of a whole "chain" of comparisons, i.e.

X amount of commodity A is worth Y commodity B, is worth Z commodity C ... etc.

What this means is, that if A is normally traded for B, and B is normally traded for C, then to find out how much A is worth in terms of C, we first have to convert the amounts into B (and maybe many more intermediate steps). This is obviously inefficient if many goods are traded at the same time.

General form of value[edit]

The practical solution in trade is therefore the emergence of a general form of value, in which the values of all kinds of bundles of commodities can be expressed in amounts of one standard commodity (or just a few standards) which function as a general equivalent. The general equivalent has itself no relative form of value in common with other commodities; instead its value is expressed only in a myriad of other commodities.


In ancient civilizations where considerable market trade occurred, there were usually a few types of goods that could function as a general standard of value. This standard served for value comparisons; it did not necessarily mean that goods were actually traded for the standard commodity.[58] This rather cumbersome approach is solved with the introduction of money—the owner of a product can sell it for money, and buy another product he wants with money, without worrying anymore about whether the thing offered in exchange for his own product is indeed the product that he wants himself. Now, the only limit to trade is the development and growth rate of the market.

Money-form of value[edit]

Just because quantities of goods can be expressed in amounts of a general equivalent, which acts as a referent, this does not mean that they can necessarily all be traded for that equivalent. The general equivalent may only be a sort of yardstick used to compare what goods are worth. Hence, the general equivalent form in practice gives way to the money-commodity, which is a universal equivalent, meaning that (provided people are willing to trade) it possesses the characteristic of direct and universal exchangeability in precisely measured quantities.


But for most of the history of human civilization, money was not actually universally used, partly because the prevailing systems of property rights and cultural custom did not allow many goods to be sold for money, and partly because many products were distributed and traded without using money. Also, several different "currencies" were often used side by side. Marx himself believed that nomadic peoples were the first to develop the money-form of value (in the sense of a universal equivalent in trade) because all their possessions were mobile, and because they were regularly in contact with different communities, which encouraged the exchange of products.[59]

When money is generally used in trade, money becomes the general expression of the form of value of goods being traded; usually this is associated with the emergence of a state authority issuing legal currency. At that point the form of value appears to have acquired a fully independent, separate existence from any particular traded object (behind this autonomy, however, is the power of state authorities or private agencies to enforce financial claims).

Once the money-commodity (e.g., gold, silver, bronze) is securely established as a stable medium of exchange, symbolic money-tokens (e.g., bank notes and debt claims) issued by the state, trading houses or corporations can in principle substitute paper money or debt obligations for the "real thing" on a regular basis.

At first, these "paper claims" (legal tender) are by law convertible on demand into quantities of gold, silver etc., and they circulate alongside precious metals. But gradually currencies come into use that are not so convertible, i.e., "fiduciary money" or fiat money which relies on social trust that people will honor their transactional obligations. These kinds of fiduciary money rely not on the value of money-tokens themselves (as in commodity money), but on the ability to enforce financial claims and contracts, principally by means of the power and laws of the state, but also by other institutional methods. Eventually, as Marx anticipated in 1844, precious metals play very little role anymore in the monetary system.[60]

Alongside fiat money, credit money also develops more and more. Credit money, although expressed in currency units, does not consist of money tokens. It consists rather of financial claims, including of all kinds of debt certificates (promissory notes) which entitle the holder to future income under contractually specified conditions. These claims can themselves be traded for profit. Credit arrangements existed already in the ancient world,[61] but there was no very large-scale trade in debt obligations. In the modern world, the majority of money no longer consists of money tokens, but of credit money.[62] Marx was quite aware of the role of credit money, but he did not analyze it in depth. His concern was only with how the credit system directly impacted on the capitalist production process.

The ultimate universal equivalent according to Marx is "world money", i.e., financial instruments that are accepted and usable for trading purposes everywhere, such as bullion.[63] In the world market, the value of commodities is expressed by a universal standard, so that their "independent value-form" appears to traders as "universal money".[64] Nowadays the US dollar,[65] the Euro, and the Japanese Yen are widely used as "world currencies" providing a near-universal standard and measure of value. They are used as a means of exchange worldwide, and consequently most governments have significant reserves or claims to these currencies.


Marx's four steps in the development of the form of value are mainly an analytical or logical progression, which may not always conform to the actual historical processes by which objects begin to acquire a relatively stable value and are traded as commodities.[66] Three reasons are:

  • Various different methods of trade (including counter-trade) may always exist and persist side by side. Thus, simpler and more developed expressions of value may be used in trade at the same time, or combined (for example, in order to fix a rate of exchange, traders may have to reckon how much of commodity B can be acquired, if commodity A is traded).
  • Market and non-market methods of allocating resources may combine, and they can combine in rather unusual ways. The act of sale, for example, may not only give the new owner of a good possession of it, but also grant or deny access to other goods. The actual distinction between selling and barter may not be so easy to draw, and all kinds of "deals" can be done in which the trade of one thing has consequences for the possession of other things.
  • Objects that previously had no socially accepted value at all, may acquire it in a situation where money is already used, simply by imputing or attaching a money-price to them. In this way, objects can acquire the form of value "all at once"—they are suddenly integrated in an already existing market (the only prerequisite is, that somebody owns the trading rights for those objects). Bertram Schefold notes that in medieval Japan, the Empress Genmei simply decreed the introduction of minted coinage one day in 708 CE (the so-called wadōkaichin), to "lighten the burden of carrying around commodity equivalents" such as arrowheads, rice and gold.[67]

It is just that, typically, what the socially accepted value of a wholly new kind of object will be, requires the practical "test" of a regular trading process, assuming a regular supply by producers and a regular demand for it, which establishes a trading "norm" consistent with production costs. A new object that wasn't traded previously may be traded far above or below its real value, until the supply and demand for it stabilizes, and its exchange-value fluctuates only within relatively narrow margins (in orthodox economics, this process is acknowledged as a form of price discovery).[68]

The development of the form of value through the growth of trading processes involves a continuous dual equalization & relativization process (this is sometimes referred to as a type of "market adjustment"):

  • the worth of products and assets relative to each other is established with increasingly precise equations, creating a structure of relative values;
  • the comparative labour efforts required to make the products are also valued in an increasingly standardized way at the same time. For almost any particular type of labour, it can then be specified, fairly accurately, how much money it would take, on average, to employ that labour and get the use out of that labour. To get any type of job done, there is then a normal price tag for the labour involved.

Six main effects of this are:

  • The process of market-expansion, involving the circulation of more and more goods, services and money, leads to the development of the form of value of products, which includes and transforms more and more aspects of human life, until almost everything is structured by the forms of value;
  • That it increasingly seems as though economic value ("what things are worth") is a natural, intrinsic characteristic of products and assets (just like the characteristics that make them useful) rather than a social effect created by labour-cooperation and human effort;
  • what any particular kind of labour is worth, becomes largely determined by the value of the tradeable product of the labour, and labour becomes organized according to the value it produces.
  • The development of markets leads to the capitalization of money, products and services: the trade of money for goods, and goods for money, leads directly to the use of the trading process purely to "make money" from it (a practice known in classical Greece as "chrematistics"). This is what Marx regards as the true origin of capital, long before capital's conquest of the whole of production.
  • Labour power that creates no commodity value or does not have the potential to do so, has no value for commercial purposes, and is therefore usually not highly valued economically, except insofar as it reduces costs that would otherwise be incurred.
  • The diffusion of value relations eradicates traditional social relations and corrodes all social relations not compatible with commerce; the valuation that becomes of prime importance is what something will trade for. The end result is the emergence of the trading circuit M-C...P...C'-M', which indicates that production has become a means for the process of making money (that is, Money [=M] buys commodities [=C] which are transformed through production [=P] into new commodities [=C'], and, upon sale, result in more money [=M'] than existed at the start).

Generalized commodity production[edit]

Capital existed in the form of trading capital already thousands of years before capitalist factories emerged in the towns;[69] its owners (whether rentiers, merchants or state functionaries) often functioned as intermediaries between commodity producers. They facilitated exchange, for a price—they made money from trade.[70] Marx defines the capitalist mode of production as "generalized (or universalized) commodity production", meaning that most goods and services are produced primarily for commercial purposes, for profitable market sale in a universal market.[71]

This has the consequence, that both the inputs and the outputs of production (including labour power) become tradeable objects with prices, and that the whole of production is reorganized according to commercial principles. Whereas originally commercial trade occurred episodically at the boundaries of different communities, Marx argues,[72] eventually commerce engulfs and reshapes the whole production process of those communities. This involves the transformation of a large part of the labour force into wage-labour (the sale of labour power as a commodity), and the capitalization of labour employed (surplus labour creates surplus value).

In turn, this means what whether or not a product will be produced, and how it will be produced, depends not simply on whether it is physically possible to produce it or on whether people need it, but on its financial cost of production, whether a sufficient amount can be sold, and whether its production yields sufficient profit income. That is also why Marx regarded the individual commodity, which simultaneously represents value and use-value as the "cell" (or the "cell-form") in the "body" of capitalism. The seller primarily wants money for his product and is not really concerned with its consumption or use (other than from the point of view of making sales); the buyer wants to use or consume the product, and money is the means to acquire it from any convenient source.

Thus the seller does not aim directly to satisfy the need of the buyer, nor does the buyer aim to enrich the seller. Rather, the buyer and the seller are the means for each other to acquire money or goods.[73] As a corollary, production may become less and less a creative activity to satisfy human needs, but simply a means to make money or acquire access to goods and services. Richard Sennett provides a eulogy for the vanishing art of craftsmanship in capitalist society.[74] As against that, products obviously could not be sold unless people need them, and unless that need is practically acknowledged. The social effect is that the motives for trading may be hidden to some or other extent, or appear somewhat differently from what they really are (in this sense, Marx uses the concept of "character masks").


The concept of the form of value shows how, with the development of commodity trade, anything with a utility for people can be transformed into an abstract value, objectively expressible as a sum of money; but, also, how this transformation changes the organization of labour to maximize its value-creating capacity, how it changes social interactions and the very way people are aware of their interactions.

However, the quantification of objects and the manipulation of quantities ineluctably leads to distortions (reifications) of their qualitative properties. For the sake of obtaining a measure of magnitude, it is frequently assumed that objects are quantifiable, but in the process of quantification, various qualitative aspects are conveniently ignored or abstracted away from.[75] Obviously the expression of everything in money prices is not the only valuation that can, or should, be made.[76] Mathematics is enormously important for economic analysis, but it is, potentially, also a formidable source of ultimate reification (since reducing an economic phenomenon to an abstract number might disregard almost everything necessary to understand it).

Essentially, Marx argues that if the values of things are to express social relations, then, in trading activity, people necessarily have to "act" symbolically in a way that inverts the relations among objects and subjects, whether they are aware of that or not. They have to treat a relationship as if it is a thing in its own right. In an advertisement, a financial institution might for example say "with us, your money works for you", but money does not "work", people do. A relationship gets treated as a thing, and a relationship between people is expressed as a relationship between things.


The total implications of the development of the forms of value are much more farreaching than can be described in this article, since (1) the processes by which the things people use are transformed into objects of trade (often called commodification, commercialization or marketization) and (2) the social effects of these processes, are both extremely diverse.[77] A very large literature exists about the growth of business relationships in all sorts of areas, highlighting both progress, and destruction of traditional ways.

For capitalism to exist, markets must grow, but market growth requires changes in the way people relate socially, and changes in property rights. This is often a problem-fraught and conflict-ridden process, as Marx describes in his story about primitive accumulation. During the 20th century, there was hardly a year without wars occurring somewhere in the world.[78] As the global expansion of business competition broke up the traditional social structures and traditional property rights everywhere, it caused political instability and continual conflicts between social classes, ethnic groups, religions and nations, in different places, as well as a series of revolutions and coups d'état (analyzed e.g. by sociologists like Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly). Almost all socialist countries that appeared in the 20th century arose out of wars.

Wars are generally bad for business (except for the military industry and its suppliers), nobody likes them,[79] and governments try to prevent them,[80] but in reality the marketisation of the world has often been a very aggressive, violent process. Typically, therefore, the advocates of peaceful market trade blame "everything but the market" for the explosions of mass violence that occur, with the promise that, if people would just sit down and negotiate a deal, they wouldn't have to use force to get what they want. This assumes that market trade is something quite separate from political power, because it is market-trade, i.e. a free negotiation between trading partners who are equals in the marketplace.[81]

Value-form and price-form[edit]

In his story, Marx defines the magnitude of "value" simply as the ratio of a physical quantity of product to a quantity of average labour-time, which is equal to a quantity of gold-money (in other words, a scalar):

X quantity of product = Y quantity of average labour hours = Z quantity of gold-money

He admits early on, that the assumption of gold-money is a theoretical simplification,[82] since the buying power of money tokens can vary due to causes that have nothing to do with the production system (within certain limits, X, Y and Z can vary independently of each other); but he thought it was useful to reveal the structure of economic relationships involved in the capitalist mode of production, as a prologue to analyzing the motion of the system as a whole; and, he believed that variations in the buying power of money did not alter that structure at all, insofar as the working population was forced to produce in order to survive, and in so doing entered into societal relations of production independent of their will; the basic system of property rights remained the same, irrespective of whether products and labour were traded for a higher or a lower price.

As any banker or speculator knows, however, the expression of the value of something as a quantity of money-units is by no means the "final and ultimate expression of value".

  • At the simplest level, the reason is that different "monies" (currencies) may be used side by side in the trading process, meaning that "what something is worth" may require expressing one currency in another currency and that one currency is traded against another, where currency exchange rates fluctuate all the time. Thus, money itself can take many different forms.[83]
  • In more sophisticated trade, moreover, what is traded is not money itself, but rather claims to money ("financial claims" and counter-claims, for example debt obligations, borrowing facilities or stocks that provide the holder with an income).
  • And in even more sophisticated trade, what is traded is the insurance of financial claims against the risk of possible monetary loss.[84] In turn, money can be made just from the knowledge about the probability that a financial trend or risk will occur or will not occur.

Eventually financial trade becomes so complex, that what a financial asset is worth is often no longer expressible in any exact quantity of money (a "cash value") without all sorts of qualifications, and that its worth becomes entirely conditional on its expected earnings potential.[85]

In Capital Volume 3, which he drafted before Volume I, Marx shows he was well aware of this. He distinguished not only between "real capital" (physical, tangible capital assets) and "money capital",[86] but also noted the existence of "fictitious capital"[87] and pseudo-commodities that strictly speaking have only symbolic value (which, however, can be converted into real product value through trade).[88] Marx believed that a failure to theorize the forms of value correctly led to "the strangest and most contradictory ideas about money," which "emerges sharply... in [the theory of] banking, where the commonplace definitions of money no longer hold water".[89]


Consistent with this, Marx explicitly introduced a distinction between the form of value and the price-form early on in Capital, Volume I.[90] Simply put, the price-form is a mediator of trade that is separate and distinct from the forms of value that products have.[91] Prices express exchange-value in units of money.[92] A price is a "sign" that conveys information about either a possible or a realized transaction (or both at the same time). The information may be true or false; it may refer to observables or unobservables; it may be estimated, assumed or probable. However, because prices are also numbers, it is easy to treat them as manipulable "things" in their own right, in abstraction from their appropriate context. As Viktor Mayer-Schönberger puts it, " the process of distilling information down to price, many details get lost."[93]

Latin root[edit]

The ambiguity of the modern concept of "price" already existed in the Latin root meaning of the word, in Roman times. It has persisted in modern times. Thus, for example, in 1912, Frank Fetter gathered 117 different definitions of “price” used by economists, which he grouped under three categories: objective exchange-value, subjective value, and ratio of exchange.[94] The words pris or prix (French), Preis (German), prezzo (Italian), precio (Spanish), preço (Portuguese) and price (English) were all derived, directly or via-via, from the Latin equivalent pretium or precium (which was possibly a contraction of per itium or pre itium, i.e., what goes across from buyer to seller, in an exchange). The Latin verb itio means "going, travelling", as in "itinerary", and the Latin derivation pretiosus means "valuable or costly".

"Pretium", the Latin word for price, had no less than ten discrete meanings, depending on the context:

  • what something is worth: the value, the valuation, the (sum of) money represented, or the exchange-value of something.
  • the purchase (or acquisition) cost, or the expense of something.
  • the amount of a bid, a bet, an offer, or an estimate.
  • a compensation, a requital or a return for a service.
  • the worth, yield, or benefit of a thing or an activity, in terms of what is gained (as compared to cost or effort).
  • a reward, an honour, or a prize granted.
  • an incentive or a stimulus.
  • the wage of a hireling, the payment for a slave or a harlot, the rent for a hired good.
  • the penalty or retribution for a mistake, for a failure or for a crime.
  • the amount of a bribe, a graft payment, or a ransom deal.[95]

Each of these ten sorts of price ideas referred to different social relations. Each social relationship, in turn, involves some kind of transaction - an exchange, an investment, an award, a grant, a fine, a disbursement or transfer, a compensation payment etc. The word "transaction" is itself derived from the Latin transactionem, meaning an "agreement", "an accomplishment", "a done deal". The Latin word transactor refers to the mediator or intermediary operative in some kind of deal, and transactus means "pierced", "penetrated", or "stuck through" (many Roman coins had holes through them, for storage on a string, or decorative purposes).

The word pretium, or a price number, do not make all that explicit. Nevertheless, the classical concept of price already clearly displayed both an economic or instrumental dimension, and a moral dimension (some prices are appropriate and just, others aren't). According to Stephen Gudeman, one aspect of the fetish of prices can manifest itself, when "prices only refer to themselves".[96] Prices refer only to themselves, when they are lifted out of the transactional and social context from which they originated, and acquire an independent reality, where price numbers only relate to other price numbers. In that sense, the price numbers might hide as much as they reveal. While people are focused on the numbers, they forget about the real context that gives rise to the numbers. By the time that price numbers decide how people will be relating, prices have acquired a tremendous power in human affairs.

The price resulting from a calculation may be regarded as symbolizing (representing) one transaction, or many transactions at once, but the validity of this "price abstraction" all depends on whether the computational procedure and valuation method are accepted. The modern notion of "the price of something" is often applied to sums of money denoting various quite different financial categories (e.g. a purchase or sale cost, the amount of a liability, the amount of a compensation, an asset value, an asset yield, an interest rate etc.). It can be difficult to work out, even for an economist, what a price really means, and price information can be deceptive.

A (simple) price is transparent, if (1) it expresses clearly how much money has to be paid to acquire a product, asset or service, and if (2) its meaning is understood in the same way by all concerned. Things get more complicated, if many prices have to be added, subtracted, divided and multiplied in order to value something (an aggregated total price). Here, a method of price calculation is involved which assumes conventions, definitions and concepts which could vary to some or other extent. In order to understand this price, it is necessary to understand how it is arrived at, and whether the method is acceptable or correct.

Value vs. price[edit]

According to Marx, the price-form is the idealized (symbolic) expression of the money-form of value that is used in trading things, calculating costs and benefits, and assessing what things are worth. As such, it is not a "further development" of the form of value itself, and exists independently of the latter,[97] for five reasons:

  • The (simple) price equates a quantity of one specific type of use-value to a quantity of money, whereas the meaning of "money form of value" is, that a given quantity of money will exchange for a quantity of any of the different kinds of use-values which the money can buy. So, the "money form of value" is not the same as a "price", in the first instance because the money form of value refers to an indeterminate variety of N commodities that are all equivalents for a given quantity of money. If we want to know "the price of fish", we need specific information about the kind of fish which are currently on offer. At best one could say, that the money form of value is an "index of monetized exchangeability".
  • As Marx notes,[98] prices may be attached to almost anything at all ("the price of owning, using or borrowing something"), and therefore need not express product-values at all. The price form expressing a type of transaction does not have to express a form of value. Prices do not necessarily have anything to do with the production or consumption of tangible wealth, although they might facilitate claims to it. The prices of some types of assets are not formed by any product-values at all. This point becomes especially important when we leave the sphere of production and the distribution of products altogether, and enter other sectors of economic life.
  • Each of Marx's four forms of value which mark successive developmental phases in the trading process can alternatively also be reckoned in terms of money prices, once a generally accepted currency exists. Money-prices can exist, even although stable product-values have not (yet) been formed through regular production and trade.
  • Insofar as the price of a commodity does express its value accurately, this does not necessarily mean that it will actually trade at this price; products can trade at prices above or below what the goods are really worth, or fail to be traded at any price.
  • Although as a rule there will be a strong positive correlation between product-prices and product-values, they may change completely independently of each other for all kinds of reasons. When things are bought or sold, they may be over-valued or under-valued due to all kinds of circumstances.

In Marx's theory of the capitalist mode of production, not just anything has a value in the economic sense, even if things can be priced.[99] Only the products of human labour have the property of value, and their "value" is the total current labour cost implicated in making them, on average. Financial assets are regarded as tradeable claims to value, which can be exchanged for tangible assets. The "value" of a financial asset is defined by what and how much the owner can buy, if the asset is traded/sold.

Value relationships among physical products or labour-services and physical assets — as proportions of current labour effort involved in making them — exist according to Marx quite independently from price information, and prices can oscillate in all sorts of ways around economic values, or indeed quite independently of them. However, the expression of product-value by prices in money-units in most cases does not diverge very greatly from the actual value; if there was a very big difference, people would not be able to sell them (insufficient income), or they would not buy them (too expensive, relative to other options).

If prices for products rise, hours worked may rise, and if prices fall, hours worked may fall (sometimes the reverse may also occur, to the extent that extra hours are worked, to compensate for lower income resulting from lower prices, or if more sales occur because prices are lowered). In that sense, it is certainly true that product-prices and product-values mutually influence each other. It is just that, according to Marx, product-values are not determined by the labor-efforts of any particular enterprise, but by the combined result of all of them.[100]

Real prices and ideal prices[edit]

In discussing the form of prices in various draft manuscripts and in Das Kapital, Marx drew an essential distinction between actual prices charged and paid, i.e., prices that express how much money really changed hands, and various "ideal prices" (imaginary or notional prices).[101]

Because prices are symbols or indicators in more or less the same way as traffic lights are, they can symbolize something that really exists (e.g., hard cash) but they can also symbolize something that doesn't exist, or symbolize other symbols. The concept of price is often used in a very loose sense to refer to all kinds of transactional possibilities. That can make the forms of prices highly variegated, flexible and complex to understand, but also potentially very deceptive, disguising the real relationships involved.

Modern economics is largely a "price science" (a science of "price behaviour"), in which economists attempt to analyze, explain and predict the relationships between different kinds of prices—using the laws of supply and demand as a guiding principle. These prices are mostly just numbers, where the numbers are believed to represent real prices, in some way, as an idealization. Mathematics then provides a logical language, to talk about what these prices might do, and to calculate pricing effects. This however was not Marx's primary concern; he focused rather on the structure and dynamics of the capitalism as a social system. His concern was with the overall results that market activity would lead to in human society.

In what Marx called "vulgar economics", the complexity of the concept of prices is ignored however, because, Marx claimed in Theories of Surplus Value and other writings, the vulgar economists assumed that:

  • Since they all express a quantity of money, all prices belong to the same object class (they are qualitatively the same, and differ only quantitatively, irrespective of the type of transaction with which they are associated, or the valuation principles used).
  • For theoretical purposes, there is no substantive difference between price idealizations and prices which are actually charged.
  • "Price" is just another word for "value", i.e., value and price are identical expressions, since the value relationship simply expresses a relationship between a quantity of money and a quantity of some other economic good.
  • Prices are always exact, in the same way that numbers are exact (disregarding price estimation, valuation changes and accounting error).
  • Price information is always objective (i.e., it is never influenced by how people regard that information).
  • People always have equal access to information about prices (in which case swindles are merely an aberration from the normal functioning of markets, rather than an integral feature of them, which requires continual policing).
  • The price for any particular type of good is always determined in exactly the same way everywhere, according to the same economic laws, regardless of the given social set-up.

In his critique of political economy, Marx denied that any of these assumptions were scientifically true (see further real prices and ideal prices). He distinguished carefully between the values, exchange values, market values, market prices and prices of production of commodities.[102]

However, he did not analyze all the different forms that prices can take (for example, market-driven prices, administered prices, accounting prices, negotiated and fixed prices, estimated prices, nominal prices, or inflation-adjusted prices) focusing mainly on the value proportions he thought to be central to the functioning of the capitalist mode of production as a social system. The effect of this omission was that debates about the relevance of Marx's value theory became confused, and that Marxists repeated the same ideas which Marx himself had rejected as "vulgar economics". In other words, they accepted a vulgar concept of price.[103] Koray Çalışkan comments: "A mysterious certainty dominates our lives in late capitalist modernity: the price. Not a single day passes without learning, making, and taking it. Yet despite prices’ widespread presence around us, we do not know much about them."[104]

Fluctuating price signals serve to adjust product-values and labour efforts to each other, in an approximate way; prices are mediators in this sense. But that which mediates should not be confused with what is mediated. Thus, if the observable price-relationships are simply taken at face value, they might at best create a distorted picture, and at worst a totally false picture of the economic activity to which they refer. At the surface, price aggregations might quantitatively express an economic relationship in the simplest way, but in the process they might abstract away from other features of the economic relationship that are also very essential to know.[105] Indeed, that is another important reason why Marx's analysis of economic value largely disregards the intricacies of price fluctuations; it seeks to discover the real economic movement behind the price fluctuations.


Aristotle and Samuel Bailey[edit]

Marx borrowed the idea of the form of value from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (circa 384-322 BC), who pondered the nature of exchange value in chapter 5 of Book 5 in his Nicomachean Ethics.[106] Aristotle distinguished clearly between the concepts of use-value and exchange-value (a distinction taken over by Adam Smith). Aristotle developed a fairly sophisticated theory of money, and in chapter 9 of Book 1 of his Politics, he describes the circuits of commodity trade C-M-C' (oekonomia) and M-C-M' (chrematistikon).[107] However, Marx criticized and developed Aristotle's ideas in an original way.[108]

In so doing, Marx was also influenced by, and responding to, the "classical" political economy discourse about the economic laws governing commodity values and money,[109] in Europe beginning (in Marx's view) with William Petty's Quantulumcunque Concerning Money (1682),[110] reaching a high point in Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) and culminating with David Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817).[111]

In particular, Marx's ideas about the forms of value were influenced by Samuel Bailey's criticism of Ricardo's theory of value.[112] In Capital, Volume I, Marx stated that Bailey was one of the few political economists who had concerned themselves with the analysis of the form of value.[113] Yet, Marx said, none of the political economists had understood its meaning, because they confused "the form of value" with "value itself", and because they only paid attention to the quantitative side of the phenomenon, not to the qualitative side.[114] In Capital, Volume II, Marx criticizes Bailey again for "his general misunderstanding, according to which exchange-value equals value, the form of value is value itself", leading to the mistaken belief that "commodity values cease to be comparable once they no longer actively function as exchange-values, and cannot actually be exchanged for one another".[115]

According to Marx, Aristotle already described the basics of the form of value when he argued[116] that an expression such as "5 beds = 1 house" does not differ from "5 beds = such and such an amount of money", but according to Marx, Aristotle's analysis "suffered shipwreck" because he lacked a clear concept of value. By this Marx meant that Aristotle was unable to clarify the substance of value, i.e., what exactly was being equated in the value-comparisons when the relative worth of different goods is valued, or what was the common denominator commensurating a plethora of different goods for trading purposes.[117] Aristotle thought the common factor must simply be the demand or need for goods, since without demand for goods that could satisfy some need or want, they would not be exchanged.

According to Marx, the substance of product-value is human labour-time in general, labour-in-the-abstract or "abstract labour". This value (an average current replacement cost in labour-time, based on the normal productivity of producers existing at the time) exists as an attribute of the products of human labour quite independently of the particular forms that exchange may take, though obviously value is always expressed in some form or other. It is perhaps not a very interesting insight if we consider only one commodity, but it is of much more interest when we face a huge variety of commodities which are all being traded, at the same time.

Preparatory writings[edit]

Marx's value-form idea can be traced back to his 1857 Grundrisse manuscript,[118] where he contrasted communal production with production for exchange.[119] Some humanist Marxists think the origin of the idea really goes further back in time, to Marx's 1844 Paris manuscripts, specifically the section on "the power of money"[120] where Marx analyzes excerpts on money in Goethe's play Faust and Shakespeare's play Timon of Athens.[121]

Marx felt that the playwrights had expressed the social meaning of money very well, and he discusses the magical power of money: why money can create a "topsy-turvy world" (verkehrte Welt) which unites opposites, fools people, or turns things into their contrary. However this textual interpretation is rejected by Althusserian Marxists, because of their separation of the stage of the "unscientific Young Marx" (1818-1845, from birth to age 27) from the stage of the "scientific Mature Marx" (1846-1883, from age 28 to age 65). According to Althusserians, these playwrights have nothing to do with value theory, because they belong only to the unscientific stage, and not to socialist realism or scientific socialism.

The form of value is also mentioned in Marx's 1859 book A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. It is clearly evident in his manuscript of Theories of Surplus Value (1861–63). In correspondence with Friedrich Engels in June 1867, Marx provided a first outline of his text on the form of value.[122] Marx first explicitly described the concept in an appendix to the first (1867) edition of Capital, Volume I,[123] but this appendix was dropped in a second edition, where the first chapter was rewritten (rather hurriedly) to include a special section on the form of value at the end.

Engels and Dühring[edit]

The first "value-form theorist" who interpreted the significance of Marx's idea was his friend Friedrich Engels, who argued in his Anti-Dühring polemic of 1878 (when Marx was still alive) that "The value form of products... already contains in embryo the whole capitalist form of production, the antagonism between capitalists and wage-workers, the industrial reserve army, crises..."[124] Discussing the concept, origin and development of the form of value, Engels intended to demonstrate that real socialism involved the abolition of commodity production and the law of value, rather than their conscious integration in the economic system of a socialist commune, as Eugen Dühring proposed.[125]

As discussed in this article below, in the first few years of the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks and their theoreticians took that idea very literally.[126] It was shelved during Lenin's New Economic Policy, but subsequently the CPSU set about eliminating almost all private enterprise and bringing almost all trade under state control. In a moral sense, commercial activity came to be seen as intrinsically bad, alienating, exploitative and oppressive, because it enabled some people to get rich from other people's work. The idea was, that once commerce was got rid of, this whole problem would no longer exist; the state would prevent all private accumulation, or at least it would be tolerated only on a very modest scale.

State-directed production seemed efficient and effective to the communist modernizers, especially in backward Russia. If infrastructure needed to be built, the state ordered it to be built, whether it made a profit or not. Business would never have built it, unless it made a sufficient profit at the end of a year. The central problem for the communists then was, that they had to get workers to cooperate and make sacrifices, to get things built, with promises of a better life in the future. The Party conceptualized this primarily as a matter of authority, education, ideological staunchness,[127] exemplary practice, incentives, and penalties.

If workers did not cooperate, because they thought it was against their self-interest (for whatever reason), they were forced to do so, in peace-time as well as in war-time.[128] Since workers resented this, producing things often became much less efficient, and output quality suffered. This caused endless management problems, and massive "policing" was required to ensure that things got done (as documented by Western historians like R. W. Davies and Donald A. Filtzer). Despite never-ending reforms and policy changes, the cooperation problem was never truly solved. There was a lot of cynicism about that in Soviet society,[129] even when life gradually got better and living standards improved.[130] On 30 October 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid his respects to all the people killed under Stalin's dictatorship in the days of the Great Terror. Putin stated: “Hundreds of thousands, millions of people were killed and sent to camps, shot and tortured. These were people with their own ideas, which they were unafraid to speak out about. They were the cream of the nation.”[131]

The theoretical conflict between Engels and Dühring about the role of value in socialism resurfaced in the Soviet Union in the 1940s and 1950s. Until the 1930s, the Russian communists had generally expected that the categories of value and the law of value would disappear under socialism. Given that Joseph Stalin declared in 1936 that, with full state control over the whole economy, socialism had been achieved,[132] it was logical to think that commodity production and the law of value no longer existed either. However, from 1941 this idea was in dispute.[133]

Some Russian economists denied the existence of the law of value in the Soviet socialist republics, others affirmed its existence, and yet others said that the law existed in a "transformed" way. In 1951, Stalin settled the matter by affirming officially that commodity production and the law of value did exist under socialism, with the implication, that the planning authorities should account properly for true labour costs, as the basis for correct pricing of products, assets and salaries.[134] In that sense, Stalin in the end sided with Dühring against Engels.

Issues of interpretation[edit]

Common difficulties[edit]

The difficulties Marxist academics often had with Marx's own texts about the concept of value is because, abstractly, "economic value" can refer at the same time to many different things:

  • 1. The concept of value, like the concept of money prices, can be applied or linked to anything and everything,[135] from the most abstract to the most specific phenomena, and so the talk about "value" can go anywhere, with an unlimited range, depending on what one has in mind. What Marx had in mind, was the political economists he was arguing with, but the 21st century reader is often not familiar with those.[136]
  • 2. Value has both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, which can be discussed separately, or combined in a measure.[137] It often happens, that one knows definitely that something has a value, without being able to verify how much value it is.
  • 3. The dimensions of value can be stated according to both absolute criteria ("the quantity of units of a quality X") and relative criteria ("the quantity of X which is equal to a quantity of Y").
  • 4. Value itself can be expressed as (a) a subjective orientation or priority, (b) a relationship, ratio or proportional magnitude (c) an attributed characteristic of an object or subject, (4) an object or subject in its own right, or (5) a movement in a temporal sequence or in a space (the value of a good that exists at point A can change, if it is transferred to point B).[138]
  • 5. The concept of value assumes principles which define or explain how we know that there exists (i) comparable value, (ii) value equivalence, (iii) value decrease, (iv) value increase, (v) conserved value, (vi) transferred value, (vii) negative value, (viii) positive value, (ix) value destroyed, and (x) newly created value.[139] For economists all this may be "self-evident", but for statisticians, accountants, valuers and auditors it certainly is not.
  • 6. Value can refer to an actual value manifested in a real transaction, property right or transfer, or it can refer to an ideal value (a derived measure or a theoretical construct which is perhaps extrapolated from observations about the actual values of assets and transactions). It could refer to the actual value realized, or to the value that could be realized under certain conditions or circumstances.
  • 7. Values and prices, as actual or theoretical magnitudes, may not be so easy to distinguish from each other. For example, an ordinary accounting category such as "value-added" in actual fact consists of a sum of prices calculated according to assumed standard conditions (a uniform valuation).
  • 8. If goods are said to be “overvalued” or “undervalued”, this assumes that one can reliably and accurately identify what the “true value” is. Yet the true value may only be hypothetical, since its definition depends on market conditions, and on the particular vantage point (or assumptions) adopted.
  • 9. The concept of value, like the concept of prices, is often used in a rather "loose" sense - referring to a cost or expense, a compensation, a yield or return, an asset valuation etc. The language of trade often does not make the social, legal and economic relations involved in trade very explicit.
  • 10. In the course of Marx's dialectical story, the meaning of the category of value itself evolves and develops, with increasingly finer distinctions, and the concept is used in somewhat different senses in different places. Since Marx did not finish a large part of his manuscript for publication, it is not always exactly clear from the text what he intends. The English translations may not get it exactly right.

So from the use of the expression "value" it may therefore not be immediately obvious what kind of valuation or expression is being referred to, it depends on the theoretical context.[140] Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, the originator of the famous "transformation problem" controversy, claimed confidently that in Marx's text, "the context always reveals clearly which value is meant".[141] Nevertheless, there have been very lengthy academic debates about what Marx really did mean in particular passages. Rigorously investigated, the concept of "value" turns out not to be a "neat-and-tidy accounting concept" that can be manipulated with mathematical precision; it can be manipulated with mathematical precision only if a series of definitions are already fixed and assumed (it is a fuzzy concept).

At the end of his life, David Ricardo had to "conclude, rather sadly, that 'there is no such thing in nature as a perfect measure of value'... there is no such thing as an invariable standard of value".[142] In Marx's Capital, it is understood from the start that there cannot be an invariable standard of value even in principle (this logically follows from the analysis of the form of value). Although there are absolute limits to the formation of value, value is in essence a relative magnitude, which has no absolute constant in time and space. If a standard of value such as gold is adopted (which Marx does), this is done only for the sake of argument, and for the sake of simplicity of exposition or reckoning (in the era in which Marx lived, there was very little price inflation).

Orthodox economics typically takes it for granted, that the exchange processes on which markets are based already exist and will occur, and that prices already exist, or can be imputed. This is often called the "gross substitution axiom" by economists: the implication of this theorem is thatall products are, in principle, supposed to be mutually interchangeable with all other products, and therefore the "price mechanism" can allocate resources in such a way, that market equilibria are assured by the laws of supply and demand.[143] This assumption is overturned only in special cases, where markets still must be brought into being and a process of "price discovery" takes place. In modern economics, the "value" of something is defined either as a money-price, or as a personal (subjective) valuation, and the exchangeability of products as such presents no special problem; it normally does not merit any special inquiry since exchangeability as such is taken for granted (in the real world, it is not strictly true that any good can be traded for any other good, for legal, logistic and technical reasons).

In conventional economics, money serves as a medium of exchange to minimize the transaction costs of barter among utility-maximizing individuals. Such an approach is very different from Marx's historical interpretation of the formation of value. In Marx's theory, the "value" of a product is something separate and distinct from the "price" it happens to fetch (goods can sell for more or less than they are worth, i.e., they are not necessarily worth what they happen to sell for).[144]


Marx's value-form analysis intends to answer the question of how the value-relationships of products are expressed in ways that acquire an objective existence in their own right (ultimately as relationships between quantities of money, or money-prices),[145] what the modalities of these relationships are, and how these product-values can change, independently of the valuers who trade in them.[146] Marx argued that neither the classical political economists nor the vulgar economists who succeeded them were able to explain satisfactorily how that worked, resulting in serious theoretical errors.[147]

The political economists sought in vain for an invariable standard of value, and proposed theories of money which were hardly plausible. The reason behind the errors was — according to Marx — that, as market trade developed, the economic relationship between commodity-values and money increasingly appeared in an inverted, reified way. In reality, economic value symbolizes a social relationship between human subjects, as reflected by a thing or expressed by the relationship between things. Yet it often seems more like value is the thing which creates the social relationship.[148] To understand the real causal relationships, not just economic calculation, but also an historical and sociological understanding of the subject was needed.[149]

In vulgar Marxist economics, the commodity is simply a combination of use-value and exchange-value. That is not Marx's own argument.[150] As he explains in Capital, Volume III, in an overall sense business competition among producers centres precisely on the discrepancies between the socially established values of commodities in production and their particular exchange-values manifested in the marketplace.[151] Goods could be traded above or below their value, and that mattered for profits. Marx believed that correctly distinguishing between the form and content of value was essential for the logical coherence of a labour theory of product-value,[152] and he criticized Adam Smith specifically because Smith:

confuses the measure of value as the immanent measure which at the same time forms the substance of value [i.e., labour-time], with the measure of value in the sense that money is called a measure of value.[153]

Smith had affirmed that labour is "the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities", but, as David Ricardo subsequently argued, Smith's definition confused the labour embodied in a commodity when it was produced, with the labour commanded by the commodity when it was exchanged.[154] Marx believed that Smith and Ricardo were certainly right to identify labour as the substance of commodity value, but Marx realized early on that the definitions of both these political economists could not be correct. The fundamental reason for that was, that both economists mixed up "value" with "exchange value" and with "price" (and also mixed up actual prices with theoretical prices). That is, they mixed up the forms and substance of value, because they failed to distinguish correctly between them as qualitatively different things.

The labour theory of product-value could, Marx argued, be made coherent and consistent, only when it was understood that product-values, prices of production and the market prices of commodities could vary independently of each other.[155] Product-values did not necessarily have anything to do in a direct way with the relationship between cost-prices and sale-prices determining the actual profitability of enterprises, because both inputs and outputs could be profitably traded at prices above or below their value, depending on the amount of sales turnover and the state of the market in a given time interval. It was more that the normal labour requirements for supplying products in the end set limits to the price-range and the terms on which the products could be commercially traded.

Althusserian interpretation[edit]

The form of value is often regarded as a difficult, obscure or even esoteric idea by scholars (the "holy grail" of Marxism[156]). Simon Clarke commented in 1989 that "the value debates of the last few years have become ever-more esoteric."[157] John Weeks referred in 2010 to the "essentially esoteric nature of Marx's scientific investigation of value", meaning talk about unobservables.[158] There has been considerable debate about the real theoretical significance of the value-form concept.[159]

Marx himself started off the controversy when he emphasized that Capital, Volume I was not difficult to understand, "with the exception of the section on the form of value."[160] In his "Preface to Capital Vol. 1," the French philosopher Louis Althusser mimicked Marx, and pronounced that:

The greatest difficulties, theoretical or otherwise, which are obstacles to an easy reading of Capital Volume One are unfortunately (or fortunately) concentrated at the very beginning of Volume One, to be precise, in its first Part, which deals with 'Commodities and Money'. I therefore give the following advice: put the whole of Part One aside for the time being and begin your reading with Part Two...[161]

Althusser's suggestions were taken up by many New Left Marxists, which meant that Marx's theory of the form of value and its significance was rarely taught.[162] Paresh Chattopadhyay states that “very few writers in the Anglo-American tradition of Marx studies have paid attention to Marx’s crucial analysis of value form”.[163] However, Marx very deliberately and explicitly made an effort to state his interpretation of commodity trade with absolute clarity in his first chapters. Marx aims to demonstrate that the "labour theory of value" that guided the classical political economists in interpreting the economy cannot be correct, because the concept of economic value itself is misconstrued.[164]

Marx never referred to his own theory of value as a "labour theory of value" even once,[165] knowing very well (as indicated by his analysis of bank credit) that the value of many assets is not determined by labour-time. The ideas of the political economists had to be modified very considerably, before the theory of value could truly make sense. However, when the modifications were carried out, the previous understanding of capitalist economic life was also overturned. Hence Marx's own theory showed at the same time both continuities with the classical tradition, and radical discontinuities. This has been the cause of numerous controversies about the extent to which Marx broke with, or accepted, the previous theories of the political economists about economic value.[166]


The theory of the forms of value is the basis for Marx's concept of commercial fetishism or economic reification.[167] This is about how the independent powers acquired by the value of tradeable objects (and by market relationships) are reflected back into human thought, and more specifically into the theories of the political economists about the market economy.[168] Marx himself never used the expression "commodity fetishism" as a general category (Warenfetishismus), rather he referred to the fetish(-ism) of commodities, money and capital.[169] All kinds of objects of value could be "fetishized".

In Althusserian theory, however, this meaning is unknown, because Althusserian theory detaches the concept of "fetishism" from the concept of the form of value.[170] In the Marxist-Leninist tradition of positivist science, Althusser regarded Marx's dramatic, theatrical and theological metaphors as "unscientific" coquetry, lacking objectivity. Almost none of the New Left discussions of commodity fetishism refer to Marx's value-form analysis in any analytical depth.[171]

In the reified perception of the political economists and the vulgar Marxists, products have value because they are expressible in money-prices, but Marx argues that in reality it is just the other way round: because commodities have value, i.e. because they are all products with a replacement cost of social labour,[172] their values can be expressed by generally accepted money-prices, accurately or not.

The true relationship can, according to Marx, be traced out only when the historical evolution of economic exchange is considered from its most simple beginnings to its most developed forms. The end-result of market development is a fully monetized economy (a "cash economy", although bankcards nowadays replace banknotes and coins), but how its workings appear to the individual at the micro-level, is often different or the inverse of its causal dynamic at the macro-level. According to Marx, this creates a lot of confusions in economic theorizing.[173]

One aim of Marx's theory is to explain how the nature of the market economy itself shapes the way that people will perceive it. The secret of the form of value is, that the form in which the value of products is expressed (as a relationship between traded objects), simultaneously obscures and hides the substance of the value of products. It obscures how the value of products is formed, and the social relations between people that exist behind the relationship between things.

Knowing what the social substance of value is, in fact, completely unnecessary for the purpose of trade. All that is required to navigate the market, is knowledge of cost prices, sale prices, price averages and whether prices are going up or down. The conflation of value with exchange value, with price and with money grows spontaneously out of the relations of commodity trade themselves.

Scientific criticism[edit]

There are five main lines of scholarly criticism of Marx's idea of the form of value.


The criticism most often heard from the critics of Marx, such as Friedrich von Hayek, Karl Popper, Francis Wheen and Ian Steedman and is that, even if Marx himself meant well, Marx's value-form idea is simply an esoteric obscurantism, "dialectical hocus pocus", "sophistry", or "mumbo jumbo". Francis Wheen refers to "a shaggy-dog story, a picaresque journey through the realms of higher nonsense."[174] Mark Blaug stated that “the reader will miss little by skipping the pedantic third section of Chapter I”.[175]

This type of criticism was already being made while Marx was still alive, as Marx himself reports in a postface to the second German edition of Capital, Volume I in 1873.[176]

Often, Marxists have replied to this type of criticism by restating Marx's arguments in clearer language, or by showing that Marx's theory of economic value at the very least fares no worse than the subjective theory of value (the theory of the util as the measuring unit of utility).[177]

Even so, when he published his very clear restatement Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence,[178] the Marxist philosopher Gerald Cohen explicitly dissociated himself from Marx's value theory. Cohen argued that it is possible to have an historical materialism without a labour theory of value, because the one does not logically entail the other as well.[179] Marcel van der Linden accepted Cohen's approach, noting that "whether Marx's theory is exactly right or not, it remains a fact that the working class produces a surplus product about which it has no say."[180] Marx himself never referred to his own theory of value as a "labour theory of value" even once.[165]

This interpretation contrasts with Lenin's opinion in 1894 — repeated by Johann Witt-Hansen[181]—that with the appearance of Das Kapital, "the materialist conception of history is no longer a hypothesis, but a scientifically proven proposition".[182] Earlier on, in 1880, Engels had written (at the end of Part 2 of his pamphlet Socialism: Utopian and Scientific) that "two great discoveries, the materialistic conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries, Socialism became a science."[183]

Substance of value[edit]

Marx's argument is that the exchangeability of commodities with recognition of their value is enabled by the common factor that all of them are products of social labour (co-operative human labour producing things for others).[184] Critics however have argued ever since Capital, Volume I was published, that Marx's argument is simply not logically compelling. The critics suggest that Marx's observations fail to provide any logically decisive proof that human labour-time (work effort) is the substance of the economic value of all products.

Marx's own response[edit]

In a famous letter from Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann dated 11 July 1868, Marx became extremely indignant and derisive about this objection, stating among other things that:

"...even if there was no chapter on "value" in my book, the analysis of the real relations which I give would contain the proof and demonstration of the real value relations. All that palaver about the necessity of proving the concept of value comes from complete ignorance both of the subject dealt with and of scientific method. Every child knows that a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish. Every child knows, too, that the masses of products corresponding to the different needs require different and quantitatively determined masses of the total labor of society. That this necessity of the distribution of social labor in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production but can only change the mode of its appearance, is self-evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labor asserts itself, in the state of society where the interconnection of social labor is manifested in the private exchange of the individual products of labor, is precisely the exchange value of these products. Science consists precisely in demonstrating how the law of value asserts itself. So that if one wanted at the very beginning to "explain" all the phenomena which seemingly contradict that law, one would have to present the science before the science. (...) The vulgar economist has not the faintest idea that the actual everyday exchange relations can not be directly identical with the magnitudes of value. The essence of bourgeois society consists precisely in this, that a priori there is no conscious social regulation of production. The rational and naturally necessary asserts itself only as a blindly working average. And then the vulgar economist thinks he has made a great discovery when, as against the revelation of the inner interconnection, he proudly claims that in appearance things look different. In fact, he boasts that he holds fast to appearance, and takes it for the ultimate. Why, then, have any science at all?"[185]

Modern debate[edit]

In 1989, Simon Clarke captured the essence of the modern value-form debate within Western Marxism, as a hyper-abstract scholastic debate about the form and content[186] of economic value:

"The Ricardians focus on embodied labour as the substance of value, to the neglect of the central question of the form of value, so obliterating the fundamental distinction between labour-time and value. The Rubin School, on the other hand, brings the form of value to the centre of the stage, but at the risk of losing sight of labour as the substance of value. For the Rubin School, the substance of value is not embodied labour but abstract labour. However [according to Rubin] the amount of abstract labour embodied in a commodity cannot be defined independently of the exchange of commodities through which private labours are reduced to their common social substance. The only measure of abstract labour is correspondingly a monetary evaluation of the products of labour, expressed in their prices. The danger of [Rubin's] interpretation is that reference to labour as the substance of value is reduced to an empty rhetorical gesture in a theory which never manages to penetrate the appearances of exchange relations because it obliterates the distinction between value and exchange value."[187]

The unresolved issue, David Kristjanson-Gural commented,[188] is that "If exchange effects the reduction of concrete to abstract labor, then the magnitude of value is determined not by the expenditure of labor in production, but only in exchange." Although Rubin did refer to "a quantitative determination of abstract labor before the act of exchange and independent of it",[189] by his own definition he lacked any method for determining the magnitude of abstract labour prior to exchange, or for showing how it might influence product-values. Paradoxically, it seemed that if value itself can only be determined with reference to exchange ratios in markets, then value cannot be the sole determinant of prices (a conclusion already reached by Joan Robinson in 1950.[190])

  • The Rubin-followers generally abandoned any attempt to provide quantitative measures of value, being content with qualitative and theoretical discussion about social forms, fetishism, Hegelian dialectics, the value abstraction, etc.[191]
  • The value-form theorists claimed, that value can only be expressed by money, and that value in a labour economy cannot exist prior to exchange (trade). In that case, the purpose of value theory is about (re-)interpreting the social meaning of market phenomena in a Hegelian philosophical way,[192] and not with measuring the magnitudes of value.
  • Some Marxists argued, that Marx's theory of value is only intended to explain the macro-level, and is not applicable to the micro-level of the economy.[193]
  • Some Marxists argued, that since money simply represents abstract labour or a claim on labour, money-quantities can be converted into labour equivalents according to some formula (by relating labour-inputs and material inputs to corresponding output-prices), enabling a comparison of product-values and product-prices, and a demonstration of how value is redistributed by the market.[194] Different techniques have been proposed for the conversion.[195]
  • There are also Marx-scholars, such as Guglielmo Carchedi, who try to combine a dialectical and econometric approach to understanding the forms of value.[196]

Contemporary Marxian academic research in "value theory" has become a broad area. In 2018, Riccardo Bellofiore, an Italian Marxist economist, concluded from his own perspective that Marx's value theory has "multiple meanings".[197] This can cause extra confusion, because what one Marxist means by "value theory" may not be what another Marxist means by value theory. Nevertheless, Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho, commenting on contemporary Marxist economics, say that:

“The key to the continuing relevance and analytical strengths of Marxist political economy lies in its capacity to provide a framework of analysis for unifying disparate insights into and critiques of the contradictions of capitalism across the social sciences. The instrument for forging that unity is Marx’s theory of value…”[198]

The old Marxist theory was held together by the philosophy of dialectical materialism,[199] but in the new academic Marxism of the West, "value theory" is said to be the unifying factor. The unresolved issue then is, whether value theory really can be the unifying factor, if there are a large number of different and competing Marxist interpretations of value, with many different flavors, tastes and preferences, and pitched at many different levels of academic abstraction. Already in 1951, when he had tried to create firm conceptual foundations for value studies,[200] the anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn concluded that the task was exceedingly difficult, if not an impossible venture:

"Reading the voluminous, and often vague and diffuse, literature on the subject in the various fields of learning, one finds values considered as attitudes, motivations, objects, measureable quantities, substantive areas of behavior, affect-laden customs or traditions, and relationships such as those between individuals, groups, objects, events."[201]


A "sub-theme" of this academic controversy concerns the issue of whether concepts like abstract labour or the value-form are "historically specific" categories or "transhistorical" categories. For example, Massimo de Angelis and Christopher J. Arthur claim that abstract labour is a "specifically capitalist category", which has no transhistorical validity in different modes of production.[202] According to Karl Korsch's "principle of historical specification", "Marx comprehends all things social in terms of a definite historical epoch."[203]

Marx himself said that the abstract category of labour ("labour in general", or "labour as such", i.e. labour considered with indifference to its particular forms) expresses "an immeasurably ancient relation valid in all forms of society" (or "an ancient relation existing in all forms of society"); but, he went on to say, only in modern bourgeois society (as exemplified e.g. by the United States) is this category fully realized in practice.[204] Because only there does a system of price-equations exist within a universal market, which can really and practically reduce the valuation of all forms and quantities of labour uniformly to sums of money, so that any kind of labour becomes an interchangeable, tradeable good or "input" with a known price tag - and is also practically treated as such.[205] In other words, abstract labour for Marx was not a fixed, immutable and static category, which fell out of the air one day circa 1750, but an historically evolving category.[206]

If each social category was uniquely and exclusively applicable to only one specific stage of history, it would be impossible to understand the transition from one historical stage to another stage, or to understand human progress through different epochs. Marx does not say that trans-historical categories are not valid, but instead that historical categories which are applicable only to a particular epoch in human history should not be generalized or eternalized, "as if" they are everlasting trans-historical realities.[207] Phenomena ought to be understood in their appropriate specificity, for the sake of valid generalizations.

If current transitory realities are treated as eternal in the imagination, it appears as if they are immutable and cannot change anymore (a conservative ideology), but that overlooks the very things which are changing. This leads to the confusion of analytical constants and variables, with constants and variables in the real world (ultimately, almost nothing in the universe stays constant, although for humans there are constants "for all intents and purposes").

Long before commercial trade emerged, when subsistence hunters, gatherers and farmers had to judge how much time and work it would take to obtain food, they were already compelled to think abstractly and value the allocation of their labour time – giving rise to the first numerical expressions.[208] They had count and compare to survive, because their time and resources were limited, though obviously their valuations differed from the capitalist methods and concepts in use today. Even if they were not aware of the necessary proportions for the allocation of labour time by the clan, tribe, community etc., they were certainly confronted with its effects. Namely, if they did it wrong, their own people died. So they learnt soon enough from experience, to avoid all the worst mis-allocations of labour - they wanted to stay alive, and prosper. Modern research provides evidence that some animals, too, exhibit at least a rudimentary ability for numerical abstraction and a sense of numerical proportion, suggesting it is necessary for survival.[209]

In this sense, Marx comments that:

"This abstraction, human labour in general, exists in the form of average labour which, in a given society, the average person can perform, productive expenditure of a certain amount of human muscles, nerves, brain, etc. It is simple labour (English economists call it “unskilled labour”) which any average individual can be trained to do and which in one way or another he has to perform. The characteristics of this average labour are different in different countries and different historical epochs, but in any particular society it appears as something given."[210]

"Value", Marx said, "does not have its description branded on its forehead: it rather transforms every product into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of their own social product..."[146] Thus, for example, archaeologist Marc Van de Mieroop comments about the Sumerian economy of ancient Mesopotamia as follows:

"… a balanced account of the labor provided by 37 female workers in the year 2034 BC indicates the different activities in which they were involved. Milling work took up 5,986 labor-days. The time dedicated to this task was calculated on the basis of the amounts of their finished products, that is, flour of different qualities. The source tablets for the balanced account provided the total amounts of the different types of flour milled. The time needed to produce these was calculated on the basis of standardized performance expectations. The accountant knew, for example, that 860 liters of fine flour had been produced during the year. As it was expected that one woman milled 20 liters of that type of flour in one day, it was easy to calculate that 43 labor days had been involved."[211]

On the basis of their input/output and labour accounting, the Sumerian accountants, particularly from the Ur III period, were evidently able to estimate, in quantitatively accurate terms, how much labour it would take to produce a certain quantity of output, and therefore how many workers were needed for a given interval of time.

According to archaeologist Robert K. Englund, "The concept of value equivalency was a secure element in Babylonian accounting by at least the time of the sales contracts of the ED IIIa (Fara) period, c. 2600 BC"; the formation and use of grain product equivalencies was "an important step in the direction of general value equivalencies, best attested for in the Ur III period for silver, but then still generally applicable for other commodities such as grain or fish, including finally also labor time."[212]

Labour historian Jan Lucassen states that the first wages were paid to soldiers employed by early states 5,000 years ago, the first labour markets emerged between 2,000 and 1,000 BC (when temple officials began to subcontract labour), and waged workers were being paid with coins since about 600 BC. Already 2,000 years ago, workers could be paid for a specific part of a working day with coin.[213]

The significance of such historical and archaeological data about the evolution of abstract labour and value is denied by many Marxists, because, according to their idea of "historical specificity", capitalism is capitalism only if there is capitalism, and value is exclusively a creation of capitalism.


Since 1972, when Isaac Rubin's book[214] was republished in translation, the Western Marxist value-form controversy has continued for nearly half a century.[215] Different schools of thought have emerged, without however reaching a definite solution amenable to all. However, in reality, the intellectual controversy has much deeper historical roots.[216] As Rubin himself stated, "All post-Ricardian political economy revolved around the question of the relation between production price and labor-value. Answering this question was an historic task for economic thought. In Marx's view, the particular merit of his theory of value was that it gave a solution to this problem."[217]

Rubin's claim was that, in Marx's view, the labor theory of value and the theory of production prices represent "two logical stages or degrees of abstraction from the same economic phenomena" instead of being two models that contradict each other.[218] The next problem however was, that Rubin's vague "levels of abstraction" interpretation never clarified what exactly this means in verifiable and quantifiable scientific terms. And therefore, critics argue, Rubin's alleged "solution" is no scientifically acceptable solution at all, of the problem of the relationship between production prices and labour-values—it is just a "definition".[219]

Final concept[edit]

In Marx's finished theory of value, the "value" of a commodity turns out to be the social valuation of its average, current replacement cost in labour time (a synchronic economic reproduction cost)[220] but this particular labour requirement turns out to be quite a different quantity than either "labour embodied" in production (the actual worktime performed to make the commodity) or "labour commanded" in exchange (how much worktime can be purchased, on average, for the money-price of the commodity).[221] That is a logical consequence of Marx's theory of market value and production prices. It remains true, however, that if we want to estimate or measure this average quantity empirically, as a statistic, this requires reference to money prices and price aggregates; we cannot measure average product-value, without reference to the forms in which value is expressed - in order to establish the connection between product units, prices and labour.[222] In this respect, the input-output economics of Wassily Leontief and Luigi Pasinetti's econometric concept of vertical integration have proved to be useful.[223]

Japanese Unoist school[edit]

Because of the controversy over the substance of value, the famous Japanese Marxist scholar Kozo Uno argued in his classic Principles of Political Economy that Marx's original argument had to be revised.[224] In Uno's opinion, Marx had narrated the story the wrong way round, causing confusion. The arguments therefore had to be re-ordered. In the revised version, the theory of the value-form is integrated in the theory of commodity circulation, and does not refer to the substance (content) of value at all.[225] The form and substance of value are radically separated. The substance of value as labour then becomes apparent (and is theoretically demonstrated) only in the analysis of the production of commodities "by means of commodities" (including the commodity labour-power).

Some Western Marxists do not find this Unoist approach very satisfactory however, among other things because (1) a "form" is a form "of" something, the form that a content takes, hence form and content are not really separable, and (2) Marx claims that the formation of product values is an outcome of both the "economy of labour-time" and "the economy of trade" working in tandem.[226] When a product is produced, it has a value; we can say that it requires a certain amount of labour to produce it, supply it or replace it. How much that value is, however, becomes apparent only when it is traded regularly and compared with other products.

Western value-form school[edit]

From the 1970s, the so-called "value-form theorists" ("value-form school")[227] have emphasized—influenced by Theodor W. Adorno[228] and the rediscovery of the writings of Isaak Illich Rubin[229]—the importance of Marx's value theory as a qualitative critique—a cultural, sociological or philosophical critique of the reifications involved in capitalist commercialism.[246] Rob Bryer stated that "The majority of Marxists today argue defensively that [Marx] did not intend [his theory of value] to explain prices and rate of return on capital, but gave us only a qualitative theory of capitalist exploitation".[230] In this way, the quantitative attack by neo-Ricardians against Marx's value theory is considered to become irrelevant. The value-form school has become very popular especially among Western Marxists who are not economists.[231]

Supporters of the "value-form school", especially in Germany and Britain, often regard Marx's theory of the form of value as proof of a radical break from all conventional economics.[232] This implies there is little point in engaging with conventional economics, because conventional economics makes quite incompatible theoretical assumptions. Critics of the value-form school often see this intellectual tradition as an "evasive tactic", which avoids difficult quantitative problems concerning the relationship between economic value and money-prices which still need to be solved.[233]

Value-form theory as a special branch of radical theory has been popular among intellectual supporters of Autonomism[234] and Anarchism,[235] although Antonio Negri thinks the theory is outdated now.[236] Negri's theory is roughly the same as that of the Financial Times journalist John Kay, who believes that "The political and economic environment in which Marx wrote was a brief interlude in economic history."[237] Both writers regard Marx's theory of value as outdated, although they still like to use some of Marx's rhetorics. Value-form theory is an important strand in the German Neue Marx-Lektüre[238] and there is also a post-Marxist value criticism school.[239]


In a text which had a big influence on the scholarly discussion,[240] Alfred Sohn-Rethel examined the meaning and implications of Marx's concept of the forms of value in some detail. He claimed that "The formal analysis of the commodity holds the key not only to the critique of political economy, but also to the historical explanation of the conceptual mode of thinking and of the division of intellectual and manual labour, which came into existence with it."[241]

Marx had noted that by equating their products in exchange as values, people also equate the quantities of human labour ordinarily required to produce them, regardless of whether they are aware of it or not (very likely they would not—and could not—know accurately how much labour the products represent, or even where the products originated). This is a "functional effect" of the trading relationship.[242] Sohn-Rethel calls this a "real abstraction"—it is an abstraction performed not primarily by thinking, but unintentionally by doing and participating in a system of symbolic conventions.[243] Subsequently, the "real abstraction" is however transformed into a "conceptual abstraction" which, he argues, has very large implications for the further evolution of human thought. It then seems that abstract labour is purely an effect of economic exchange.

Sohn-Rethel pondered the question of what holds society together, when all production is carried on by private agents acting independently of each other. He concludes, like Friedrich Hayek, that society can in that case cohere only through "buying and selling". It then seems to follow, that "The nexus of society is established by the network of exchange and nothing else."[244] This idea however departs from Marx's theory since, for Marx, it is not the relations of exchange (the market transactions) that hold society together, but the cooperative relations of production (governed by property rights), that form the economic structure of society.[245] Part of this labour cooperation is certainly voluntary and freely chosen, but part of it is compelled by necessity since people cannot survive or prosper without it.

What disappears from view in Sohn-Rethel's interpretation is that, in the production and reproduction of human life, people also need to cooperate in many ways which have nothing to do with trade (being a "market transactor" is just one role among others). Sohn-Rethel's radical idea is moreover not even very plausible, since (1) society does not simply collapse everywhere, if, in a crisis, the trading process breaks down to some large degree,[246] and (2) at any time, the majority of the stock of objects of value in society (stored, or in use) is not being traded at all. So in reality, the "social nexus" or "social synthesis" involves at any time far more relations of cooperation than trade alone.

Moishe Postone[edit]

Borrowing ideas from (among others) Patrick Murray and Derek Sayer,[247] Moishe Postone based his value-form interpretation on an excerpt of a footnote from Marx's Capital, Volume I, which was incorrectly translated by Ben Fowkes:

"The value-form of the product of labour is the most abstract, but also the most general form of the bourgeois mode of production. This mode is thereby characterized as a particular sort of social production and, therefore, as historically specific. If one then makes the mistake of treating it as the eternal natural form of social production, one necessarily overlooks the specificity of the value-form, and consequently of the commodity form together with its further developments, the money form, the capital form, etc."[248]

Postone alleged that in "traditional Marxism" (such as "Sweezy, Mandel, and others"),[249] the meaning of "value" and "labour" was wrongly interpreted:[250]

  • Because "value" was allegedly equated with the transhistorical category of physical or material wealth, it became impossible to "analyze the historical specificity of the form of labor that constitutes value" within capitalism. Yet, such an analysis is required to understand "how the value-form structures the sphere of production as well as that of distribution."[249]
  • For Marx, labor in capitalism "must exist in the form of value" and "necessarily appears in a form that both expresses and veils it."[251] When Marx contrasts social labor and private labor, he did not mean a contrast between the transhistorical category of labor and the specifically capitalist type of labor, or a contrast of essence and appearance, but "two moments of labor in capitalism itself."[252] Labor in capitalism is, according to Postone, "directly social" because it "acts as a socially mediating activity".[253] An adequate analysis of capitalism is possible "only if it proceeds from an analysis of the historically specific character of labor in capitalism"[254]

Postone concludes from his story among other things that "the law of value, then, is dynamic and cannot be understood adequately in terms of an equilibrium theory of the market"[255] and that the movement of history "can be expressed indirectly by time as a dependent variable; as a movement of time, though, it cannot be grasped by static, abstract time".[256]

Monetary theory of value[edit]

The suggestion of some authors (such as Reuten/Williams)[257] is that although Marx's alleged labour theory of value is theoretically wrong as stated, his theory can be modified such that, rather than value being created by co-operative human labour, value and abstract labour can be regarded as effects ("social forms") created by the exchange-process itself.[258] Simply put, the value of goods is nothing more than the money they will exchange for,[259] from which it seems to follow, that if money does not exist, value does not exist either. This interpretation is often called the monetary theory of value.[260] Thus, Michael Heinrich claims that:

"Marx's value theory is... a monetary theory of value: without the value form, commodities cannot be related to one another as values, and only with the money form does an adequate form of value exist. 'Substantialist' conceptions of value, which attempt to establish the existence of value within individual objects, are pre-monetary theories of value. [. . .] The usual 'Marxist' value theory that alleges that value is already completely determined by 'socially necessary labor-time' is also a pre-monetary value theory".[261]

Marx himself flatly denied this "monetary" interpretation of value when he said explicitly in chapter 2 of Capital, Volume I that "The act of exchange gives to the commodity converted into money, not its value, but its specific value-form".[262] In other words, for Marx, the fact that commodities have the property of value in the first instance, has nothing to do with exchange as such. It has to do with the reality that the commodities are the products of quantities of social labour (they have an average replacement cost in labour time; some people have to do the work, so that others can acquire the products). Yet, only through regular exchange does it become observably manifest how much value the commodities represent. It was this subtlety, that stumped the Western Marxist scholastics, i.e., that in the real world, production and circulation are interactive.

There do not exist any "substantialist" scholars in economics who think that "value" is literally a kind of "stuff" inserted into every commodity when it is produced. Modern money is fiduciary currency, or money of account, that actually has very little intrinsic value.[263] The "value of money" is that one can acquire real product-value with it. It is true though that the ability to express value in currency units, is ordinarily presupposed and crucial for the growth of trade on a very large scale. And, to measure the labour-value of outputs, reference to prices is necessary.

The act of exchange (whether a cash deal, barter, or a credit arrangement) reveals the form in which the value of commodities is expressed, accurately or inaccurately; the trading process provides various possibilities for expressing the value of products (using different price assumptions, valuations, currencies etc.). Marx's whole theory of economics is based on the idea that it is not "the market" which creates value, but that value is created in real production, involving the work of billions of workers. If those workers are not there, it leaves only a derelict area or ghost town situation (see also: decline of Detroit).[264]

The Greek Marxian economist John Milios also argues for a monetary theory of value, where "Money is the necessary form of appearance of value (and of capital) in the sense that prices constitute the only form of appearance of the value of commodities."[265] Critics of this interpretation think that it cannot be correct, for three reasons:

  • Marx makes it explicit that "although price, being the exponent of the magnitude of a commodity's value, is the exponent of its exchange ratio with money, it does not follow that the exponent of this exchange-ratio is necessarily the exponent of the magnitude of the commodity's value."[266] That is to say, prices need not express product-values accurately, or at all.
  • As Marx so painstakingly showed in his discussion of the development of the form of value, the value of commodities can also be expressed simply and directly in terms of a quantity of other commodities, or one referent commodity. To express a value relationship, in principle no money or prices are required at all – that is the whole point. All that is required is the expression that "x quantity of product y is worth p quantity of product q", whether y and q happen to be traded or not.
  • Milios's argument can be sustained only if, in the trade of one bundle of commodities for another (as in counter-trade), the bundle of commodities traded is itself treated as if it is a "price". But such a "price" is obviously not a quantity of money. The point here is simply that the form of value, in its less developed state, does not require any monetary expression; counter-trade does not necessarily require any monetary referent at all, although in modern times it often does take into account the cash value of a deal.

Milios conflated the money that actually changes hands with all kinds of possible computable price data for a commodity under various conditions. Effectively, he conflated the form of value with the price-form, and real prices with ideal prices. Milios implies, that only priced goods can have value, but this idea flatly contradicts Marx's theory according to which product-values exist also quite independently from exchange (simply because products necessarily represent quantities of labour-effort).

If Milios's interpretation is correct, Marx's value theory serves no good purpose—values and prices are hardly distinguishable. In all his economic manuscripts, Marx says that at best prices are the "idealized expression" of the forms of value. This view is only logical; after all, prices express the quantity of money for which particular commodities will, or could, change owners.

If the idealization of the form of value as a price is equated with the value-form itself, the whole value-form idea is itself redundant. It is a bit like saying, that the price information about a good is the same thing as the actual money that changes hands when the good is traded. Most people know very well what the difference is; they could hardly afford not to know it.

Value as power[edit]

In various works, the Australian phenomenologist Michael Eldred radicalizes the reading of 'form' in the value-form concept so that it becomes a socio-ontological category.[267] According to Eldred, the phenomenon of exchange-value is substantially one of social power. Hence, money reveals itself to be the quintessential, rudimentary form of reified social power in capitalist society. The further value-forms developed during the course of the capital-analysis, starting with the capital-form and the wage-form of value, through the value-forms of ground-rent, interest, profit of enterprise, to the revenue-form of these income-sources on the surface of economic life, unfold the socio-ontological structure and movement of capitalism as a "reified power-play". Eldred argues that such a total ontological structure of capitalist power-play can only come into view, if the whole of Marx's capital-analysis is reconstructed, not just the famous, notoriously difficult first chapter of Marx's Capital.

From a different angle, Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler [247] also depict the phenomena of economic value as power relationships.[268] While retaining some of the language of Marx, they however reject Marx's theory of value.[269] The power dimension of value relationships is also prominent in Harry Cleaver's commentary Reading Capital Politically.[270]

This interpretation also has its critics, the main criticism being that by reducing all economic values to a matter of power, the concept of power itself becomes a nebulous idea, which explains "everything and nothing". For example, Andrew Kliman argues that Nitzan & Bichler seek to define power "in terms of market capitalization". On this view, "a market cap that is 1000 times as great as the average doesn't give the owners 1000 times as much power; it simply is 1000 times as much power." Kliman says that "This identification of capital and power—capital as power—is certainly not correct in a literal sense."[271]

"Power", like economic value, is by no means a straightforward, simple concept.[272] Power is often circumstantial. It cannot be automatically inferred, from the position taken by participants in market trade, what kind of power they really have.[273] Particularly in economic crises, it is often discovered that those who were thought to have a lot of power, do not really have it (leading to political crises).

Subjective and objective[edit]

There are also anthropologists such as the socialist Lawrence Krader and the anarchist David Graeber who have argued that Marx's value categories should be modified in the light of historical and anthropological research about how human communities value objects.[274]

Ever since Werner Sombart and Nikolai Bukharin first argued it,[275] Marx's theory of value has been described as a purely objective theory of value, as opposed to the subjective theory of the bourgeois economists.[276] However, Krader argued (just like Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky[277] and Oskar R. Lange) that Marx's theory of value and the theory of utility are compatible, i.e., the one does not exclude the other; and Krader insisted that value has both objective and subjective aspects. Graeber's work is very focused on how value categories shape human lives, and the direct political effects of that.[278]

To understand and aggregate the subjective preferences that determine trading choices and economic decisions in the real world, those subjective preferences themselves have to be treated as knowable, objective and measurable data. Therefore, even a subjective theory of value cannot get away entirely from treating value also as an objective social fact. If that wasn't the case, then all economic statistics and marketing research would be invalid and useless. It follows that in the real world, all economists always have to deal with both subjective value and value as an objective market reality. True, Marx focused mainly on the overall objective outcomes of capitalist valuations. Individual workers and individual owners of capital could not determine what the markets were going to do, although important decisions by politicians can strongly influence the markets. Yet that obviously did not mean, that workers and capitalists made no subjective valuations or choices at all, or that they were completely at the mercy of market forces.[279]

On this view, value cannot exist without the presence of valuing subjects, it is just that the value of objects escapes from their control, and starts to lead a life of its own, independent from the volitions of particular individuals. Paradoxically, as Marx himself says, the more that producers become dependent on exchange, the more exchange appears to become independent of them.[280] That is, markets can not only favour the interests of the individual, but can also work against the interests of the individual, because they have their own independent dynamics. Market movements can be quite different from what people expected or predicted, giving rise to many theories of market expectations, to fathom how trading patterns and people's expectations interact and influence each other.

More Heat than Light[edit]

In his widely-read book More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics, Philip Mirowski examined in greater detail the theoretical conflicts between "substance" theories of value and "field" theories of value.[281] He claims that "Marx vacillated between two mutually exclusive labor theories of value", which according to him explains "the incoherence of his attempt to solve the transformation problem".

One theory is the "embodied" labour theory of value (or crystallized labour), the other theory is a "cost" theory of value. "Crystalized labor highlights exploitation and fixes the locus of surplus generation in production; real-cost labor values obscure the generation of surplus and open up the possibility that the global magnitude of profit is altered (and hence generated) in exchange".[282] This interpretation is essentially a version of the conventional neo-Ricardian critique, which claims there is an unbridgeable inconsistency between the value theory of Capital, Volume I and the value theory of Capital, Volume III.

Mirowski claims that Marx, in the tradition of classical political economy, believed that "regular capitalist trades are normally trades of equivalent values"[283] This claim is not easy to sustain, since the whole architecture of Capital, Volume III is built upon the idea that product-values, prices of production and market prices systematically diverge from each other, and can diverge very considerably for a prolonged time – profit-making does not require that commodities trade at their values, and, as Marx himself notes at the beginning of Capital, Volume III, good profits can be made by trading large quantities of goods quite fast below their value (the classical principle of competition). According to Ian Paul Wright, "Mirowski unfortunately misreads Marx's concept of substance."[284]

Capital without production[edit]

As the accumulation of capital grows, more and more durable and financial assets exist external to the sphere of production.[285] When society becomes wealthier, the total value of the personally owned properties of individuals (assets owned by households)[286] and public property[287] increases, even if some people own little[288] and others own a lot.[289] Marx was primarily concerned with the value of newly produced commodities, but it is unclear from his theory about the capitalist mode of production what determines the value of a growing stock of durable assets in society, a stock of assets which is neither an input nor an output of current production (except for the maintenance labour for already existing physical and financial assets).

Contrary to a pernicious but popular myth, Marx only provided a theory of the foundations of capitalist society, its characteristic mode of production.[290] He did not provide a theory of the total economy, or a theory of the whole of bourgeois society. That is why, later on, Marxist and critical social scientists were forced to develop Marx's insights much further in many new areas.[291]

The old reproduction schemes of Otto Bauer, Nikolai Bukharin, Rosa Luxemburg, Henryk Grossman, Ernest Mandel and other famous Marxists all have in common, that they assume that the income obtained from the use of capital and labour is either used up in consumption expenditure, or re-invested in production.[292] But this conflates the theory of the self-reproduction of the capitalist mode of production with the reproduction of capitalist society as a whole, and it conflates the accumulation of production capital with the accumulation of total social capital.

Ernest Mandel partly admitted this – he stated that it was an error to think that a nation's resources are simply divided into a consumption fund and productive investment fund, with a zero-sum trade-off between them. There is also an “unproductive investment fund”, which finances government administration, military spending, elite maintenance and entourage, luxuries, prestige goods, hoarded savings, speculation, tax havens etc. Hence, if austerity policies reduce the consumption fund, this does not automatically increase the productive investment fund - it might only increase the unproductive investment fund.[293] Inversely, Keynesian-type pump-priming techniques (stimulus techniques) aiming to boost consumer demand, may increase neither ordinary consumer expenditure nor productive investments by very much, if they just enrich the administrators of the stimulus program and financial institutions, and if the extra subsidy given to citizens and organizations is in reality largely spent on paying off or rescheduling/refinancing debt. In a globalized, leveraged economy, even if local consumer expenditure does rise, it does not mean automatically that local productive investment will increase also - the main effect of increased consumer spending may only be to boost imports, and not to develop the local economy.

In reality, as capitalist development advances, the share of non-productive accumulation in total accumulation keeps growing, as shown by capital market data[294] and data on the national asset wealth for the advanced capitalist countries.[295] This means that the overall structure of capital holdings, nationally and internationally, bears very little resemblance anymore to what that structure looked like in Marx's and Keynes's time.

Non-material goods[edit]

In value theory, there is also the problem of so-called "non-material goods and services", such as intellectual property (all kinds of texts, data sets, software, designs, techniques, knowledge, inventions, information services etc.).[296] Sometimes scholars refer to "cognitive commodities".[297] Obviously intellectual property existed already in Marx's time, but its scope and volume was fairly small.[298]

In modern times, in which science and education have become large-scale businesses, there is a general tendency to attach a property right and a price-tag to more and more ideas, which are given precise boundaries (See World Intellectual Property Organization).[299] However, it remains unclear what regulates the value of intellectual property in an economic sense.[300] How is the value of intellectual property correctly defined and calculated? Often the prices paid for intellectual assets are not proportional to real production costs.[301]

Neo-Ricardian critique[edit]

This criticism (made primarily by neo-Ricardians and post-Keynesians) is basically that all the problems Marx tries to solve with his theory of the forms of value can be solved much better and more plausibly with modern price theory.


In a 1975 paper subtitled "Was Marx's Journey Really Necessary?", the influential Marxian economist Ronald L. Meek argued that Marx's value theory had become redundant, because all economic relationships can be described and explained in terms of prices.[302] Indeed, what Marx calls "value" can be regarded simply as a kind of "theoretical price". In this interpretation, the conclusion drawn is that Marx's value theory really adds nothing much to the economic arguments, and is therefore probably best abandoned.[303]


The Western Marxist response to this criticism[304] was extraordinarily weak. Most Western Marxists had accepted the conventional price-theories of economics as largely correct and unproblematic,[305] and just kept insisting that value-theory was a necessary "add-on" to make sense of the economy. Alternatively, Marxists argued that value theory had nothing much to do with the market economics of prices, because it referred to a quite different "level of abstraction" or had a different intention.[306] Rob Bryer stated in 2005 that "The majority of Marxists today argue defensively that [Marx] did not intend [his theory of value] to explain prices and rate of return on capital, but gave us only a qualitative theory of capitalist exploitation".[307]

There was no systematic critique of price theory, and almost no attempt to connect the "transformation problem" controversy to the socialist calculation debate. When, in his neo-Ricardian attack on Marx's value theory, Ian Steedman simply disregarded all market prices altogether (all prices in Steedman's models are purely hypothetical production prices[308]), there was no objection from the Marxist camp, although there were plenty of other criticisms.[309]


In his 2016 magnum opus, the classical economist Anwar Shaikh achieves the remarkable feat of showing that all the main economic propositions of Marx's Capital can be demonstrated in a coherent way and verified empirically—without any necessary reference to Marx's own dialectical narrative about value, which proved to be so controversial and troublesome.[310]

Instead of joining in the scholastic metaphysical discussion about "value", Shaikh carefully scrutinized the facts about the capitalist economy, to understand which theories are the most consistent with observable reality. His aim was to bring theory and the data closer together, so that theory genuinely explains the facts, and facts back up the theory (i.e., theory is tested out by the data, and the data are critically interpreted in competing theoretical frameworks, to understand the explanatory power of each).

Shaikh devised ingenious techniques to test classical theories of value empirically, using input-output data, capital stock data, labour data, price indexes and incomes data.[222] He claims that generally the deviation of estimated labour-values from the corresponding observable market prices of outputs is not very great (maximally around 1/8th or so), which suggests that the classical transformation problem is empirically much less significant than previously thought.[311] However, the validity of econometric techniques used to estimate price-value deviations is in dispute.[312] The strength of the econometric approach is that, if the task is to measure value, then it is essential to get conceptually very exact about what value is, in order to measure it, even if the empirical measure is only a proxy for the real thing.

Chartalist critique[edit]

An implicit technical and historical criticism of Marx's value-form theory is made by some Post Keynesian[313][314][315] and heterodox Marxian economists[316] as well as anarchists like David Graeber,[317] who are inspired by the chartalist theory of money. These economists interpret Marx's narrative about how money originates in the exchange process as a theory of commodity money, or the "commodity theory of money". That is, they believe that Marx's theory is more or less the same as the "barter theory of money".


The "neo-Chartalist" interpretation of money entails, that the commodity theory of money is false;[318][319] the latter, it is argued by neo-chartalists, can neither explain the origin of money and credit, nor provide a credible account of monetary phenomena in the modern world.[320]

Chartalists argue that money is completely "a creature of the state"—it first arises as a unit of account for state debts, credits and taxes, and is then gradually imposed on the whole of the trading process in society.[321] If this Chartalist argument is true, then it cannot also be true that, as Marx argues, money originates as a "special commodity" (a referent of value and a universally exchangeable good) within the exchange process itself. The neo-Chartalist theory is known as Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).[322] There exist also quite a number of other credit theories of money which differ to one degree or another from MMT, with different policy conclusions.

The controversy about this challenge to Marx's idea is far from being resolved at this stage,[323] for five reasons.

No consensus[edit]

Firstly, there is nowadays no consensus view among Marxists about Marx's theory of money.[324]

  • Some Marxists deny that Marx had any full-fledged theory of money in the modern sense of the word, since he never developed any substantive theory of money circulation and public finance; Marx had deliberately kept his discussion of money and bank capital brief, it is argued, because he aimed only to explain the nature of the capitalist mode of production as simply as possible.
  • Some Marxists, like Thomas T. Sekine, regard the value-form discussion as a purely theoretical discussion with no bearing on empirical or historical reality; its main purpose is just to show why money necessarily emerges from the exchange of products, not how exactly it originates.[325]
  • Some Marxists, such as Ernest Mandel and John Weeks,[326] have argued that Marx really did have a commodity theory of money.
  • Others argue that (a) a commodity-money theory can only be a "special case" of a more general theory of money, or (b) that it is a purely theoretical/analytical assumption, or (c) that it applied only in a certain period in history, or (d) Marx did not have or need a commodity theory of money.[327]
  • Some Marxists think that Marx's theory is substantially the same as the barter theory of money, while others argue it is very different from the barter theory.

So, there exists no general agreement about the exact theoretical status of Marx's theory of money.[328] The core problem here is, that in its evolution across millennia of trading activity, money itself has taken a multiplicity of different forms,[329] and new types of monetary transactions keep emerging, that were previously unheard of (see also e.g. electronic money, collateralized debt obligation, credit default swap and cryptocurrency).[330] For almost the whole history of commercial capitalism from the 15th century onward, currencies were used which were convertible into gold and silver, but from 1971 onward, most currencies have become fiat money (see Nixon shock).

Money's origins[edit]

Secondly, the analysis of the historical and archaeological evidence about the real origins of money[331] is not simply a matter of "facts", but also a matter of the interpretation of the facts using theoretical frameworks.[332] At what point, exactly, did primitive money come into being?[333] When is money really money?[334] How exactly do we draw the boundary between a "chiefdom" and an "early state"?[335]

How economists will interpret the historical record of human exchange processes is influenced by their theory of how markets work in the modern world, and by how they define monetary phenomena.[336] The further one goes back into the past, however, the more fragmentary the scientific evidence about the circulation of goods is, and the more interpretation is involved to understand how it worked. It is easy to project a modern understanding of money into the past, even although money was understood quite differently in the past, or money functioned differently in the past, because people were related and relating in a different way.[337]


Thirdly, beyond Keynesian and Marxist theories about money, there is a lot of controversy and theoretical disagreement within the discipline of economics as a whole about money, credit and finance.[338] Representatives of different schools of thought in economics often cannot agree at a very basic scientific level about the causes and effects of monetary phenomena, even if they share the same elementary concepts about the circulation of money.[339] They are therefore likely also to interpret economic developments in quite different ways.

Few Marxist works[edit]

Fourthly, as a matter of fact, very few Marxian economists have studied monetary economics in any detail, and there are few significant Marxist works on the role of money in the economy.[340]

SFC model[edit]

Fifthly, when economists try to "modernize" Marx's view of money, they strike the problem that in orthodox economics the "macro-theory" of money is very different from the "micro-theory" of money. The way economists think that money functions at the macro-level of society as a whole, differs a lot from the way they say money functions at the level of individuals and businesses.[341] They have one story for transactions between individuals or individual enterprises, and quite another story for the "big picture".

According to Marxist, classical and post-Keynesian economists such as Wynne Godley, Marc Lavoie, Steve Keen, Edward J. Nell and Anwar Shaikh, this creates all kinds of theoretical inconsistencies. To overcome the inconsistencies, post-Keynesian Marxists try to create a so-called "stock/flow consistent model" of monetary transactions, which can explain the circulation process of money, commodities and capital in an integral way. This approach is needed especially because "unfortunately, the finance sector is one of the more poorly measured sectors in national accounts".[342]

Pre-sovereign money[edit]

The main objection to the Chartalist theory of the origins of money is that, for the largest part of recognizably human history, economic exchange in whatever form took place without using a sovereign currency, and that all kinds of physical goods (such as minerals, cattle, hides, shells and slaves) were used as a kind of money.[343] That is, commodity money existed long before sovereign currency emerged, and the economic significance of the early state was very small.[58] On this view, sovereign currency could replace non-sovereign currency, only because there already existed a lot of experience in trading with non-sovereign currency beforehand. This does not deny that informal and contractual lending/borrowing arrangements also already existed in ancient times, but currency was not even necessary for that.

Because labour productivity was comparatively low, the surplus product was relatively small and the ability of early states to appropriate it through levies and taxes was usually also limited (though e.g. the Aztec emperors apparently hoarded cocoa beans, and at one time owned a stockpile of some 960,000,000 beans).[344] In addition, large trading houses—such as the Dutch East India Company—sometimes issued their own currency, quite independently of the state (see: Dutch East India Company coinage).

So the ability of tokens of value (e.g. cryptocurrency) to function as money does not necessarily depend on the state at all, even although, in the modern era, money has mostly taken the form of state-issued currency and, after the demise of the Bretton-Woods Agreement is always in the form of fiat money.


Neo-Chartalists argue however that, although we will never be certain, for lack of definite archaeological proofs, about the origins of money, the first instances of units of account are debt markets, the so-called "tally sticks" in antiquity. Money issued is always debt issued, and, therefore, the notion that money originated as a means of exchange first is regarded as false.[345][346]

Libertarian critique[edit]

A fifth line of criticism, articulated especially by libertarians such as Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian School, concerns the role of value in human freedom and progress. Marx and Engels tended to present "value" and "value relations" as negative, alienating and reifying phenomena that cause people to get used by others, for ends they can no longer fathom. Therefore, markets appear to be evil things, and the conclusion then follows that people are better off without them. Yet market value can also be viewed as a very positive thing. Hayek stated that:

"My whole concept of economics is based on the idea that we have to explain how prices operate as signals, telling people what they ought to do in particular circumstances. (...) In a system in which the knowledge of relevant data is dispersed among millions of agents, prices can act to coordinate the separate actions of different individuals."[347]

According to Marxists, value phenomena belong to the prehistory of humanity that closes with the abolition of capitalism.[348] Thus, for example, Iring Fetscher claims: "Marx's criticism is directed against value as such, not merely against its consequence, capital."[349] Similarly, Moishe Postone argued that Marx was mainly concerned with “the abolition of value as the social form of wealth.”[350] In other words, the negative, dehumanizing features of market valuations for workers' lives have had prominence for Marxists,[351] even although Marx also acknowledges here and there that markets have some progressive, developmental and "civilizing" features.[352] Marx and Engels seem to depict the forms of value as an alien, impersonal and corruptive force that gradually subordinates anything and everything to "making money" — and it leads to the reification of human life (and to wars).[239] This opens up a far-reaching and complex theme of criticism.

Five main objections[edit]

There are many libertarian criticisms of Marxism and socialism – economic, political, moral and technical. In the context of this article, five points are particularly relevant (whether one agrees with them, or not).


The first objection is that the negative historical judgement about the capitalist market economy is not objective, because, on balance, the results for human civilization of the valuation of labour by capital have had much more progressive effect than Marx and Engels were willing to acknowledge.

The proof is said to be, that workers themselves prefer choosing their own employer, purchasing goods at stable prices, and owning private property; market trade has improved their standard of living faster than any other method.[353] On this view, Marxists exaggerated the "money-making" aspect of business, by simply ignoring many other human considerations involved in it (Marx wrote almost nothing on civil society and the sphere of consumption).

Value inevitable[edit]

A second objection is that Marxists are wrong to think that value disappears when commercial trade is abolished.[354] Here the argument is that humans would simply continue to make valuations anyway, and that goods continue to have value, except that knowing what exactly the magnitude of that value is, becomes much more problematic because a general, shared standard of valuation (expressed in money quantities) is absent.[355]

The proof of this is supposed to be the experience of Soviet-type societies where a very large amount of goods was effectively "bartered" or allocated by government decree.[356] Even if there was no trade at all, however, the Soviet authorities knew very well that the products of human labour had value, and, with experience, planners could estimate fairly accurately how much labour would need to be employed to produce various kinds of outputs.

More generally, it can be argued that human beings as moral subjects are intrinsically valuing subjects, and therefore human relations without values or valuations of some sort do not exist.[357] At best one could say (as Marx did), that the type of value or valuation can change.


A third objection is that people can distinguish quite well between the means/ends rationality of commerce, and non-commercial relationships.[358] Therefore, it is simply an inaccurate and false subjective opinion to claim that there exists some kind of "monumental domination" of commercial relationships over people's lives, because that is not true—except perhaps for people who are obsessively focused on trading relationships.

What is ignored is that markets can offer a freedom of choice and development to those who value themselves, and believe in their own self-worth.[359] This kind of argument suggests that the "oppression by economic value" or the "domination of economic value" only exists as a belief or an interpretation which itself can be oppressive.

Efficiency and fairness[edit]

A fourth objection made is that without the "discipline" and "incentives" of value relations, it is simply impossible to reconcile self-interest and the common interest in any efficient and fair manner, and achieve sensible cost-economies in the use of resources. Again, this is supposed to be proved by the resource waste and ecological damage[360] suffered by Soviet-type societies.[361]

If people don't have to work for a living, they will just try to live at the expense of other people. But giving people monetary rewards and costs as a framework to reckon with in making choices about their lives is vastly preferable to forcing them to work with the threat of real punishment if they don't.[362]

Trade persistence[edit]

A fifth objection is that it is practically impossible to abolish trade as such in complex societies, and that trade could not be prevented, even if a central state authority allocated resources to individuals through some kind of credit or rationing system. So long as people can privately own belongings, they will trade them, if it is in their interest to do so. In Soviet-type societies, trading continued to occur anyway, even if it was highly regulated, or driven underground (the "grey economy" or black market). Since there is practically no alternative to trading, it is argued the only dispute there can be, concerns the terms on which goods and services are traded—whether that is efficient or morally justifiable.

Any policy that aims to regulate or control how people may trade, libertarians argue, represents an attack on their liberty and presumes wrongly that the regulators know better what trade is beneficial, than the trading individuals do themselves (see further socialist calculation debate).[363]

Response: market socialism[edit]

Arguing against total statification such as in the Soviet Union, many modern socialist theorists have claimed however that markets aren't necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on how property rights and claims to resources are organized or institutionalized. Instead, they argue, markets should combine with non-market allocation methods within a market socialism.[364] A very large amount of literature now exists on this topic, for and against.

Similar to classical social-democratic reformism, the principle is argued that the more that economic goods are allocated by the market, the more the financially strong will defeat the financially weak, and the more socio-economic inequality there will be.[365] Therefore, it is argued, a more egalitarian society requires both market and non-market mechanisms, to allocate goods in a fair way. In this respect, there are many different possible combinations of argument.[366]

  • In 1919, in the context of the Russian civil war, Nikolai Bukharin and Evgeny Preobrazhensky published the first comprehensive description of the transition to socialism, talking about "the abolition of private trade" (see also war communism).[367] However, in his own 1924 study, written after the introduction of Lenin's New Economic Policy, Preobrazhensky recognized the persistence of trade in the transitional era. He claimed though that there was a fundamental contradiction between collective planning and markets.[368] This idea of a fundamental contradiction between planning and markets became enormously influential in later 20th century Marxist thought. However, when Bukharin wrote on his own about the transition to socialism, he was much more relaxed about market activity in the Soviet Union.[369] Bukharin and Preobrazhensky were both executed on Stalin's orders during the Great Terror in 1937-38, but their ideas resurfaced from the 1960s onward, when Western scholars began to dig out the real historical record of Marxism. Stalin's general program was to eradicate capital markets and free enterprise completely, as well as bringing almost all independent producer and consumer cooperatives under state control: the abolition of almost all private ownership of means of production, which simultaneously abolished the commercial bourgeoisie as a social class in society.
  • Ludwig von Mises was already attacking the concept of market socialism in 1920, even before a detailed theory actually existed. This received replies from Karl Polanyi and Eduard Heimann in 1922.[370]
  • Comparing market and non-market production, Michael Ellman concluded that the socialist system is "an efficient system for resource mobilisation, normally achieving high participation rates and high investment rates." However socialism was "the less efficient system with respect to the use of raw materials and intermediate products."[371] Ellman argued that the evidence shows that Preobrazhensky's famous theory of "primitive socialist accumulation" simply did not hold water.[372] In the end, Ellman concluded that "revolutionary social change aiming to eliminate the role of money and the market economy may well fail to eliminate inequality" and instead "simply change its causes”.[373] There could be more or less inequality, or different types of inequality in the allocation of resources.
  • One of the first theorists of market socialism was the Polish economist Oskar R. Lange who, fairly uniquely, aspired to integrate classical and neoclassical economics in one theory.[374] In Lange's view, central planning by the state and market activity were quite compatible. The Japanese Marxist Kei Shibata was skeptical of Lange's theory and considered Hayek's criticism, arguing that Lange fell victim to the "old economic logic" that had to be discarded.[375] Moishe Postone however agreed that "there is not even a necessary logical opposition between value and planning".[376]
  • Maurice Dobb published many books and papers on the controversy about market allocation versus economic planning.[377] However, because Dobb was sympathetic to the Soviet Union,[378] his writings were simply erased and deleted (like the writings of most other Marxist Soviet-sympathizers in the West) from the tradition of "Western Marxism" invented by New Left intellectuals like Perry Anderson,[379] Alex Callinicos and Marcel van der Linden. Therefore, very few people nowadays know what Dobb actually said.
  • In 1963–65, Che Guevara and Cuban treasury minister Luis Alvarez Rom spearheaded what came to be known as "the Great Debate" about the organization of the Cuban economy. It concerned primarily questions about the economic autonomy of enterprises, and the mix of material and moral incentives that would work best for the Cuban production system. An international conference was organized in Havana, which was attended by Ernest Mandel and Charles Bettelheim among others, to debate the theory of the transition to socialism.[380]
  • The Czech socialist economist Ota Šik, who appeared on Western TV stations numerous times, originally promoted market liberalization in Eastern Europe in the 1960s.[381] However, he became increasingly critical of the system in operation, and began to regard it as "anti-socialist" and "neo-Stalinist" in the 1980s.[382] He claimed that the existing political system of the communist party had presented an insurmountable obstacle to progressive economic reform. In the end, Ota Šik's "third way" argued for a humane economic democracy: a method for the allocation of resources should be judged not on whether it conformed to a doctrine or principle, but whether it really met people's needs and improved their lives, i.e. on results.[383] In the 1990s, he tried to draw some theoretical lessons from the experience of what had, or had not been achieved.[384] In 1969, his countryman Petr Uhl had published a proposal for socialist self-management and democratization in Czechoslovakia.[385] In 1978, Václav Havel, a leader of Charta 77, published his famous samizdat essay The Power of the Powerless. Havel argued that in neo-Stalinist Czechoslovakia, people had to behave “as if” they believed the state ideology, even if they did not believe it at all, and so, they were really “living a lie”. This had, among other things, terrible economic effects, because it subverted the very possibility for honest and transparent transactions.
  • The Croatian socialist economist Branko Horvat championed a type of democratic market socialism and criticized excessive privatization and oppression of ethnic minorities.[386]
  • The East German dissident Rudolf Bahro claimed in his widely read theoretical critique The Alternative in Eastern Europe (1977) that "actually existing socialism" had not been real socialism.[387] Subsequently, he became a leader of the West German Green Party, and devoted his last years mainly to the philosophy of spirituality.
  • One of Abel Aganbegyan's first books was called Regional studies for planning and projecting: the Siberian experience.[388] Subsequently, he rose to become one of the key economic advisors for Mikhail Gorbachev's Perestroika program to restructure the Soviet planned economy, and wrote many books about it, some of them translated into English.[389] In the first phase of perestroika, the state monopoly of foreign trade was abolished; in the second phase, many enterprises could trade part of their output on own initiative, and retain the profits. However, when Gorbachev lost his job, the envisaged Perestroika reform programme could no longer go ahead.
  • Yegor Gaidar believed that there was only one way to get out of the problems of Soviet socialism, and that was what amounted to an economic "shock therapy" of large-scale marketization and privatization (though he officially denied it was a "shock therapy"). This very radical program would demolish political resistance before the opponents of reform could mobilize and organize.[390] Gaidar argued that "The arguments of Mises and Bruzkus, despite their coherence and consistency, are insufficient to explain the systemic causes of the crisis and death of Soviet communism, as well as the general reasons for its failure in competition with Western capitalism. A more painstaking analysis is required, one based on concrete historical experience."[391]
  • In her book Sale of the century: the inside story of the second Russian revolution, Chrystia Freeland documents how Russia's transition to state capitalism was highly profitable to a new Russian oligarchy, but a disaster for most ordinary Russians.[392] Ruslan Dzarasov provides an alternative Marxist perspective on marketization in post-Soviet Russia.[393]Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in 1989, stated that "For the world at large, the Soviet experience, an icon no more, is henceforth not to be imitated but avoided. As a result, communism no longer has a practical model for others to emulate."[394]
  • The critical Marxist Professor Aleksandr Buzgalin of Moscow State University, who is a leader of the contemporary Russian democratic Left, has tried to bridge the theoretical differences between the traditional communists and modern New Left socialists. He has written some twenty books and about two hundred articles, arguing for the possibility of a democratic, self-managed socialist economy, with a variety of property forms and institutions, and some market activity.[395] Some of these writings, like his classic Russia: capitalism's Jurassic Park, have been translated into English.[396] He was in favour of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution,[397] which Western Marxists had turned into a "red mirage".[398]
  • In his 2011 retrospective From solidarity to sellout: the restoration of capitalism in Poland, Tadeusz Kowalik criticized the "shock therapy" of market reforms in Poland after 1989.[399] Others however note that in the first decades of the 21st century, "Poland's economy has consistently expanded at one of the fastest rates in Europe".[400] Jeffrey Sachs stated: "I'm not a heartless guy. I'm not a free-market libertarian by a million miles. I wanted a cushion for Poland. That was a large part of my aims and a large part of their interest in me, in terms of what I could get for them. And I did this in a number of ways."[401] In his book Poland's jump to the market economy, Sachs outlines how the restructuring of the Polish economy was carried out.[402]
  • The leading Chinese economist Jinglian Wu claims that a thorough analysis of planned economy since the 1980s (coinciding with Chinese economic reforms) proves that it is "impossible for such a institutional arrangement to be efficient"[403] Critics, including Chinese New Left scholars such as Minqi Li and Wang Hui, however question what is meant by "efficiency".[404]
  • The dissident Russian socialist Boris Kagarlitsky argued in 1992 that “no economy can dispense with market relations”. But, he asked, “ why should we regard the capitalist ‘free’ market as the only possible one, and bureaucratic centralized control as the only possible form of planning? (...) What people with initiative need is not the market or private property, but the opportunity to realize their initiative. If this can be done through the market, fine. If through some other means, then that is fine too”.[405]
  • The Trotskyists, the International Socialist Tendency and the International Socialist Organization have always maintained that there has never existed any real socialist society anywhere, only "transitional formations",[406] a degenerated workers' state, a deformed workers state, bureaucratic collectivism or state capitalism, and that the only real socialism is Marx and Engels's own sketch of the ideal socialism.[407] The Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist critique of the "so-called socialist societies" is essentially that state allocation and market allocation were combined, but this had nothing to do with socialism, even although these societies called themselves "socialist" and claimed to build socialism. Therefore, the collapse of so-called socialist societies in their eyes does not prove that socialism is impossible, only that fake socialism is impossible to maintain, and that true socialism has never been implemented or put to the test anywhere, so far.[408]
  • Marxist-Leninists regard the Trotskyist and International Socialist interpretation as supremely idealist and infantile,[409] because the Trotskyists and International Socialists lack any realistic understanding of socialist economics and socialist state management in the real world. The basic reason for this lack of understanding is that, if, as Trotskyists claim, there has never existed any actually-existing socialism, then there is nothing there that can be understood about socialism. All one can do, is analyze utopian dreaming, socialist hope, longing or yearning, or testimonies to a socialist faith, or spiritual sentiments about a "socialist heaven on earth" as ideal or utopian future.[410] Or, one can complain about missing the ideal in reality, showing how the real does not live up to the ideal.[411] Trotsky could lead by command and by executive orders "from above", but he was useless as a team-builder in civil life. When, after the civil war, he was appointed Commissar of Transport, he made himself very unpopular with the trade unions - by trying to convert the railway workers into a “labour army” with draconian military-style policies.[412] Most Marxist-Leninists agree, that the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin was socialist, but that Soviet socialism was later destroyed, because successive market reforms went much too far, and Soviet leaders became more and more right-wing—abandoning real Marxism. The Marxist-Leninists however disagree among themselves, when exactly capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union. For example, some will say it happened after the end of Stalin, i.e. in the Khrushchev era, some argued it happened after the Liberman reforms in the Brezhnev era, and some say it happened after the Gorbachov era when the Soviet Union collapsed. Similarly, some Chinese Marxist-Leninists think that China is now state capitalist, others think that it remains socialist "with Chinese characteristics", and some think it is partly capitalist and partly socialist. All these different viewpoints obviously cannot all be true at once.[413] It helps to explain, why the Marxist-Leninist movement has fragmented since about 1960, just like the Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist movement.
  • A substantive visionary statement of the Council Communists was Principles of Communist Production and Distribution. There was no space for markets in this communist system, and workers would be credited goods & services according to the labour they put in, according to some formula. In general, the Council Communists regarded the Soviet Union as a type of state capitalism, ruled over by a state bourgeoisie (comprising higher functionaries and managers in the government and party officialdom, who had special consumer privileges). Similar ideas occur in the essay "value and socialism" by Paul Mattick.[414]
  • In his "Real Utopias project" since 1991, the analytical Marxist Erik Olin Wright has edited and published a series of six books, with writings by a large number of contemporary socialist scholars that explore what an alternative egalitarian, democratic society would look like, and how it would work. The second volume in the series is titled Equal shares: making market socialism work.[415]
  • Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel have formulated a theory of participatory economics, otherwise known as parecon.[416]
  • The Canadian professor Michael Lebowitz has outlined his theory of the potential for a self-managed socialism in the 21st century, inspired by his experience in Venezuela.[417]
  • Makoto Itoh and Ha-Joon Chang offer a strong defence of state-directed economic organization.[418]
  • Anthony Giddens, Robert Rowthorn and Geoffrey Hodgson have argued for a "third way" between capitalism and socialism.[419]
  • János Kornai and Ernest Mandel have argued — for different reasons — that any durable "third way" between capitalism and socialism is impossible.[420]
  • Diane Elson argued in favour of "embedding markets in egalitarian social relations, which in turn means exploring ways of transforming the property relations that underlie and shape the current configurations of market institutions."[421]
  • In their book Toward a new socialism (1993), computer scientist W. Paul Cockshott and economist Allin Cottrell defended a market in consumer goods, but rejected the concept of market socialism, regarding it as "a damaging accommodation to the dominance of the right."[422] These authors were criticized by Geoffrey Hodgson.[423]
  • The Russian economist Yakov Abramovich Kronrod (1912–1984) argued that public ownership and democracy are dominant in socialist society, but that commodity-market relations nevertheless play an important role in a planned economy as well.[424]
  • In The economics of feasible socialism revisited, Alec Nove argues for a democratic socialism, combining centralized state corporations, public enterprises, self-managed enterprises such as cooperatives, private enterprises, and self-employment.[425] The advantage of feasible socialism would be, that different ownership forms and allocation methods could be tried out, to see what works best for different types of activities.
  • Frank Furedi, the main ideological leader of an international ultra-left, post-Marxist libertarian grouping of radicals, has argued that "In these confused times, we should attempt to defend capitalism from its small-minded opponents" but also "rethink the categories and ideas through which we make sense of the human condition".[426] Capitalism may be, for better or worse, all we have now, but that could still change. In a Promethean way, Furedi's group aims to look over the shoulder of the world's elites, the cognoscenti and the real experts, to appropriate the most advanced insights into human development, art, science, business and politics – as a basis for understanding how ordinary people can really free themselves from oppression, tackle the horrors of modern society, assert authority, and powerfully accelerate the growth of human potential.
  • In her book Markets in the name of socialism, sociologist Johanna Bockman argues that "far from a hegemonic juggernaut, neoliberal capitalism was a parasitic growth on the very socialist alternatives it attacked".[427]
  • In their more recent research, the American socialists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis look at the whole problem from a different angle: human beings cannot exist without social cooperation, as atomized individuals or isolated monads, so the dispute between capitalists and socialists really revolves around the methods of cooperation that work best for humanity.[428] Bowles believes that liberalism is in trouble, and could be coming to an end.[429]
  • Last but not least, there are also "market anarchists" who believe in free markets but not in capitalism.[430]

All these arguments[431] remain much in dispute among economists seeking economic reform; the debaters still cannot agree about basic concepts of economics, about the possible ways that production, trade and democracy can be combined, or about what factual evidence would finally clinch the controversy.[432] At a fundamental level, the theorists still cannot agree about what capitalism is, what socialism is, and how you get from the one to the other. Among other things, Marxists proposed a planned allocation of resources, without a coherent ethical framework for the evaluation of allocative priorities, and without much understanding of effective management.

During the cold war era, it was very difficult to pursue a scientific discussion about the issues, because positions were highly polarized. Strong moral sentiments and biases got in the way of objective analysis. Marxist discussion was dominated by the hegemonic Marxist-Leninist ideology, because Marxist-Leninists had the most resources and political power. Either people were "for" or "against", and if they were on the "wrong" side, there was little scope for pursuing any objective inquiry (see also Culture during the Cold War). The effect of that was, that very little progress could be made with the scientific analysis of the transition to socialist society and the functioning of socialist society.

In the cyber-age of the internet, a whole new language[433] is emerging to conceptualize the battles people have with capitalist value relations[434]—meaning that often the old traditions do not speak clearly anymore to the new situation; their precise relevance is in dispute. With the growth of social media, what socialism means is no longer under the control of academics and political elites. For some, this is a good thing: they argue that the academics and the elites never got it correct anyway, only real workers did. For others, it is a bad thing: they argue that at least the academics and the elites had some rational, thought-through and coherent ideas about socialism.


The Marxist philosophers have interpreted the value-form, in various ways – intending to prove that Marx's story does or does not make sense, or needs to be tweaked. They have explored possible theoretical relationships between the concepts of value, price, trade, labour, wealth, ecology and gender. Yet there has never been much agreement between them, about what is the correct understanding of the forms of value. At a supremely high level of abstraction, it is of course possible to distinguish oneself from other scholars in very subtle ways - a perfectly safe "esoteric" sport because, at a comfortable distance from empirical reality, any criticism of its hyper-abstractions is easily deflected by a slight change of word meanings.[435]

Scientific approach[edit]

There is, however, also another approach possible, not philosophical, but scientific: to test out the validity of the value-form idea empirically against observable experience, to understand how things work out in reality.[436] What actually happens, when money suddenly almost disappears in a modern society, because its purchasing power falls sharply to a very low level, money tokens become very scarce, and financial institutions malfunction so that monetary transactions cannot be operated? Does the value of commodities in that case largely vanish, because most of them can no longer be traded for money? Does the commodity form itself disappear, because of rapid demonetization, and the failure of financial institutions to facilitate transactions?

The empirical answer is clearly that commodities and the value of commodities do not go away, when money disappears. The products of human labour continue to have value, and ordinary people know this very well,[437] but they are not traded and paid for anymore in money tokens. Instead, they are bartered on a grand scale (in some cases, up to 50% or 70% of the real gross product),[438] according to variable exchange-ratios or according to fairly stable exchange-ratios.


Effectively, the simple form, the expanded form, the general form, and the money form of value then occur side by side in the trading process, while credits and debits are often reckoned in quantities of goods and services, not in money.[439]

Some examples in recent history are:

  • In 1979-1981, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates very high, to squeeze out price inflation. At the same time, oil prices spiked, and terms of trade worsened for developing "third world" countries. This created a massive public and private debt crisis in those countries.[440] They could no longer pay their bills with money, and so, they engaged in large-scale counter-trade and barter deals, to obtain the resources they needed.[441]
  • During the Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq from 1995 to 2010, Iraqis received food from other countries in exchange for oil products.
  • In the 1990s, Eastern Europe and Russia engaged in large-scale barter trade.[442] The Soviet Union had engaged in bartering and countertrade throughout its history,[443] but when in the 1990s the rouble lost much of its buying power, the practice of bartering and countertrade increased gigantically.[444]
  • When the Argentinian slump was at its worst in mid-2002, it was reported that up to one in five citizens were involved in the so-called "barter clubs".[445] However, Pepita Ould Ahmed argues that no “real” barter took place in the clubs, given the use of crédito.[446]
  • The global credit crunch went along with global food-price crises in 2007-2008 and 2010-2012, causing food riots in many countries.[447] Many governments and businesses started to do large-scale barter deals to get food for distribution at an affordable price.[448] According to the WFP/FAO Global Report on Food Crises 2018, the data showed that nearly 124 million people across 51 countries and territories (= one person out of every 62 human beings) faced "crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse".[449]
  • By 2018, hyperinflation of the bolívar in Venezuela prompted widespread barter and work-for-food deals because it became difficult to buy food and other goods in the normal way.[450] Venezuela's health minister Luis López offered several pharmaceutical companies quantities of gold, diamonds and coltan as an alternative payment for medicines.[451]
  • In March 2018, Ghana's president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced that his country was going to barter refined bauxite in exchange for infrastructure construction work, including bridges, roads, railways, refineries and hospitals.[452] In September 2018, a $2 billion barter deal was signed, with Sinohydro Group Limited, providing $2 billion worth of infrastructure construction in Ghana, in exchange for large quantities of refined bauxite that will be exported to China.[453]
  • The Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett argued in 2018 that signing up for a Facebook account by 2.27 billions of users really is a type of barter, an exchange which does not involve a monetary transaction. Facebook users get the ability to connect with old and new friends worldwide, via Facebook online services, in exchange for forfeiting the ownership of their personal information in Facebook, which is, in turn, used for commercial and intelligence purposes, within the framework of American and local laws. Tett argues, that a case could be made for including the value of bartered information in Gross Domestic Product.[454]


For conventional economic theory, this kind of phenomenon is "puzzling".[455] After all, barter—bilateral and multilateral—is something that supposedly occurs only in primitive societies, featuring a simple division of labour, and not in modern civilized societies with a complex division of labour. Some leftwing theorists, such as the post-Keynesian economist Michael Beggs and the anarchist anthropologist David Graeber, even deny that barter has ever existed on any large scale.[456]

In modern societies, countertrade is supposed to be only a marginal phenomenon, occurring on the periphery of monetized trade. If barter nevertheless does happen on a huge scale,[457] it contradicts the theory of the transaction costs of barter, and the theory of comparative advantage in trade. Why would people choose barter, instead of payment in money, when money is more efficient than barter?[458] How is it possible for this to occur, for a prolonged time, on such a grand scale? And how is a return to monetization accomplished?

All the known theories of trade, value and money are tested in such situations - a rich data source for economic science.[459] However, so far only a few scholars in the Western Marxist tradition (such as Simon Clarke and Michael Burawoy) have grappled with the theoretical implications.[460]

Alternatives to value[edit]

Can the forms of value be abolished in favour of a better alternative?[461] Can capitalist free markets be replaced with a different method of allocation, which works much better? So far, Western Marxists are rather hazy about that, and they cannot agree. Presumably, according to them, the communism of the future would be a society without value, or at least without capitalistic value[462] - yet not like Stalinism.

Crisis of Marxism[edit]

In the conclusion of his 1944 polemic against bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises (an arch-enemy of socialism) conceded that socialism had been:

"...the most powerful reform movement that history has ever known, the first ideological trend not limited to a section of mankind but supported by people of all races, nations, religions, and civilizations"".[463]

When, however, the socialist movement became bureaucratized, killing off democratic freedoms in order to maintain power and force through its socialist policies, it also killed off the further development of socialist thought. Marxism degenerated into a stale repetition of abstract metaphysical dogma, where anything can mean anything - a quasi-religious justifying ideology, that was useless as a guide to the future. After World War 2, the movement unsurprisingly began to break up and splinter. The crucial turning point in the West was the invasion of Hungary in 1956, after which most Marxist intellectuals in the West left the official communist parties, in protest.[464] A few years later, there was the Sino-Soviet Split, and after that, a proliferation of further political splits and divisions (this is documented in the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs by the Hoover Institution).

In 1977, at an Il Manifesto conference in Venice, Louis Althusser (the recognized "pope" of Marxism-Leninism in the West at that time) officially announced a new "crisis of Marxism", by which he meant primarily the political fragmentation of the communist movement.[465] According to Althusser, the problem had been, that the communist party had fused with the state, while it should've remained separate from the state.[466]

However, another speaker at the conference, Rossana Rossanda, went much further than that, arguing that the experience of actually existing socialism had put into question "the very idea of socialism, not as generic aspiration, but as a theory of society, a different mode of organisation of human existence."[467]

Moishe Postone added to this idea that "The Marxian categories, as traditionally interpreted, are of little use in formulating a social critique of a society that is regulated and dominated by the state" and therefore they "cannot grasp the grounds for continued or increased unfreedom in "actually existing socialism".[468] If socialism is the answer, people have to be able to think the problems for which socialism is supposed to be the solution. If they cannot even think the problems, then there really is no socialist solution.

In the early 1980s, Margaret Thatcher announced the apparent new consensus that there is no alternative to market capitalism.[469] In response, the World Social Forum adopted the slogan "Another world is possible". According to the economist Gary Dymski, it should be TAVA (There Are Various Alternatives).[470]


Some think the crisis of Marxism cannot easily be overcome anymore, because the millennial generation was born after the collapse of socialist countries. They have been educated to think that socialism was a failure, and they mostly have no knowledge and experience about socialist societies. Or, they think that real socialism never existed anyway.

Universities and libraries have eradicated much of the knowledge about socialist societies and Marxism. The old texts were dumped into their bargain bins. Courses were closed down. Lecturers lost their jobs, or shifted to safer and more attractive topics. In 1998, the US Left journal Against the Current complained that "an extreme pessimism of the spirit is weakening our participation in the centuries-old battle of ideas".[471]

Others[472] think, that the "crisis of Marxism" is a good and refreshing thing, because it frees the new discussions from dreary dogmatism, from appeals to "sacred" leaders or texts that can't be wrong, and from turgid doctrinairism. They point out that socialism is more popular than ever among young American adults,[473] who are faced with steep housing and education bills, the burden of debt repayments for up to thirty years into the future,[474] and low job and earnings opportunities—a situation regarded as unfair.[475]

Varieties of socialism[edit]

The problems which the old socialism was supposed to solve are still there, but the old socialism is not enough to solve them now, which is the problem of the new generation.[476] However few Western Marxist academics feel able to admit theoretically that real socialism may not be heaven on earth, or that some forms of capitalism may be vastly preferable to some forms of socialism (and vice versa). The "counterfactual" arguments are inconclusive - what would have happened, if there had not been socialist revolutions? Nobody really knows for sure, among other things because the geopolitical balance of power in the world would have been very different.[477]

The Western Left academics are nowadays very happy to talk about "varieties of capitalism",[478] but talking about "varieties of socialism" remains almost an absolute "no-no".[479] Most Marxists continue to believe in only one (Marxian) socialism: either that, or nothing at all. Either a society or movement conforms to the true concept of socialism, or it does not; and if it does not, it cannot be socialism. However, precisely because there are many different Marxist beliefs about socialism, Marxists cannot agree among themselves whether Soviet-type societies were socialist, capitalist, or something else. Some countries meet with the moral expectations which Marxists have, and others do not.

  • Already long before they wrote the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels were very aware that there was not only "one kind of socialism", but many possible varieties of socialisms — some more desirable than others.[480] They often defended their own socialism against competitors, though sometimes in obscure and little-known polemics (see e.g. Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program).
  • Marx and Engels envisaged socialism as a democratic society of "freely associated producers" organized in councils, communes and cooperatives, without social classes or commercial huckstering, and with a state that would continuously shrink in size - because real adults would increasingly be self-regulating and self-managing their lives without needing supervision.[481] This perspective largely disappeared for half a century, when, in state socialist societies, the state did not shrink, but became much larger and powerful - controlling people's lives much more, instead of less.

Originally Marx and Engels themselves had heckled the advocates of "true socialism",[482] but later Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky promoted Marxist socialism as the one and true "scientific socialism" within the Socialist International. When he was 43 years old, Lenin stated: "The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true".[483] Lenin's Communist International (a deliberate split with the social democrats) adopted Marxist socialism as its official political doctrine.[484]

This created the doctrinal problematic of orthodoxy and deviations from orthodoxy, fiercely contested in the 1920s and 1930s (when all remaining political opposition to the CPSU leadership was wiped out in the Soviet Union). When Stalin introduced the policy of "socialism in one land", he did not mean "socialism in only one country", but that it was necessary and feasible to build one unified socialist system for all the Soviet Republics (for military, planning and resource reasons). This required one unified socialist ideology and conceptual language.[485]

If there exists only one socialism, the advantage is, that it keeps things simple. The system is the same, wherever you go. If there are many socialisms, a lot more work is necessary, to understand the specifics of what they are really about, what they have in common, and how they differ.


For much of the 20th century, the official communist parties aimed very consciously to discredit or eradicate any socialism that wasn't Marxist-Leninist as deviant, fake and wrong. The Manichean logic of the monolithic party was simple: the leadership of the Party is the supreme authority on Marxist truth, and therefore, anybody who disagrees, is necessarily in error. This became a kind of political habit in Marxist circles, and therefore, the whole idea of a legitimate socialist pluralism, still common in the time of Marx and Engels, was lost. It began to re-emerge slowly only from the 1960s, with the growth of the Western New Left alongside the decline and fragmentation of the official communist movement and social democracy.[486]

Thus, for example, Albert Szymanski explicitly acknowledged in his 1979 pro-Soviet appraisal Is the red flag flying? that "there are many different types of socialism."[487] In this approach, the primary question is not whether a particular socialism corresponds, or does not correspond, to a preconceived ideal type of socialism, but what kind of socialism it empirically is, how it works and how progressive it really is (or not).[488] It is an approach which coheres better with the new "programming mentality" pervading modern academia, because in programming it is acknowledged that the same problem can be solved with various different procedures which can all be valid and workable (even if some probably work better than others).


The Serbian philosopher Svetozar Stojanović wrote in 1973 that:

"The main prospects for essential innovations in Marxism lie in the critical confrontation of Marxism with that society which calls itself socialist. This approach holds the greatest prospects for the verification, enrichment and concretization of the Marxist program."[489]

Logically, if the successive attempts to create socialism are merely dismissed as "not socialist" in any way, then nothing at all can be learned from them, about socialism - except that 20th century socialists suffered from a giant hallucination or a "red dream" (that was also exactly what the "Austrians" argued in the socialist calculation debate). People in the East thought they were building socialism, with gigantic personal and collective effort, but they were apparently building the contrary.

Subsequently, the Western Marxists said "nah, it wasn't any kind of socialism", because it did not conform to their own favourite flavour of socialism.

  • It did not occur much to the Western Marxists, to take seriously the idea that there might exist possible socialisms that were not "sugar and spice and all things nice". Hal Draper did refer to the "two souls of socialism" (socialism from below versus socialism from above), but that was not a scientific theory, but a spiritual and moral one.[490] Although Alex Callinicos dismissed the idea of a soul as an "old idealist fantasy",[491] he nevertheless endorsed Draper's spiritual concept, and made it standard fare in the propaganda of the International Socialist Tendency.[492]
  • It did not occur to the Western Marxists, that their own moral horror at what was happening in Slavic and Asian societies was not the same as a scientific analysis of the practical application of socialist ideas. Socialism was supposed to be everything good, and capitalism everything bad. If socialism wasn't everything good, it wasn't socialism, on this view. The theory was driven by moral sentiments, not by real scientific analysis. The implication of Draper's dilemma is that if "socialism from above" exists along with socialism from below, then "socialism from above" is a type of socialism, even if people want to reject it on political, economic or moral grounds. If then it is argued, that "socialism from above" is not socialism at all, Draper's dilemma just does not make sense. In that case, the dilemma is only between true and fake socialism (which is a normative judgement that depends on what socialism is understood to be).
  • If all attempts to realize a socialist society are defined as "state capitalist", then they were never even any kind of alternative to capitalism. In that case, the socialist project has to start from scratch.

Whether it is possible to reboot socialism out of nothing, remains in dispute; some would argue this is like reinventing the wheel, and that one cannot simply pretend that what happened, never happened - a scientist cannot very well make progress, by dismissing relevant scientific evidence ("those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it"). If innovation is wanted, it is necessary to know the real history, to understand what would count as a genuine innovation, in contrast to a recycler or a subtle plagiarism.[493]

Re-unifying socialists[edit]

Nowadays many socialist and communist tendencies exist in the world that are longing to merge and unite the Left in one party. Some initiatives (e.g. the Party of the European Left, the Fourth International, the European Anti-Capitalist Left, the International Socialists, the Initiative of Communist and Workers' Parties, etc.) have gained a significant following (see further List of left-wing internationals). Often though it remains rather vague[494] what it actually is, that has to be united, or how it could be done. It might be more a kind of clustering together, than a full unity based on shared views of a programme and action. The reason is, that there are many different socialisms.

As soon as it is declared, that there is only "one true socialism", then that logically implies, that any other socialisms are denied. Yet, when it is acknowledged that there exists a diversity of socialisms, then there is the challenge of uniting those socialisms and finding something in common. If, for example, there are Marxists in East Germany who think that East Germany used to be socialist, and there are other East German Marxists who think that East Germany has always been (state-)capitalist, then it is difficult for them to unite, because they have very different concepts of capitalism and socialism, rooted in very different interpretations of Marx's theory.


The ecological Marxist Paul Burkett has tried to create a “value-form approach” to understanding the relationship between capitalism and nature. He argues that:

“In short, the value form qualitatively and quantitatively abstracts from nature’s useful and life-giving characteristics, even though value is a particular social form of wealth — a particular social objectification of both nature and labor…[495]

By contrast, Elmar Altvater argued that an ecological critique of political economy "hinges on an analysis of use-value".[496]

Focusing on the human metabolism with nature, Keito Saito argued in 2017 that:

”Marx’s ecological critique shows that a certain use value of nature is deeply modified under capitalism in favor of valorization, and that this elasticity of nature is the reason for capital’s intensive and extensive exploitation of nature”.[497]

John Bellamy Foster stated in 2018 that:

“It is the opposition between the natural form and the value form, inherent to capitalist production, that generates the economic and ecological contradictions associated with capitalist development”.[498]

Harry Rothman stated in his 1972 book Murderous Providence that:

"Engels discussed the undialectical attitude to nature of industrialists, whose actions often had unforeseen consequences, such as soil erosion and pollution, adding that nature always takes its revenge if we ignore its laws. However, Engels certainly did not think that we should subordinate ourselves to nature, though we should recognise the fact that we do not ‘rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.’"[499]

Women's studies[edit]

In chapter 8 of her radical 1977 critique of Freudian theory, This sex which is not one,[500] Luce Irigaray examined in some detail the relationship between Marx's story about the form of value of commodities, phallocracy and kinship systems. She argued that "Marx’s analysis of commodities as the elementary form of capitalist wealth can... [also] be understood as an interpretation of the status of woman in so-called patriarchal societies."[501] Specifically, "all the systems of exchange that organize patriarchal societies and all the modalities of productive work that are recognized, valued, and rewarded in these societies are men’s business."[502] When women are managed, farmed out and traded by men, women's bodies can become a manipulable abstraction.[503] As commodities, Irigaray argued, women become “utilitarian objects and bearers of value”. A mother becomes a use value; a virgin becomes an exchange value; and a prostitute becomes both a use-value and exchange value. The issues are about freedom, human dignity, social valuations, exploitation and oppression.

Irigaray did not necessarily mean that all women literally are commodities, but that (1) they are often de facto treated “as if” they are tradeable wares, (2) women are frequently subjected to all kinds of informal trade-offs, to obtain what they need, (3) the commodity form sinks deeply into the human psyche and intimate relations, creating a transactional mentality which is oppressive. Irigaray raised the question, of what would become of the social order, without the exploitation of women. People would be "socializing in a different way in relation to nature, matter, the body, language, and desire".[504]

Though Irigaray's story had impact when it was first published, its appeal did not last. Among other things, her story is too grim and somber. The psychoanalytic model of human nature is no longer widely accepted. Women generally aren’t regarded just as commodities or victims, they have legal rights, and they have considerable power and control, individually and collectively. Although a “battle of the sexes” continues (competition), men and women also need each other and depend on each other (cooperation). So, in the real world (in contrast to the academic imaginary), "male domination" has definite limits, and women do fight back.[505]

Most of all, it was rather unclear from Irigaray's story, what exactly would be the most effective methods to create better human relations, and how men and women could successfully work together to put them into practice. Often Irigaray seemed to be writing more at a spiritual level, and readers could take out of it what they liked. A postmodern Marxist reading of the form of value is offered by Katja Diefenbach.[506] In her critical analysis of Islamic hijab in Iran, Professor Rebecca Ruth Gould claims that "The exchange value dimension to the commodity form crucially structures the hijab-as-commodity".[507]

Marxist women and men have often argued that women's housework, shopping work, child-raising and volunteer work is neither highly valued economically nor very visible in bourgeois ideology, precisely because it is itself not paid and charged for, as a job.[508] The so-called “non-market” activity of women does not even register in national accounts, although its imputed market value (estimated from time-use surveys and occupational data) is very large.[509] The values and valuations involved in women's "non-market" work are often quite different than commercial values. So capitalist market value and women's own valuations can clash, in various settings. Kathi Weeks and Kristin Ghodsee provide an overview of the modern debates.[510]

The general implication is, that if a lot of what women do is not very highly valued (because it does not really make money, etc.), then women's social status also suffers - they aren't equals with men in the real world. In principle or in theory, capitalism is quite compatible with complete equality between men and women, with acknowledgement of essential differences between women and men. Indeed, formally speaking, all citizens in the West have the same rights in the marketplace, and equal status under the justice system. But in practice, capitalist society is a class society, structured by a market competition between unequally-positioned market actors. Faced by competitors, people will focus on where they are strongest themselves, and they will attack rivals precisely where rivals are the weakest and most vulnerable.

The usual overall effect is, that those who are already in the weakest position, will lose out the most; those in the strongest position can use their strength, to get even stronger. This general result is mitigated only by love and desire (including mimetic desire), charity, philanthropy, government provisions, trade unions, credit unions, and social justice advocacy groups (or political parties). Individual cases can contradict the statistical patterns of inequality, but the statistical patterns of inequality for whole populations are quite persistent.[511] This is very important to women, not just because they want to have the same civil rights as men, but because socio-economic inequality has very bad effects on bearing and raising children.[512]

Erosion of the value-form and energy[edit]

After the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, more Western Marxist theorists and post-Marxists are discussing the spectre of the break-up and supersession of the value-form. Peter Kennedy claims that a “transition in social labour” and an “erosion of the value form” is occurring.[513] Simply put, the theory[514] of the “breaking up of the forms of value” means that:

  • All kinds of markets can no longer function as they should (they become dysfunctional, inefficient and ineffective from the point of view of supplying what people need or want). Therefore, they give rise to non-market methods to obtain resources.
  • In practice, the terms on which market trade can take place, are more and more strongly shaped by non-market influences at work in business competition, gaining access to resources, and deal-making. If you are an "insider", you can be a winner. If you are an "outsider" you are likely to be a loser. This tends to erode market freedoms.
  • Pricing goods, services and assets no longer reflects true supply costs in money terms – exchanges of products, services and assets begin to occur more and more on all kinds of different terms, and not simply cash value. Therefore, monetary valuations no longer express the real valuations being made; non-monetary considerations are involved as well. A discrepancy is created, between the formal appearance of a transaction, and what really occurs informally.

The general result would be, that the market allocation of resources by standardized prices is displaced, combined, or replaced with non-market allocation principles – all kinds of “deals” can be organized, in which money is only one consideration, among many.

Gaining access to resources is, in that case, no longer simply a matter of having sufficient money in one's pocket to buy them. Money alone can no longer guarantee access to resources. It all depends on what kind of cooperation one can get, to clinch some kind of deal. If, for any reason, people do not cooperate, there is no deal. Successful trading then depends more and more on what kind of human (or political) relations there are between people who want to obtain something, and people who offer to supply something.

In the history of trade, markets have of course broken down plenty of times. So this phenomenon is not at all new. But the argument is, that the phenomenon is inevitably happening globally on a larger and larger scale in the long term, so that the whole functioning of capitalism is altered in a structural way. Economists might compute all kinds of complex price calculations for their econometric models, but, it is argued, those calculations can no longer adequately explain the way in which resources are really allocated in the economy. Money-prices may have less and less to do with that.

Ten broad trends can be mentioned that point in the direction of an erosion of the forms of value.

Market corrosion[edit]

The British post-Marxist journalist Paul Mason claimed in The Guardian that “Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era”.[515] Part of that shift, he claimed, is that “information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly… because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. (…) whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm.”[515] Dave Elder-Vass states that "...vast swathes of the economy, including the gift, collaborative and hybrid forms... coexist with more conventional capitalism in the new digital economy."[516] Jeremy Rifkin states that the internet of things can facilitate an economic shift from markets to a collaborative commons, with near-zero marginal costs of production.[517]

There is a lot of “free stuff” available these days that people can get hold of very fast – if they know their way around information. They can often share it very quickly too, all around the world – bypassing markets, money and laws. When information is shared, givers and receivers both have the information, unlike the ownership transfer of an alienable commodity. If people can get a lot of goods for free, it is going to be more difficult to sell things to them. In turn, that disturbs ordinary commercial trading, pricing and market functioning, so that “information corrodes value.”[518]

By contrast, however, the Hayekian Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is optimistic about the potential for "information-rich" markets.[519] Not only can the internet of things link people and commodities very accurately and quickly.[520] The new technology can also police people's property rights, and their market behaviour, creating the possibility of responding to it in real time.[521] New rules, such as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market in the European Union, could block the "free stuff".

Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel stated that "“Without being fully aware of the shift, Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society ... where almost everything is up for sale ... a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, nonmarket values.”[522] In this case, market values are not corroded by non-market values, but non-market values are corroded by market values.

The economist Kenneth Arrow explained, that markets require human trust to operate effectively, but that this trust may not be spontaneously generated by market activity itself:

"In a rational type of analysis it will be said that it is profitable to be trustworthy. So I will be trustworthy because it is profitable to me. But you can't very easily establish trust on a basis like that. If your basis is rational decision and your underlying motive is self-interest, then you can betray your trust at any point when it is profitable and in your interest to do so. Therefore other people can't trust you. For there to be trust, there has to be a social structure which is based on motives different from immediate opportunism."[523]

If it is accepted, that non-market values are corroded by market values, as Sandel claims, then a "social structure" inspired by healthy moral virtues and just laws[524] is also corroded. In turn, that would then increase the scope of opportunism and corruption in trading activity, thereby reducing the trust that is vital for efficient market trade. International trust levels are nowadays surveyed by StrategyOne's Edelman Trust Barometer.[525] John Authers, a senior investment columnist and editor with the Financial Times and Bloomberg News, stated in 2018 that:

“…without trust, finance collapses. (…) And that is a problem. Trust has broken down throughout society. From angry lynch mobs on social media to the fracturing of the western world’s political establishment, this is an accepted fact of life, and it is not merely true of politics. Over the past three decades, trust in markets has evaporated. (...) trust broke down... in financial institutions, in the markets and, most painfully for me, in the financial media.”[526]

The counterargument is, that trade on the basis of some deceit or dishonesty creates reputational risk. Dubious deals can mean that people go elsewhere to buy and sell stuff (if they have that choice), leaving shady traders without customers or suppliers. Honest trade and dishonest trade have always co-existed, despite policing by the state, but the gloomy point is, that it has become uncertain which of the two is likely to prevail in the future.

Loss of value[edit]

Since the 2007-2009 global financial crisis, there is growing concern about whether there are any types of assets left in the world, which can reliably hold their value. A gold standard for currencies is gone. Currency exchange rates can fluctuate very considerably, altering local prices. Global indebtedness continues to grow at a much faster rate than global value-added, accompanied by a sequence of financial bubbles that cause economic havoc and devalue assets when they burst. For the period 1970-2011, IMF researchers identified 147 systemic banking crises, 211 currency crises and 55 sovereign debt crises.[527] Very low interest rates hurt bank profits; but at interest rates below the rate of price inflation, bank clients lose money just by keeping it in the bank.[528] In the US, Robinhood co-CEO Baiju Bhatt stated: “It’s more expensive to have less money in this country. We think that’s wrong.”[529] Although people become reluctant to do anything with their savings, from a financial point of view they should keep trading, to maintain value, or increase it.

In mid-2016, Fitch Ratings estimated that, although the global economy had recovered, there were now $11.7 trillion worth of investments in bonds carrying negative interest rates in real terms, representing almost half of all sovereign bonds issued in developed countries.[530] In November 2018, Bloomberg News commented about a "brutal global market":

”Gather a basket of the world’s biggest assets. Strip out the volatility. Calculate the returns. Then find a nice corner where you can weep, and wish you’d put everything in T-bills. (…) Almost everything is going to lose this year. By one simple measure, this is the worst cross-asset performance in more than a century.”[531]

The financial press spoke of a “credit rout”: credit markets had scored “the worst year since the global financial crisis” with yields on stocks, bonds and commodities all in retreat, often turning negative.[532] High-yield and investment-grade notes were headed “for losses in both euros and dollars”, the first time all four asset classes “posted negative total returns since 2008, based on Bloomberg Barclays indexes”. U.S. investment-grade bonds “posted negative total returns of 3.71 percent in 2018”.[533] Morgan Stanley calculated that, for the first time since the 1970s, the yields for 21 major asset classes were negative for 2018 across the world, in real terms.[534] Morgan Stanley judged that cash (meaning bank deposits and very short term bonds) was the best-performing asset class in 2018.[535]

Michael Hudson noted that in mid-2018 US Treasury notes[536] were approaching an inverted yield curve - the yields for short-term US Treasury bills almost outstripped long-term ones.[537] Hudson said, that investors increasingly had no confidence in the economy, and just wanted “to park their money safely”. The real economy wasn't growing, the only thing that was growing was debts.[538] JP Morgan data showed that the global yield curve for bonds had already inverted (the difference in yields for bonds with 1 to 3 year maturities and those with 7 to 10 year maturities reduced to zero).[539] The Financial Times stated that “global quantitative easing has created a seemingly insatiable demand for five- to 10-year Treasuries, pushing down yields”.[540] Others argued that the yield curve was not yet inverted, just flat.[541] Morgan Stanley data showed that, in 2018, foreign institutions were putting US$100 billion into Chinese government bonds.[542] The first true inversion in the US was observed in December 2018, when the yield on five-year US Treasury notes fell below that on two-year ones.[543] A short time later, the difference in yield between 2-year and 10-year Treasury notes (the definitive indicator) dropped below ten basis points.[544] The Wall Street Journal advised investors explicitly not to panic, because the phenomenon could just be a “temporary kink” which had “no predictive power”[545]

The broader question which Michael Hudson raised, was about why this weird thing could happen at all, and what it says about the condition that the major part of US business is in, the mentality of investors, etc. In the US, recessions and depressions since World War 2 (so far 11 downturns in total, on average occurring every 6.6 years)[546] are usually preceded by an inverted yield curve for Treasury notes (within an average time-frame of 21 months). Billionaire investor Stan Druckenmiller stated, in September 2018, that the next financial crisis would likely be worse than the last one, because of skyrocketing debt loads. “We have this massive debt problem. We tripled down on what caused the [last] crisis. And we tripled down on it globally.”[547] Following this type of expectation, many investors put their money into government bonds, even if the real yield on the bonds was close to zero, or negative.

In the crash of 2007-2009, the property values of US homes dropped by about 30% on average, and around one in every five mortgaged homes was suddenly "under water" (where the loaned amount was at least 25% higher, than the estimated market value of the home - in the "normal" situation, at most 1 out of 50 mortgaged homes would be "underwater"). Between 2007 and 2016 there were 7.8 million foreclosures of mortgaged homes in the US, where households under financial pressure were forced out.[548] This was equivalent to around one quarter of all mortgaged homes. Subsequently, the housing market recovered. Yet ten years later, more than 5 million American mortgaged homes (around one in ten owner-occupied mortgaged homes) were still seriously "underwater".[549]

New School researchers found that, between the spring of 2009 and the fall of 2011, about 45 percent of the US workers they studied saw their retirement account-balances decrease by thousands of dollars. For many workers, renewed gains in pension funds after the financial crash of 2008 could only partly offset the losses.[550] In the old capitalism, working people were rewarded for saving money, but in the new financialized capitalism, they are often punished for saving.[551] There is no certainty anymore what exactly their savings will be worth, when they retire. What is certain is that the current generation of US pensioners is the first one since World War 2 which is financially worse off than the preceding generation.[552] The situation in Europe and Japan is much the same.[553]

Price volatility[edit]

Price volatility can be a boon to speculators (if the trend goes their way), but to many business people it is a pain, as became clear for example in the Brexit controversy. Much of global production is now subject to intellectual property rights (IPRs), yet the commercial value of knowledge, data and information can be volatile. IPRs are often difficult to defend against raiders, when people's privacy is destroyed. Knowledge and information can not only spike in value, but also quickly become worthless. Many financial products now exist, such as level 3 assets[554] and cryptocurrencies, of which the exact value is unknown or highly variable. Global market volatility can rapidly wipe out trillions of dollars of value.[555] Financial Times editor Gillian Tett reported that:

“… the real danger in finance is the not one that tends to be discussed: that banks will topple over (as they did in 2008). It is, rather, the threat that investors and investment groups will be wiped out by wild price swings from an unexpected political shock, be that central bank policy swings, trade bans, election results or Brexit. “Investors have been driven into investments where they have very little capability for dealing with what is on their plate,” Mr Weber observed. “You can nowadays see the entire return that you expect for a year being wiped out for a single day move in the market. And that is an unprecedented situation.”[556]

Stock market volatility is measured by the VIX (the CBOE Volatility Index), colloquially known as the "fear index" or the "fear gauge". The financial community and the political class try to do their best to maintain the stability of society, but they cannot fully control what all the people and all the markets are going to do. For example, a majority of Brits unexpectedly voted for a Brexit, throwing a spanner in the works. After 28 January 2018, about $4 trillion worth of stock value in stock markets disappeared in little more than a week, although the stock markets subsequently recovered.[557]

For well-insured rich people, it may not be so devastating if they lose part of their capital (they can often recover it within a few years, using the capital they still have),[558] but the worry is what sudden, very large losses can do to the world economy. The magnitude and negative impact of price volatility on trade (including foreign exchange rates) is usually greater in less developed (poorer) countries, because they lack a sophisticated financial system, hedging facilities to reduce currency risks, and financial buffers to cope with sudden, major changes in prices.

Thomas Hobbes, writing his Leviathan in the 17th century, remarked that:

"The value, or worth of a man, is, as of all other things, his price, that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power: and therefore is not absolute; but a thing dependent on the need and judgement of another.”[559]

In a digitalized, globalized 21th century world, buzzing with possibilities to connect or disconnect, people may start to regard themselves – seriously or surrealistically – as a kind of "stock" in the social marketplace, with a rather volatile value, which goes up and down all the time – whether they like that, or not. Depending on the public or private perceptions of what they do or don't do with themselves, their value goes up, or it goes down, and it can do so more or less instantly.[560] The value of a person who is an outlier could go up and down like a yoyo, because the process of price discovery is difficult. This can become a challenge, causing uncertainty, discomfort or ambivalence, if it is difficult to control or evade. It creates pressures to "manage" the impressions that other people have (see also impression management). It could affect the way people dress, where they go, who they connect with, and so on, all of which could influence perceptions of their “worth”, and consequently whether they get endorsements or rejections.

All these forms of "price volatility" suggest, that there is a dimension of "value" now gaining prominence, which is to an important extent unpredictable, capricious, uncontrollable and elusive, tricking even the most powerful government institutions at times. The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman refers to a new era of "liquid modernity", which alters the whole way in which individuals see themselves, and their relationship with others and the world.[561]

Unreliable valuations[edit]

To defeat competitors, dodge taxes and please investors, businesses increasingly fiddle their accounts and hide parts of their operations. Aided by multiple subsidiary or associated companies - often sited in different countries - company holdings, earnings and operations can be “tweaked”: liabilities can be turned into assets, assets into liabilities; incomes can be turned into costs, and costs into incomes; and operating cash flows can be altered – according to the kind of accounting method that is most favourable for the business group (see also creative accounting). In 2004, Trevor S. Harris, a chief accounting analyst at Morgan Stanley stated that "The financial reporting system is completely broken."[562] This begins to upset the traditional economic rationality of costs and benefits in market activity (in particular, it becomes legally possible to get rich through debt leverage which indebts other people).

If the value of a company to investors is defined as the present value of future cash flows, it is not primarily what the company has achieved financially in the present that is important, but what that achievement is "likely" to be worth in the future. This motivates companies to present attractive numbers to investors. In Australia, the Financial Review reported in 2016 that 40% of ASX top-500 companies use "non-standard" financial measures such as "underlying profit" and "underlying earnings", calling into question the very purpose of having uniform accounting standards.[563] KPMG researchers found that many ASX200 companies were not fully complying with government guidelines for reporting financial data to investors.[564] Similar stories can be found in most other countries. The Financial Times quoted a boardmember of an auditing firm as saying that “The problem with fair value accounting is that it’s very hard to differentiate between mark-to-market, mark-to-model and mark-to-myth.”[565]

Through stock buybacks a company can drive up its share price, and deliver earnings to shareholders without any change in company performance - if corporate officers get paid in stocks and stock options, they get a pay rise every time the stock's value rises.[566] In February 2018, the US Senate Democrats released a special report which stated that a sample of just 33 corporations were planning $209 billion worth of buybacks in 2018, while at the same time laying off large numbers of workers.[567] According to Goldman Sachs, US companies authorized $1 trillion worth of stock buybacks in 2018,[568] while Europe, Canada, Japan and industrialized East Asian countries also got into the act with a combined $248 billion of buyouts in the first half of 2018.[569] The global equity market was "shrinking at the fastest pace in at least two decades" although its total value was still increasing, partly due to buybacks pushing up stock prices.[570] The Financial Times raised the spectre of the "slow death of public stock markets"':

"The basic agreement around public markets for most of the 20th century was this: owners had to open the books, quarter after quarter, and in return they got access to the private savings of ordinary citizens. What we're seeing now is that corporations have access to enough private savings of wealthy citizens that they're walking away from the deal... We know less about what companies are doing."[571]

The general effect is, that the true economic value or benefit of what business does, becomes more difficult to know; transparency is lacking. Shareholders are encouraged to have faith in a company, although there may in truth exist no reliable valuation of company operations. In October 2010, the EU dropped the idea of a financial transactions tax (a Tobin tax or Robin Hood tax), citing among its reasons the bewildering complexity of international transactions, which makes implementing and enforcing the tax far too difficult and costly.[572]

The commons[edit]

The ordinary capitalist logic fails to provide any agreed standard valuation, or property right, for new kinds of “semi-public” goods that are considered to have a lot of economic value, such as social networks, collective intellectual and cultural assets, eco-systems, and stocks of non-renewable natural resources. These resources are often called "the commons" (nobody owns them, or everybody owns them, so therefore somebody can take them).[573]

Realistic pricing by business presumes that things can be privately owned and sold (or leased, rented, hired etc.). If resources can be obtained and used without cost (because they are “free goods”) or accessible at near-zero cost, they are more likely to be plundered or wasted.[574] For example, in the Pacific Ocean, there are a lot of fish in the open sea, nobody owns them, and they are harvested using industrial fishing techniques with giant dragnets. The result is, that fish stocks are decreasing very fast (see also Fishing down the food web).[575] The feasibility of generating new fish populations depends on whether the food chain on which the fish depend is still there.

The invention of an ingenious system of global carbon emissions trading, which priced carbon emissions, and promoted trade in pollution allowances to reduce pollution in the air that we breathe, failed to reach its goal.[576] For the year 2015, health experts estimated conservatively that 9 million premature deaths in the world (that is 16% of all the deaths that occur in the world per year, i.e. 4 deaths out of every 25 deaths per year) were attributable to pollution, with air pollution being the biggest killer. The biggest numbers of pollution deaths occur in Africa, China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Only around 155,000 Americans die from pollution per year (out of 2.7 million deaths per year, i.e. about 1 pollution death in every 17 deaths per year) - in the West, the pollution problem “dropped off the radar", as the focus was on global warming.[577]

Network sites such as Facebook and Linkedin do not make their money directly from having access to other people's friendships, but from selling information, advertising, broadcasting, games, sponsorships and access privileges. The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal indicated that the for-profit, legalized robbery and exploitation of information about people's known personal networks - amongst other things to dupe them into voting for right-wing politicians - has become a big business internationally. Gigantic data thefts nowadays occur every year, but the victims may never know that their data and work was stolen, or who stole it.[578] In 2016, it was reported that an estimated 4 billion data records were stolen by hackers.[579] However, when people sign up for accounts with Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft etc. they have no idea of what their personal data (trillions of records) are going to be used for. People often don't even know how to protect their own data or their own privacy, other than not to use their computer. Corporations can legally "scrape" gigantic amounts of personal information, and do with it what they like - people will probably never know what happened, and they cannot find out what happened, even if they tried.[580]

Misvaluation of work[edit]

The rewards and valuations for work effort, trade unionists complain, have gone way out of proportion, so that many people work extremely hard for long hours, just to earn a few dollars, while others get paid gigantic sums of money just to have a chat, to be present, or to give a bit of attention.[581]

  • A US study published in May 2018 by Minnesota’s Democratic US congressman Keith Ellison found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio had reached 339 to 1, with the highest pay gap approaching 5,000 to 1 (for every dollar an ordinary worker earns, a CEO on average gets $339 and can earn close to $5,000).[582]
  • According to Martin A. Sullivan, chief economist with Tax Analysts, “The way you get rich in this world is not by working hard. It’s by owning large amounts of assets and having those things appreciate in value.”[583] The argument is here not that CEO's "do not work hard", but that they and other wealthy people could never accumulate all the wealth that they do, simply from their own salary. The wealth accumulates faster, through wealth managers leveraging and trading personal assets for profit and capital gain. "Little of Jeff Bezos’ and Bill Gates’s wealth, for instance, came from wages, salaries, and benefits... It came from owning stock".[584] Martin Wolf stated in 2018 that "If the natural tendency of our economies is towards ever-rising rent extraction and inequality, with all its dire social and political results, we need to respond in a thoughtful and determined way. That is the great challenge."[585]
  • Kevin Bales reports that "for the first time in human history, there is an absolute glut of potential slaves... with so many possible slaves, their value has plummeted. Slaves are now so cheap, that they have become cost-effective in many new kinds of work. (...) Slaveholders get all the work they can out of their slaves, and then throw them away."[586] In 2017, the ILO estimated conservatively that across 2011-2016, 89 million people (roughly equal to the population of Germany or the Democratic Republic of Congo) were enslaved worldwide for shorter or longer intervals of time, 25 million were permanently subject to forced labour, 15 million females were enslaved in a forced marriage, and 152 million children aged between 5 and 17 were subjected to child labour. There are estimated to be about 400,000 slaves in the United States. Of all slaves, two out of three are female (see also Global Slavery Index).[587]
  • James Crotty argues that top executives in the financial world nowadays get richly rewarded regardless of whether there is a crash or a boom. Since they just keep getting huge bonus payments, even when their own company suffers very large losses, they are "perversely incentivized" to continue the high-risk and high-leverage investment strategies which destabilize the financial system as a whole.[588] Yet even if CEO's would take a drastic pay cut, the fact remains that total debt levels are escalating regardless, and require more and more earnings from any source, to pay more and more interest on loans - which pits private investors against central banks when the banks try to raise rates.

The argument then is, that if the financial incentives and disincentives for work effort have gone totally out of kilter, markets cannot deliver a fair and efficient allocation of resources anymore.

Market failure[edit]

Governments are involved more and more in sorting out market failure (and pick up the tab for it - see also lemon socialism).[589] An editor of the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, remarked famously about the financial sector that "No [other] industry has a comparable talent for privatising gains and socialising losses."[590] Some years later, he explained that "Today’s banks represent the incarnation of profit-seeking behaviour taken to its logical limits, in which the only question asked by senior staff is not what is their duty or their responsibility, but what can they get away with."[591] Yet the role of bank services is crucial to operate gigantic transaction volumes, and governments have fewer and fewer resources available to repair business damage, because of privatization, state corruption, and the looting of state funds or tax-dodging by private interests (kickbacks, privatization, pork barrel politics, lobby group power, corporatization, securitization, rent-seeking, arbitrary budget cuts, financial bailouts, regressive tax, tax evasion etc.).[592]

People across the world are now literally being priced out of markets, not just in poor countries,[593] but also in rich countries.[594]

  • According to a McKinsey Global report, “In the United States, 40 percent of adults surveyed by the Federal Reserve System said they would struggle to cover an unexpected expense of $400. One-quarter of nonretired adults have no pension or retirement savings. Outstanding student loans now top $1.4 trillion, exceeding credit-card debt—and unlike nearly all other forms of debt, they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.“[595]
  • In San Francisco, well-paid teachers are living in dorms, because they cannot afford to buy a home in the city anymore - house prices have gone beyond their reach.[596] This is the reverse situation of what happened in the property boom up to 2007. At that time, quite a few Californian teachers found they could make more money from rising property values, than from their job. In 2017, only half of the households in California owned their homes, but one out of every three renters - roughly six million people - paid more than half of their total income to their landlord.[597] In Los Angeles, tenants staged a rent strike in protest.[598]
  • Richard Florida reported in 2017 that "An acre of central land in New York City is worth approximately 72 times more than an acre of central Atlanta or Pittsburgh, and almost 1,400 times more than the same in many small Rust Belt and Sunbelt metros.[599]
  • On behalf of many of the world's large cities, the mayor of Barcelona called on the United Nations to do something to help stop real estate speculators from driving up the cost of housing.[600] The Cities for Adequate Housing statement signed by mayors of eight big cities calls for more powers for local authorities, to better regulate the real estate market; more funds to improve public housing stock; more tools to co-produce alternative public-private and community-driven housing solutions; urban planning schemes that combine adequate housing and quality neighborhoods that are both inclusive and sustainable; and city council cooperation in residential strategies.[601]
  • Although on average people are now living longer than they did before, the 2017 Global Medical Trends Survey Report by Willis Towers Watson states that "The cost of medical care continues to rise across the globe with no light at the end of the tunnel."[602] Americans like to see themselves as the most advanced nation on earth, but to get the same medical care and cover as Europeans, Americans spend 2.5 times more money; Americans have the highest medical bills on earth.[603]
  • In 2016, New Zealand researchers reported that during 2013, at least one in every 100 New Zealanders was de facto homeless, compared with 1 in 120 in 2006, and 1 in 130 in 2001.[604] They sleep at a friend's place or with relatives, in motels, garages, sheds, cars, stations etc. At that time, in 2016, the country was at the top of Knight Frank's global ranking of countries for property price-rises, and for the first time, the average house price in Auckland hit NZ$1 million (=US$715,000, €585,000, £513,000).[605] The median NZ salary was at US$35,000, meaning that the average Auckland house price was around 20x the median annual salary or around 10x median household income.[606] Average Auckland house prices are expected to increase 300% in twenty years, and reach NZ$3 million by 2036.[607]

The warped price structures of financialized capitalism increasingly cause large social dislocations and technical change across the world, because it is no longer economically possible for large masses of people to live and work in the normal way, within large geographic areas. They have to change their lifestyle drastically, or are forced out.[608] The rich buy up the beautiful areas, and the poor have to live in the ugly, derelict and polluted areas.[609] As rich people cause the largest amount of pollution,[610] many poor people take a dim view of bourgeois environmentalism aiming to protect nature.[611]

Yet great poverty can also be destructive for the environment. Suffering hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar and absolute poverty, masses of people in Zimbabwe took to cutting down forest, wildlife poaching[612] and gold or diamond mining on own initiative, to make a living and survive (See also Marange diamond fields). It is estimated that between 1990 and 2005, Zimbabwe lost 21 percent (one-fifth) of its forest cover (i.e. 4.7 million hectares), and currently 313,000 hectares of forest disappear every year.[613] In 2013, 15% of the deforestation concerned land-clearing for tobacco-farming, and getting firewood for tobacco-curing.[614] According to a Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force report in June 2007, more than half of all Zimbabwe's wildlife had died since 2000, due to poaching and deforestation.[615] Land degradation is expected to cause major soil erosion, plus flooding and groundwater-pollution problems, significantly reducing the habitable farmland area.[616]

Rich people are increasingly on the move too, trying to escape from high taxes, unsafe conditions, environmental hazards and socio-political instability. According to the Global Wealth Migration Review 2018, some 95,000 millionaires (HNWIs) migrated in 2017, top destinations being North America, Australasia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Switzerland and Singapore. The exit of wealthy people affected mainly China, India, Turkey, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela.[617]

Organizational instability[edit]

The management of both business and government organizations has become permanently unstable, and restructuring is nowadays a never-ending process,[618] so that staff is constantly being replaced or shifted around, while work systems are being redesigned all the time – giving rise to complaints that nothing works anymore like it should and that there is no job security anymore.[619] If job security is gone, workers have less freedom, because they have less control over what will or might happen to their lives in the future; it becomes more difficult for them to make good life-choices and plans, if they don't even have reasonably good information about what is likely to happen, financially or otherwise. If things are in flux, or in a chaos, it gets hard to know what can be concluded from the experience of what happens and judge things well. Sufficient order and predictability are needed, to be able to learn and adapt constructively to new situations.

According to the Dutch central bank, half the fall of the Dutch wage-share in the country's net value-added across 1996-2015 was attributable to "labour market flexibilization".[620]

Throwing more money at the problems however may not solve very much organizationally, although employees are grateful for extra cash. Repeatedly the money just disappears down a hole.[621] When some of America's most powerful and well-resourced corporations were paid billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq, it turned out that they couldn't even organize basic things properly, like getting the power, water and gas connected again.[622]

There is much uncertainty and unease about what the future might bring, because nobody really knows for sure what will happen, except that new crises are likely. The Global Risks Report 2018 of the elite World Economic Forum group envisages the scenario of "the death of trade", or "the end of trade as we know it".[623] This would involve escalating trade wars, currency wars, and geopolitical turmoil that spread quickly around the globe, with weak regulatory bodies powerless to resolve anything. International laws, agreements and conventions would no longer be heeded; commercial trade would be governed by the law of the jungle and military power.

Similarly, in April 2018, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde referred to anxieties about global trade and tariff wars, a few years into the future. She said that national protectionist policies could tear apart the institutional and legal frameworks governing global trade.[624]

The informal circuit[edit]

Globally, the shadow economy, the informal sector, the scope of criminal activity, corruption and the unemployed "surplus population" all remain very large.[625] A lot of petty crime is no longer reported or recorded, since the police does not have the resources to cope with it, and victims do not bother to report it anymore.[626] Kiki Seokhee Yoon states that "To the best of our knowledge, the probability that a crime will be reported is about 50 percent or less."[627] Buonanno et al. (2017) say that "measuring crime is a challenging issue for social scientists".[628]

According to CNN Money, "Top executives at the so-called "too big to fail" banks have avoided any criminal charges, even as their banks paid tens of billions of dollars in fines to settle charges of wrongdoing leading up to the financial crisis."[629]

Friedrich Schneider however claims the shadow economy is decreasing in the long run.[630]

The Corruption Perceptions Index is only an indicator of corruption in the public sector of the economy, and not of corruption in the private sector, even although the private sector is much larger than the public sector. This index cannot show whether the total amount of corruption globally is increasing, constant, or decreasing. A more comprehensive measure is the Global Corruption Barometer.

In a criminalized capitalism, where the state and the private sector increasingly work together to rob and exploit the people, crime does pay. Yet the decay of bourgeois values does not automatically prompt a struggle for better values. It could also lead to a long-term degeneration of all human values, the destruction of humanism, and the disappearance of belief in the sanctity of human life and in the defense of human dignity.”[631]


More and more alternatives are developing to the capitalist mode of production, for the purpose of making a life, for allocating resources, for work and for organizing production (see also Sharing economy).[632] If people share instead of competing, they can often reduce their costs. This insight is especially important to people when they have become impoverished.


The overall economic importance of these ten trends for capitalist value relations is disputed, among other things because they have always existed to some or other extent. It isn't clear, in what sense quantitative changes also imply qualitative changes in the functioning of capitalist society, or to what extent qualitative changes are quantitatively significant.

  • Critics of capitalism argue that there are problems for capitalism today that cannot be solved at all, within the framework of capitalist value relations.[633]
  • Supporters of capitalism argue that ways will be found to get round the problems, and that capitalism is flexible or resilient enough to overcome all crises.[634]
  • The supporters of Henryk Grossman are firmly focused on the collapse of capitalism, when total surplus value shrinks and class struggle intensifies.[635]
  • Another position says that the problems can be solved within capitalism in some piecemeal or ad hoc way, but that this occurs at the expense of a gradual degeneration of capitalism.[636]
  • Some argue that capitalism is evolving or mutating into a post-capitalism, managerial capitalism, hypercapitalism, cybercapitalism or semiocapitalism - with different kinds of property rights and work organization.[637]
  • The term late capitalism has made a comeback in the United States, as an ironic expression referring to absurd, hypocritical, unjust and fake aspects of contemporary business civilization.[638] Paul Krugman stated in 2018 that “I’ve had several interviews lately in which I was asked whether capitalism had reached a dead end, and needed to be replaced with something else. I’m never sure what the interviewers have in mind; neither, I suspect, do they.”[639]
  • There are also intellectuals on the Left and the Right who argue that, if present trends continue, we are headed for a mediocre, dumbed down capitalism, where expectations are low, economic growth is lacklustre and nothing works properly anymore.[640]

So there is no agreement about the future of capitalism, the prognoses are difficult to prove, and all kinds of things could contingently happen.[641] All the different perspectives may have part of the truth. Hillel Ticktin, the editor of the socialist journal Critique, describes the global situation as "an intermediate period in a transitional world."[642] Mark Blaug argued that "the central weakness of modern economics" is "the reluctance to produce the theories that yield unambiguously refutable implications, followed by a general unwillingness to confront those implications with the facts."[643] These days accurate and comprehensive forecasts are worth gigantic amounts of money, and so, such forecasts often become a well-guarded secret. A lot of research is no longer being done, because if it is done, it is immediately stolen without trace (by hackers and burglars who want to cream off and head off the most advanced ideas at their point of production, in real time). In 2018, The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked a severe cyber attack crippling corporate and government activities among the top 10 risks to the global economy.[644] At the micro-level, Dutch researchers studied a sample of 1,058 youths aged 12 to 18 years in 2018, and found that 5.1% of youths said they had sometimes hacked without permission into email accounts, 15,2% into mobile phones, and 5,4% into networks. Around 12% said they hadn't done it, but could do it. 54.6% said they would "never hack", but 45.4% said they might give it a try.[645]

In the wake of each big capitalist crisis, both Marxists[646] and non-Marxists[647] have prophesied the end of capitalism.[648] Critics of breakdown theories, by contrast, argue that systemic crises, though hardly pleasant, are precisely the way through which the developmental problems and growing pains of capitalist business are resolved.[649] Each crisis can also be approached not as a cause of misery, but as an opportunity to do things differently, or to realize the things that powerful people wanted to get done for a long time already.[650] Things “get to the crunch” and when they do, business leaders and politicians have to do something about them.[651] Through terrible ordeals, new techniques for managing, controlling and exploiting people are developed, which later go mainstream.[652] And, after a fierce competition (or a war) involving capitalists, workers, states and nations, a new era of economic growth usually opens up. In the new era, typically a completely new group of capitalists takes the driving seat.[653]

So although it might “seem like” the end of capitalism is nigh, it could also be merely a transition to a new kind of capitalism – a new capitalist regime, which evolved out of what was there before, but which few people had thought of, before it emerged.[654] As an allocation principle, the forms of value could possibly be much more persistent and long-lasting than Marxists and socialists think, even if they mutate into new configurations.

It is also possible that a new scientific understanding of socialism and communism will still emerge in the future, that sheds new light on the role of value in human society.[655] So far, this understanding is actively blocked and suppressed by Western Marxist academics, among other things because they believe that socialism never existed and/or cannot exist, and that value, markets and money are basically the same things. Some argue, that socialism should not exist, only full communism should exist - with lots of nice clothes, houses, Ferraris, yachts etc. Ernest Mandel states that, for the top communist functionaries in the Stalinist era, there was a sense in which communism already existed. Firstly, whenever these communist leaders withdrew funds from their Gosbank account to buy things, their debit was automatically cancelled out with a new credit to the same amount. Secondly, they could go to special shops not accessible to the general public, where they could buy almost anything they wanted. The elite banking practice was stopped by Nikita Khrushchev's government.[656]


John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett (2018) state that "...we are seeing today numerous attempts to conceptualize commodity value as the product not just of human labor, but of animal labor in general and, beyond that, of energy in general".[498] Since 2016, the post-Keynesian economist Steve Keen has argued that any credible theory of value, whether classical, neo-classical or heterodox, must be consistent with the physical laws of thermodynamics. He claims that “every school of thought from the Neoclassicals to the Marxists” had been wrong on this issue, and all previous theories of economic value are flawed for that reason.

This is not a new idea (it was raised by Elmar Altvater in 1991,[657] Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in 1971,[658] and Frederick Soddy in 1921)[659] but Keen proposes a new type of production function, in which energy plays an essential role.[660] The economist Anwar Shaikh however rejects the neo-classical concept of the production function as kind of sudoku game,[661] preferring a reconstructed classical economics solidly based on empirical facts and econometric evidence.[662]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In English, one would normally say "the form of value", "the form that value takes" or "the form in which value is expressed" but the expression "value-form" is often used, because of the specific concept that Marx had in mind.
  2. ^ Samezō Kuruma, Marx’s Theory of the Genesis of Money. How, Why, and Through What is a Commodity Money? Leiden: Brill, 2018.
  3. ^ Costas Lapavitsas, Social foundations of money, markets and credit. London: Routledge, 2003; Simon Mohun, "Value, Value Form and Money", in Simon Mohun (ed.), Debates in Value Theory. Macmillan: London, 1994; Alfredo Saad-Filho, The value of Marx. London: Routledge, 2002, section 2.2.
  4. ^ Hans-Georg Backhaus, Dialektik der Wertform, 2nd. edition. Freiburg: ça ira Verlag, 2011. Riccardo Bellofiore and Tommaso Redolfi Riva, "Hans-Georg Backhaus: the critique of premonetary theories of value and the perverted forms of economic reality. In: Beverly Best et al. (eds.), The Sage handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. London: Sage, 2018, pp. 386-401.
  5. ^ Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Josh Robinson, and Nicholas Brown (eds.), Marxism and the Critique of Value. Chicago: MCM Publishing, 2014.[1] [2]
  6. ^ Helmut Brentel, Soziale Form und ökonomisches Objekt. Studien zum Gegenstands- und Methodenverständnis der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 1989. Hoon Hong, "Marx's value forms and Hayek's rules: a reinterpretation in the light of the dichotomy between physis and nomos." Cambridge Review of Economics, Vol. 26, No. 5, September 2002, pp. 613-635.
  7. ^ "What I proceed from is the simplest social form in which the product of labour presents itself in contemporary society, and this is the "commodity." This I analyse, initially in the form in which it appears. Here I find that on the one hand in its natural form it is a thing for use, alias a use-value; on the other hand, a bearer of exchange-value, and from this point of view it is itself an "exchange-value." Further analysis of the latter shows me that exchange-value is merely a "form of appearance," an independent way of presenting the value contained in the commodity, and then I start on the analysis of the latter... the concrete social form of the product of labour, the "commodity," is on the one hand, use-value and on the other, "value," not exchange value, since the mere form of appearance is not its own content." — Karl Marx, Notes on Adolph Wagner's "Lehrbuch der politischen Ökonomie, 1879.[3]
  8. ^ "The individual commodity viewed as the product, the actual elementary component of capital that has been generated and reproduced, differs then from the individual commodity with which we began, and which we regarded as an autonomous article, as the precondition [Voraussetzung] of capital formation." - Karl Marx, "Results of the immediate process of production", in: Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 966 (translation corrected).
  9. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, chapter 1, section 3.
  10. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Pelican edition, pp. 141–142.
  11. ^ Hans G. Ehrbar, "Critical realist arguments in Marx's Capital", pp. 43-56 in: Andrew Brown, Steve Fleetwood and John Michael Roberts (eds.), Critical Realism and Marxism. London: Routledge, 2002.
  12. ^ Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., pp. 89–90).
  13. ^ Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed. 1976, p. 273.
  14. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 139.
  15. ^ Wolfgang Streeck, "The Fourth Power?". New Left Review #110, March–April 2018, p. 141.[4]
  16. ^ Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., p. 90.
  17. ^ Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., p. 94).
  18. ^ The original version is translated in: Karl Marx, "The Value Form", Capital and Class, No.4, Spring 1978, pp. 130-150.[5], or Albert Dragstedt (ed.), Value: studies by Marx. London: New Park Publications, 1976.
  19. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin, 1976, p. 90. Marx also uses the expressions "elementary form" [Elementarform] and "germinal form" [Keimform]
  20. ^ Marx describes capitalist society as "a society where the commodity-form is the universal form of the product of labour, hence the dominant social relation is the relation between people as possessors of commodities". He argues that "The capitalist epoch is... characterized by the fact that labour-power, in the eyes of the worker himself, takes on the form of a commodity which is his property; his labour consequently takes on the form of wage-labour... it is only from this moment that the commodity-form of the products of labour becomes universal." Thus, "...from the moment there is a free sale, by the worker himself, of labour power as a commodity... from then onwards... commodity production is generalized and becomes the typical form of production." – Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin edition 1976, resp. p. 152, p. 274, p. 733.
  21. ^ Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin 1973, p. 881.
  22. ^ Isaak Illich Rubin, Essays on Marx's theory of value. Detroit: Black & Red, 1972, p. 37ff and p. 137ff.
  23. ^ Guido Starosta, "The Commodity-Form and the Dialectical Method: On the Structure of Marx's Exposition in chapter 1 of 'Capital'." Science & Society, Vol. 72, No. 3, July 2008, pp. 295-318.
  24. ^ The German term for transformation is Verwandlung, which also means metamorphosis. In the evolution from one form to another, part of its content is preserved, while part of it is changed. Marx details numerous "transformations" in methods of working and trading, which results in transformations of the meaning of the economic categories which are used to understand them. See Jindřich Zelený, The Logic of Marx. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980.
  25. ^ Roman Rosdolsky,The Making of Marx's Capital. London: Pluto, 1977.
  26. ^ Jindřich Zelený, The Logic of Marx. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980.
  27. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1981, p. 956.
  28. ^ Andre Gunder Frank, "Equating Economic Forecasting with Astrology is an Insult - to Astrologers". In: Contemporary Crisis (Amsterdam), Vol. 4, No. 4, 1978, pp. 97-102 and Andre Gunder Frank "On Losing Sight of the Forest for Looking at the Trees". In: Development & Change (The Hague), Vol. 15, No. 3, July 1984, pp. 457-463; Philippe Rich, “Economic forecasting: any better than astrology?” The Bull & Bear, 1 February 2015.[6]
  29. ^ Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859),
  30. ^ Currently the best English translation is published by Penguin Books and Vintage Books.
  31. ^ Christopher J. Arthur, "Hegel’s Theory of the Value Form" [1988]. Reprinted in: Christopher J. Arthur, The new dialectic and Marx's Capital. Leiden: Brill, 2004, pp. 175-199; Christopher J. Arthur, "Marx, Hegel and the Value-Form". In: Fred Moseley and Tony Smith (eds.), Marx’s Capital and Hegel’s Logic: A Reexamination. Leiden: Brill, 2014, pp. 269-291. Arthur bases himself on: György Lukács, The Young Hegel: studies in the relations between dialectics and economics. London: Merlin Press, 1975.
  32. ^ Ronald L. Meek, “Karl Marx’s economic method”, in: Ronald L. Meek, Studies in the labour theory of value, 2nd edition. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1956, p. 302f; Jindřich Zelený, The Logic of Marx. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980, p. 50.
  33. ^ See Tino Heim, Metamorphosen des Kapitals: kapitalistische Vergesellschaftung und Perspektiven einer kritischen Sozialwissenschaft nach Marx, Foucault und Bourdieu. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2013.
  34. ^ Bertell Ollman, Alienation, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1976, p. 187-194; Andrea Ricci, “Metamorphoses of Value. The Concept of a Commodity in Marx’s Capital”. Quaderni di economia, matematica e statistica, Vol. 27, Issue 9, 2017, pp. 1-23.
  35. ^ Bertell Ollman, Alienation: Marx's conception of man in capitalist society, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976, p. 191f.
  36. ^ Thomas T. Sekine, "The necessity of the law of value". Science & Society, Vol. 44, No. 3, Fall 1980, pp. 289-304.
  37. ^ Nasser Saber, Speculative capital: the invisible hand of global finance. London: Pearson Education Ltd, 1999, p. 39f.
  38. ^ Some classic texts on primitive and ancient trade are: Marshall Sahlins, Stone age economics. London: Tavistock Publications, 1974; Karl Polanyi et al., Trade and markets in the ancient empires. Glencoe: The Free Press, 1957; J.A. Sabloff & C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky (eds.), Ancient civilization and trade. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975. Peter Garnsey et al., Trade in the Ancient Economy. University of California Press, 1983; Philip D. Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984; Cynthia Clark Northrup and Jerry H. Bentley (eds.), Encyclopedia of World Trade: From Ancient Times to the Present. Routledge, 2004.
  39. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Pelican edition, p. 182.
  40. ^ Hans-Georg Backhaus, Dialektik der Wertform, 2nd. edition. Freiburg: ça ira Verlag, 2011, pp. 93-128.
  41. ^ Letter of Friedrich Engels to Werner Sombart, March 11, 1895.[7]
  42. ^ Marshall Sahlins, Stone age economics. London: Tavistock Publications, 1974, p. 289.
  43. ^ Jean-Michel Servet, "Primitive order and archaic trade, Part II". In: Economy & Society, Vol. 11, No. 1, February 1982, p. 22-58, at p. 22.
  44. ^ See Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Critique of Commodity Aesthetics: Appearance, Sexuality and Advertising in Capitalist Society. Introduced by Stuart Hall. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, chapter 1; Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour: a critique of epistemology. London: Macmillan, 1978; Craig Pritchard, "Value: an inquiry into relations, forms and struggles". In: Raza Mir et al., The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies. Milton Park: Routledge, 2016, pp. 575 - 583.
  45. ^ Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., pp. 179–180.
  46. ^ Mario Bunge, "A model for processes combining competition with cooperation". Applied Mathematical Modelling, Vol. 1, Issue 1, June 1976, pp. 21-23.[8]
  47. ^ Penguin ed., p. 241ff.
  48. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour: a critique of epistemology. London: Macmillan, 1978; Zoe Sherman, "Opening Value Theory to the Brand". Rethinking Marxism, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2017, pp. 592-609.
  49. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour: a critique of epistemology. London: Macmillan, 1978; Helmut Brentel, Soziale Form und ökonomisches Objekt. Studien zum Gegenstands- und Methodenverständnis der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 1989, pp. 285, 309-310, 321.
  50. ^ Derek Sayer, Marx's method. Hassocks, Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1979, chapter 2: "The language of commodities".
  51. ^ By topsy-turvy world, Marx means mainly that objects become subjects and vice versa, or that means become ends, or vice versa, with the effect that the true relationship between cause and effect is inverted and that things are no longer what they seem to be. Another translation is "a looking-class world", after Lewis Carroll, defined by the OED as "An imaginary place conceived of as being visible in the image shown in a looking-glass, especially one in which the principles which underpin the real world (as the rules of logic, the laws of physics, etc.) operate differently, or in reverse."[9]
  52. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1976, pp. 143-144 (sexist translation by Ben Fowkes corrected).
  53. ^ Friedrich Hayek recognized that market participation does not require complete understanding of markets and prices. See F. A. Hayek, "Coping With Ignorance". Imprimis, Volume 7, Number 7, July 1978.[10]
  54. ^ Most Central Banks nowadays have mathematical models which can predict the total pattern of purchases and sales in their country with considerable accuracy.
  55. ^ For example, Ernest Mandel, Karl Marx, Part 4: "For Marx, labour is value."[11] Bertell Ollman Alienation: Marx's conception of man in capitalist society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975, chapter 26, p. 176 (2nd ed. p. 175). Guglielmo Carchedi, Frontiers of political economy. London: Verso, 1991, p. 102.
  56. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., p. 146.
  57. ^ Eric Rutkow, American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. Scribner, 2012.
  58. ^ a b Paul Einzig, Primitive money in its ethnological, historical and economic aspects. Pergamon, 1966.
  59. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., p. 183.
  60. ^ Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 3. Moscow: Progress, 1975, p. 312. Karl Marx,Capital, Volume II, chapter 4. [12].
  61. ^ Bruce G. Trigger, Understanding Ancient Civilizations. Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 343.
  62. ^ "In the eurozone, for example, currency in circulation is just 9 per cent of broad money" (M3)" - Martin Wolf, "Intolerable choices for the eurozone". Financial Times, 31 May 2011. In the US, it is about 7%; in 1960 according to Federal Reserve data series, it was about 50%.
  63. ^ Henry C. K. Liu, "The London Gold Market", Asia Times, 27 January 2011.
  64. ^ See Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, chapter 3 section 3C.[13]
  65. ^ Jan Toporowski, "How the Global Crisis Is Transmitted to Developing Countries", Development Viewpoint, No. 24, February 2009.[14]
  66. ^ There is a long-running academic dispute about whether the development of the form of value presented by Marx describes an historical sequence, whether it is only a logical exposition, or whether it is both. According to Jindřich Zelený, "Marx and Engels formulate the origin of money at different times in different ways, depending on whether they want to express the dialectical-logical derivation (genesis) in the form of the 'ideal expression' of the reality under investigation or whether they have in mind the 'historical' genesis" - Jindřich Zelený, The Logic of Marx. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980, p. 54.
  67. ^ Bertram Schefold, "Die Bedeutung des Problems der Wertformlehre und der Transformation von Werten in Preise für das Kapital." In: Marx-Engels Jahrbuch 2007. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2008, p. 39.
  68. ^ The causal mechanism of price discovery is however not altogether clear, since it could be that the interaction of traders necessary for price discovery determines prices, or that inversely prices determine the interaction of traders.
  69. ^ Ernest Mandel, Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory. Chippendale, NSW: Resistance books reprint, 2002, p. 24.
  70. ^ "Interest-bearing capital, or, to describe it in its archaic form, usurer's capital, belongs together with its twin brother, merchant's capital, to the antediluvian forms of capital which long precede the capitalist mode of production and are to be found in the most diverse socio-economic formations." - Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1981, ch. 36, p. 728.
  71. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed. 1976, p. 733.
  72. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin ed., p. 278. Some archaeologists and scholars of ancient trade reject the idea that primitive trade occurred initially only in the periphery of economic communities. “The earliest phases of cross-cultural trade are lost beyond any possibility of historical reconstruction. (…) But it is possible to imagine that the earliest cross-cultural trade took place during random encounters of hunting bands, or that it was mixed with phases of warfare. One can also imagine that the earliest trade between different communities took place at the border between them.” - Philip D. Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 1-2.
  73. ^ Samezō Kuruma, Marx’s Theory of the Genesis of Money. Leiden: Brill, 2017.
  74. ^ See: Richard Sennett, The Craftsman. Yale University Press, 2009.
  75. ^ Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge, Reinventing capitalism in the age of big data. London: John Murray, 2018, p. 52f.
  76. ^ Oskar Morgenstern, On the accuracy of economic observations, 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, 1963; Michael Ward, Quantifying the world. UN ideas and statistics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004; John Irvine, Ian Miles & Jeff Evans (eds), Demystifying Social Statistics, Pluto, London, 1979; Radical Statistics Group website [15]
  77. ^ Philip D. Curtin, Cross-cultural trade in world history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  78. ^ See the articles on 20th century conflicts per year Category:20th-century conflicts by year.
  79. ^ Kelsey D. Atherton, "Is War Really In Decline?". Popular Science,5 September 2013.[16]
  80. ^ See Cuban Missile Crisis.
  81. ^ Rosa Luxemburg, "Peace Utopias" [6–8 May 1911], in: Richard B. Day and Daniel Gaido (eds.)., Discovering Imperialism; Social Democracy to World War I. Leiden: Brill, 2011, pp 441-457.[17]
  82. ^ "Throughout this work I assume that gold is the money commodity, for the sake of simplicity." – Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin edition, chapter 3, p. 188.
  83. ^ Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political economy of money and finance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p.6).
  84. ^ Dick Bryan & Michael Rafferty, Capitalism with derivatives. A political economy of financial derivatives, capital and class. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 1-2.
  85. ^ The U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board states that valuing “level 3 assets” (complex financial products) requires "assumptions about the assumptions market participants would use in pricing the asset" (Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 157, 2010, A25, p. 24.
  86. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1982, chapter 30, p. 607f.
  87. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1982, chapter 25, p. 525f.
  88. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 197. Cédric Durand, Fictitious capital. How finance is appropriating our future. London: Verso, 2017.
  89. ^ Marx, Capital, Volume I, Pelican Books, p. 174, note 34.
  90. ^ Patrick Murray, Marx’s theory of scientific knowledge. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1988, p. 163f.
  91. ^ For Marx's discussion of the price form in the Grundrisse, see: Adalbert G. Lallier, The economics of the Grundrisse: an annotated summary. New York: St, Martins Press, 1989, chapter 11.
  92. ^ "Exchange value posited in terms of money is price"- Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 124.
  93. ^ Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge, Reinventing capitalism in the age of big data. London: John Murray, 2018, p. 52.
  94. ^ Frank A. Fetter, “The definition of price”. The American Economic Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, December 1912, pp. 783-813.
  95. ^ See any comprehensive Latin dictionary, e.g. Charlton T. Lewis & Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879.[18]
  96. ^ Stephen Gudeman,Economy's Tension: The Dialectics of Community and Market. New York: Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 64.
  97. ^ See: Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, Letters on Capital. London: New Park Publications, 1983, p. 108. In the final text, the simplest price form is expressed as "X quantity of use-value = Y quantity of money", contrasting with the value of commodities.
  98. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 197.
  99. ^ Peter M. Lichtenstein, An introduction to Post-Keynesian and Marxian theories of value and price. London: Routledge, 1983, chapter 11 ff.
  100. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin edition, 1981, p. 308.
  101. ^ Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political economy of money and finance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p. 6. See also Howard Nicholas, Marx's theory of price and its modern rivals. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
  102. ^ Francisco Paulo Cipolla, "The concept of market value: a critical note on Itoh's theory". Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 40, Issue 4, 2008.
  103. ^ See further: Juan Iñigo Carrera, "The reason for being of value or price according to political economy", translation of chapter 1 by Leonardo Kosloff in Carrera, Conocer el capital hoy. Usar crísticamente El Capital. Volumen I. La mercancía, o la conciencia libre como forma de la conciencia enajenada. Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2007.[19]
  104. ^ Koray Çalışkan, "Price as a Market Device: Cotton Trading in Izmir Mercantile Exchange". In M. Callon, Y. Millo and F. Muniesa (eds.) Market Devices. London: Blackwell Publishing, 2007, p. 241.
  105. ^ Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge, Reinventing capitalism in the age of big data. London: John Murray, 2018, p. 52.
  106. ^ See further Scott Meikle, Aristotle's economic thought. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995; Mark Blaug (ed.), Aristotle (384–322 BC). Aldershot: Elgar, 1991; Cosimo Perrotta, "Economic Value and Moral Value in Aristotle", in: Tony Aspromourgos and John Lodewijks (eds.), History and Political Economy. Essays in Honour of P.D. Groenewegen. London: Routledge, 2004; Spencer J. Pack, Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx. On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2010, Part 1.
  107. ^ This is explained by Marx in his book A contribution to the critique of political economy (1859).
  108. ^ Cornelius Castoriadis, “Value, equality, justice, politics: from Marx to Aristotle and from Aristotle to ourselves”, in: Cornelius Castoriadis, Crossroads in the labyrinth. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1984, pp. 260-339.
  109. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed. 1976, pp. 174–175.
  110. ^ A. Anikin, A science in its youth: pre-Marxian political economy. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 80.
  111. ^ The history of the "classical" tradition is discussed quite well in: Ronald L. Meek, Studies in the labor theory of value. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2nd ed. 1975. Isaac Ilyich Rubin, A history of economic thought. London: Ink Links, 1979. Isaak Il'ich Rubin, "Towards a history of the text of the first chapter of Marx's Capital (1929)", pp. 583-618, in: Richard B. Day & Daniel F. Gaido (eds.), Responses to Marx's Capital: from Rudolf Hilferding to Isaak Illich Rubin. Leiden: Bril, 2018.[20]
  112. ^ Derek Sayer, Marx's method. Hassocks, Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1979, pp. 37-41; Ulrich Krause, Money & abstract labour; on the analytical foundations of political economy. London: NLB, 1982, p. 161-162 note 1; Helmut Brentel, Soziale Form und ökonomisches Objekt. Studien zum Gegenstands- und Methodenverständnis der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 1989, chapter 3; Patrick Murray, "The Grammar of Value: A Close Look at Marx’s Critique of Samuel Bailey", in: Patrick Murray, The mismeasure of wealth: Essays on Marx and Social Form. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2016, pp. 189-219; Samuel Bailey, A critical dissertation on the nature, measures, and causes of value; chiefly in reference to Mr Ricardo and his followers. London: R. Hunter, 1825; Samuel Bailey, Money and Its Vicissitudes in Value; as They Affect National Industry and Pecuniary Contracts : with a Postscript on Joint Stock Banks. London, 1837; See Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978, Part III, pp.139-168, or Marx Engels Collected Works, Vol. 32 (New York: International Publishers, 1989), pp. 313-353. Robert M. Rauner, Samuel Bailey and the Classical Theory of Value. London: LSE, 1961.
  113. ^ Patrick Murray, "Avoiding Bad Abstractions A Defense of Co-constitutive Value-Form Theory." In: Critique of political economy, Vol. 1 No. 1, September 2011, pp. 217-248, at p. 219.[21]
  114. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 141 note 17.
  115. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II, Penguin 1978, p. 186.
  116. ^ In Nicomachean Ethics, Book V, Ch.5
  117. ^ Evald Ilyenkov, The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx's Capital, Moscow: Progress, 1982, p. 93.
  118. ^ Roman Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx's Capital. London: Pluto, 1977, chapter 5.
  119. ^ See Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Pelican edition 1973, pp. 171–172.
  120. ^ Marc Engels Collected Works, Vol. 3, pp 322-326.
  121. ^ Christian A. Smith, "‘Verdammt Metall’: Marx’s use of Shakespeare in his Critique of Exchange-value". Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory Volume 45, Issue 1-2, pp. 101-116, 2017; Joe Luna, "Money, die Ware, and Marx's Shakespeare". Textual Practice, 30 April 2015, pp. 1-21; Anne Paolucci, "Marx, Money, and Shakespeare: The Hegelian Core in Marxist Shakespeare-Criticism." Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, Vol.10, No. 3, April 1977, pp. 139-156.
  122. ^ Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, Letters on Capital. London: New Park, 1983, pp. 107-108.
  123. ^ Karl Marx, "The Value Form", Capital and Class, No.4, Spring 1978, pp. 130-150, at p. 134.[22], or Albert Dragstedt, Value: studies by Marx. London: New Park Publications, 1976, p. 49.
  124. ^ Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring - Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (1878), Part III, chapter 4. In: Marx Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25, p. 295.
  125. ^ These facts are not palatable to the modern "value-form Marxists", almost all of whom are "anti-Engels". None of them mention Engels as the precursor of the Marxist "value-form school".
  126. ^ Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution. Chicago: Haymarket, 2015, p. 254f.
  127. ^ Zinaida Krylova, Fostering ideological staunchness. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency, 1978.
  128. ^ Thomas F. Remington, Building socialism in Bolshevik Russia: ideology and industrial organization 1917-1921. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1984.
  129. ^ Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
  130. ^ Robert C. Allen, Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution. Princeton University Press, 2009.
  131. ^ Oleg Shchedrov, “Putin honours Stalin victims 70 years after terror.” Reuters, 30 October 2007.[23]
  132. ^ J. V. Stalin, "On the Draft Constitution of the U.S.S.R. Report Delivered at the Extraordinary Eighth Congress of Soviets of the U.S.S.R. 25 November 1936." In: Joseph Stalin, Works. London: Red Star Press Ltd, 1978.[24]
  133. ^ Michael Kaser, "The Debate on the Law of Value in the USSR, 1941–53".In: Vincent Barnett & Joachim Zweynert (ed.), Economics in Russia: studies in intellectual history. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008, pp. 141-156.
  134. ^ Joseph V. Stalin, Economics problems in the USSR (1951). Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1972, chapter 3.[25]
  135. ^ This point was elaborated in: John Bellamy Foster with Paul Burkett, “Value Isn’t Everything”, Monthly Review, Vol 70, Issue 6, November 2018.[26]
  136. ^ See Allen Oakley, Marx's critique of political economy. London: Routledge, 1985.
  137. ^ Jacques Bidet, Exploring Marx's Capital: philosophical, economic and political dimensions. Leiden: Brill, 2007, chapters 2 & 3.
  138. ^ Gilles Dostaler,[27] Marx, la valeur et économie politique. Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1978, p. 44.
  139. ^ Utz-Peter Reich, National Accounts and Economic Value: A Study in Concepts. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
  140. ^ Howard Engelskirchen, Capital as a Social Kind: Definitions and Transformations in the Critique of Political Economy. London: Routledge, 2011.
  141. ^ Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, "Value and Price in the Marxian System", International Economic Papers, no. 2, 1952, p. 6, note 2.[28]
  142. ^ John Eatwell, "absolute and exchangeable value". In: Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume (ed.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition, 2008.
  143. ^ Arne Heise, "'When the facts change, I change my mind...'Some developments in the economic scientific community and the situation in Germany." Real World Economics Review, issue 62, December 2012. Paul Davidson, Financial markets, money and the real world. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2002, p. 43.
  144. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, chapter 45 [29].
  145. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed. 1976, p. 186.
  146. ^ a b Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 167.
  147. ^ Roman Rosdolsky,The Making of Marx's Capital. London: Pluto, 1977, p. 118ff.
  148. ^ Roman Rosdolsky,The Making of Marx's Capital. London: Pluto, 1977. I.I. Rubin, Essays on Marx's theory of value. Detroit: Black & Red, 1972.
  149. ^ Ronald L. Meek, "Marx's economic method", in: Studies in the labour theory of value. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2nd. ed. 1973, p. 148f.
  150. ^ See the first part of the first chapter of Capital, Volume I; Marx distinguishes between "use-value" and "value", and then considers successively the substance of value, the magnitude of value and the form of value. The point is made very explicit in Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, pp. 149-152.
  151. ^ Capital, Volume III, chapter 1.
  152. ^ Makoto Itoh, The basic theory of capitalism: the forms and substance of the capitalist economy. London: Macmillan, 1988.
  153. ^ Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 3, section 11
  154. ^ Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political economy of money and finance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p.5 & 12).
  155. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1981, p. 892.
  156. ^ Robert Paul Wolff, Moneybags Must be So Lucky: On the Literary Structure of Capital. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, p. 48.
  157. ^ Simon Clarke, "The Basic Theory of Capitalism: A Critical Review of Itoh and the Uno School". Capital and Class, #37, 1989, pp. 133-150 at p. 139.
  158. ^ John Weeks, Capital, Exploitation and Economic Crisis. London: Routledge, 2010, p. 4.
  159. ^ Pichit Likitkijsomboon, "Marxian Theories of Value-Form". Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 27 no. 2, June 1995, pp. 73-105.
  160. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin ed., 1976, p. 90.
  161. ^ Louis Althusser, "Preface to Capital Vol. 1" (1969), in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. London: New Left Books, 1971.[30]
  162. ^ Ulrich Krause, Money & abstract labour; on the analytical foundations of political economy. London: NLB, 1982, p. 162; Scott Hamilton, "Necessity and contingency: the return of Althusser", Labor Tribune July 2006 [31].
  163. ^ Paresh Chattopadhyay, Socialism and commodity production; essay in Marx revival. Leiden: Brill, 2018, p. 79.
  164. ^ Helmut Reichelt, Zur logischen Struktur des Kapitalbegriffs bei Karl Marx. Frankfurt: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, rev. ed. 1973.
  165. ^ a b Mike Beggs, "Zombie Marx and Modern Economics, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Forget the Transformation Problem." Journal of Australian Political Economy, issue 70, Summer 2012/13, p. 16 [32]; Gary Mongiovi, "Vulgar economy in Marxian garb: a critique of Temporal Single System Marxism." In: Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 34, Issue 4, December 2002, pp. 393-416, at p. 398.
  166. ^ Allen Oakley, Marx's critique of political economy. London: Routledge, 1985.
  167. ^ Peter Stallybrass, "Marx's coat". In: Patricia Spyer (ed.), Border fetishisms: material objects in unstable spaces. New York: Routledge, 1998, pp. 183-207.
  168. ^ Marx himself never even once used the word "commodity fetishism" (Warenfetischismus) - this was a Marxist invention - he refers only to the "fetish" of labour products when they become commodities, or to the "fetish character" of commodities, money and capital.
  169. ^ Biene Baumeister, Die Marxsche Kritik des Fetishismus. Stuttgart: Atelier Unsichtbar, September 2006.[33]
  170. ^ Althusser, Reading Capital, p. 314; Norman Geras, "Essence and Appearance: Aspects of Fetishism in Marx’s 'Capital'". New Left Review, #65, January–February 1971, pp. 69-85. Reprinted as Norman Geras, "Marx and the critique of political economy". In: Robin Blackburn (ed.), Ideology in social science. London: Fontana/Collins, pp. 284-305. "Structuralist Marxists, like Louis Althusser, were intent on reading Left Hegelianism out of the Marxist canon. They therefore treated Marx's references to fetishes and gods as ironic figures of speech, even as they attempted to enlist the text on commodity fetishism in the service of opposition to Marxist humanism." — Andrew Levine, "Commodity Fetishism", in: The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition, 2008; John Milios, "Capital after Louis Althusser. Focusing on Value-Form Analysis." Paper presented at the Conference "Rileggere Il Capitale: La lezione di Louis Althusser", Department of Historical Studies, University Ca' Foscari (Venice), November 9–11, 2006, 15 pp.
  171. ^ One notable exception is the journal Capital & Class, which published a translation by Mike Roth and Wal Suchting of Marx's original text on the value-form as it appears in the first edition of Capital, Volume I. See "The value-form", in: Capital and Class, No.4 Spring 1978, pp. 130–150. Two other journals referring to the value-form discussion are Thesis Eleven[34] and Telos.[35]
  172. ^ By "social labour" is meant "cooperative labour to produce things which are used by others".
  173. ^ This is discussed by Marx especially in Part 7 (the last part) of Capital, Volume III, chapters 48 to 52.
  174. ^ Francis Wheen, Marx's Das Kapital: a biography. Grove Press, 2008, p. 42. See also Francis Wheen, Karl Marx. London: Fourth Estate, 1999, p. 299f.
  175. ^ Mark Blaug, Economic Theory in Retrospect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 256.
  176. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin edition, 1976, pp. 99–100.
  177. ^ Simon Clarke, Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition 1991.
  178. ^ Gerald Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Princeton University Press, 1978, reprint 2001.
  179. ^ Gerald Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Princeton University Press, 1978, p. 353. G.A. Cohen, "The Labour Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation". In: Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 8 No. 4, Summer 1979. Geoff Hodgson, "A Theory of Exploitation without the Labor Theory of Value". Science and Society, Vol. 44 No. 3, 1980, pp. 257-273. Geoff Hodgson, "Marx without the Labor Theory of Value". Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol 14, Issue 2, Summer 1982, pp. 59-65.
  180. ^ Marcel van der Linden & Ronald Commers, Marx en het wetenschappelijk socialisme. Antwerp: Uitgeverij Leon Lesoil, 1982, p. 44.
  181. ^ Johann Witt-Hansen, Historical materialism, the method, the theories. Exposition and critique. 1. The method. Copenhagen : Munksgaard, 1960.
  182. ^ V.I. Lenin, What the "Friends of the People" Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats (A Reply to Articles in Russkoye Bogatstvo Opposing the Marxists) (1894), Part 1, Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1937. [36].
  183. ^ Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (an excerpt from Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science, also known as the Anti-Dühring).[37]
  184. ^ Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 532.
  185. ^ S. W. Ryazanskaya (ed.), Marx Engels Selected Correspondence, 3rd revised edition. Moscow: Progres Publishers, 1975, pp.196-197.[38]
  186. ^ Antonio Callari states that "We can see the entire architecture of Capital (four volumes) through the lenses of the content-and-form relationship" - Callari, "Dialectics and overdetermination". In: David M. Brennan et al., Routledge handbook of Marxian economics. Milton Park: Routledge, 2017, p. 6. See also: Anita E. Kelly, "Two Kinds of People in the World". Psychology Today, 18 July 2014.[39]
  187. ^ Simon Clarke, "The Basic Theory of Capitalism: A Critical Review of Itoh and the Uno School", in: Capital & Class, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 1989, pp. 133–149 at p. 135.[40] Compare Stavros Mavroudeas, "Forms of Existence of Abstract Labour and Value-Form". In: Alan Freeman et al., The New Value Controversy and the Foundations of Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2004, pp. 181-198.
  188. ^ David Kristjanson-Gural, "Exchange, demand and the market-price of production: reconciling traditional and monetary approaches to value and price". Research in Political Economy, Vol. 22, 2005, pp. 167-198, at pp. 172-173.
  189. ^ Isaac I. Rubin, Essays on Marx's theory of value, p. 155-157.
  190. ^ Joan Robinson, "Karl Marx and the close of his system", The Economic Journal, Vol. 60, No. 238, June 1950, pp. 358-363, at p. 362.
  191. ^ See e.g. Ira Gerstein, "Production, circulation and value". Economy and society, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1976, pp. 243-291.
  192. ^ Geert Reuten, "Value as social form". In: Michael S. Williams (ed.), Value, social form and the state. Houndmills: Macmillan Press, 1988; Christopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
  193. ^ Riccardo Bellofiore, "A monetary labor theory of value". Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 21, Issue 1-2, 1989, pp. 1-25. Fred Moseley, Money and totality. A Macro-Monetary Interpretation of Marx's logic in Capital and the end of the transformation problem. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
  194. ^ Simon Mohun, "A re(in)statement of the labour theory of value." Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 18 no. 4, pp. 391-412, August 1994.[41]
  195. ^ Paul Cockshott, Allin Cottrell & Alejandro Valle Baeza, "The empirics of the labour theory of value: reply to Nitzan and Bichler". Investigación Económica, vol. LXXIII, no. 287, January–March 2014, pp. 115-134.[42]
  196. ^ Guglielmo Carchedi, Frontiers of political economy. London: Verso, 1991; Carchedi, "The Fallacies of ‘New Dialectics’ and Value-Form Theory". Historical Materialism, 17, 2009, pp. 145–169; Carchedi, Behind the crisis: Marx’s dialectics of value and knowledge. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
  197. ^ Riccardo Bellofiore, "The Multiple Meanings of Marx’s Value Theory". Monthly Review, Volume 69, Issue 11, April 2018.[43]
  198. ^ Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho, Marx 200: "The Abiding Relevance of the Labour Theory of Value". Review of Political Economy, Volume 30, March 2018 (abstract).
  199. ^ Leon Trotsky, “Dialectical Materialism and Science (17 September 1925)”. New International, Vol.6, No.1, February 1940, pp. 24-31 [44]; J. V. Stalin, Dialectical and Historical Materialism (September 1938)[45]; Mao Tse Tung, On contradiction (1937), in: Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. I (Peking: Foreign Languages Press). [46].
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  218. ^ Rubin, Essays, p. 251. See also Ronald L. Meek, "A plain person's guide to the transformation problem". In: Ronald L. Meek, Smith, Marx and after. Ten essays in the development of economic thought. London: Chapman & Hall, 1997, pp. 95-119.
  219. ^ Perhaps Rubin's manuscript on the transformation problem was lost or destroyed. See: Ivan Boldyrev & Martin Kragh, "The Fate of Social Sciences in Soviet Russia: The Case of Isaak Il'Ich Rubin". Higher School of Economics, Research Paper No. WP BPR 17/HUM/2013 Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 2013.[53] Susumu Takenaga, "Essays on Marx's theory of money" (book review). The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought. Vol. 20, Issue 3, May 2013, pp. 536-542.
  220. ^ "...the value of a commodity is determined not by the quantity of labour actually objectified in it, but by the quantity of living labour necessary to produce it." — Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 676-677. "...the value of commodities is determined not by the labour-time originally taken by their production, but rather by the labour-time that their reproduction takes, and this steadily decreases as the social productivity of labour develops." — Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin 1981, p. 522.
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  226. ^ See Simon Clarke, "The Basic Theory of Capitalism: A Critical Review of Itoh and the Uno School", in: Capital & Class, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 1989, pp. 133–149; Jim Kincaid, "A Critique of Value-Form Marxism". Historical Materialism, volume 13, No. 2, 2005, pp. 85–119 [55]; Elena Louisa Lange, "Failed Abstraction – The Problem of Uno Kōzō's Reading of Marx's Theory of the Value Form". Historical Materialism, Vol. 22 No. 1, May 2014, pp. 3-33.[56]
  227. ^ Jan Hoff, Marx Worldwide; on the development of the international discourse on Marx since 1965. Leiden: Brill, 2017, p. 215. Pichit Likitkijsomboon, "Marxian Theories of Value-Form". Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 27 no. 2, June 1995, pp. 73-105. Samuel Knafo, “Value-form approach”. In: Ben Fine et al., The Elgar Companion to Marxist Economics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2012, p. 367-372.
  228. ^ Helmut Reichelt, "From the Frankfurt School to Value-Form Analysis". Thesis Eleven, No. 4, 1982, pp. 166–169. Michael Eldred & Marnie Hanlon, "Reconstructing value-form analysis". Capital & Class, Vol. 5, Issue 1, February 1981.[57] M. Eldred, M. Hanlon, L. Kleiber and M. Roth, "Reconstructing value-form analysis". Thesis Eleven, issue 4 (1982), 7 (1983, 9 (1984) and 11 (1985). L. Hansen, K. Pedersen & T. Stenderup, "On methodological problems in economy theory: a critique of aprioristic value theory". Institut for socialvidenskab Roskilde Universitetscenter, Institutets skriftserie 15, 1984.
  229. ^ Isaak Illich Rubin, Essays on Marx's theory of value. Detroit: Black & Red, 1972.
  230. ^ Rob Bryer, "Marx, accounting and the labour theory of value: A critique of Marxist economics." University of Warwick paper presented to the 5th European Critical Accounting Studies Conference, 2005, p. 1.[58]
  231. ^ A good example is: Christopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
  232. ^ Riccardo Bellofiore and Tommaso Redolfi Riva, "The Neue Marx-Lektüre: putting the critique of political economy back into the critique of society." In: Radical Philosophy No. 189, January–February 2015.[59]
  233. ^ Cf. Paolo Giussani, "Orthodoxy in Marxian Price Theory". In: International Journal of Political Economy, vol. 28, no. 4, winter 1998–99, pp. 6–22. Paolo Giussani, La 'value form school', October 1997. Paper for the conference of the International Working Group on Value Theory, 1997. Andrew Kliman, "On Capitalism's Historical Specificity and Price Determination Comments on the Value-Form Paradigm." Critique of political economy, Vol. 1, September 2011.[60]
  234. ^ Axel Kicillof & Guido Starosta, "Value form and class struggle: A critique of the autonomist theory of value". Capital & Class, Summer 2007.
  235. ^ Anon., "Communisation and value-form theory". Endnotes No. 2, April 2010 [61]
  236. ^ Antonio Negri, "Thesis 5" in: Theses on Marxism
  237. ^ John Kay, "Let's talk about the market economy", Financial Times, 10 January 2012.
  238. ^ Riccardo Bellofiore and Tommaso Redolfi Riva, "The Neue Marx-Lektüre: putting the critique of political economy back into the critique of society". Radical Philosophy, No. 189, January–February 2015.[62]
  239. ^ a b Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Josh Robinson, and Nicholas Brown (eds.), Marxism and the Critique of Value. Chicago: MCM Publishing, 2014.
  240. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour: a critique of epistemology. London: Macmillan, 1978; Anselm Jappe, "Sohn-Rethel and the Origin of 'Real Abstraction': A Critique of Production or a Critique of Circulation?". Historical materialism, Vol. 21 No. 1, 2013, pp. 3-14.
  241. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour, p. 33.
  242. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour, p. 49.
  243. ^ Similarly, Marx claims that "Those who consider the autonomization [Verselbständigung] of value as a mere abstraction, forget that the movement of industrial capital is this abstraction in action. Here value passes through different forms, different movements in which it is both preserved and increases, is valorized." — Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II, Penguin 1978, p. 185.
  244. ^ Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labour, p. 29, emphasis added. A similar idea is proposed by Richard Sennett in his book Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. London: Penguin, 2013, p. 72: "'Exchange simply names the experience of give and take among all animals."
  245. ^ "In the social production of their existence, people inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness." — Karl Marx, 1859 Preface to A contribution to the critique of political economy.[63]
  246. ^ Max Chafkin, "A constant feeling of crisis". Inc. Magazine, 14 July 2017.[64]
  247. ^ Moishe Postone, Time, labor, and social domination: A reinterpretation of Marx's critical theory. Cambridge University Press, 1993, acknowledged at p. 3 note 1. See Rubin, Essays; Harry Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974; Roman Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx's "Capital. London: Pluto, 1977; Derek Sayer, Marx's method: ideology, science and critique in Capital. Sussex: the Harvester Press Ltd., 1979; Michael Burawoy, The Politics of Production: factory regimes under capitalism and socialism. London: Verso, 1985; Patrick Murray, Marx's Theory of Scientific Knowledge. Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1988.
  248. ^ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Penguin 1976, p. 174 note 34 (translation as amended by Postone). See Postone, Time etc., p. 55. The German original text is: "Die Wertform des Arbeitsprodukts ist die abstrakteste, aber auch allgemeinste Form der bürgerlichen Produktionsweise, die hierdurch als eine besondere Art gesellschaftlicher Produktion und damit zugleich historisch charakterisiert wird. Versieht man sie daher für die ewige Naturform gesellschaftlicher Produktion, so übersieht man notwendig auch das Spezifische der Wertform, also der Warenform, weiter entwickelt der Geldform, Kapitalform usw." — Marx Engels Werke, Vol. 23, p. 95, note 32. Thus, Postone's revised translation is also inexact. In the MEGA2 edition (II/10), the German passage occurs at p. 79:39 and is exactly the same as the MEW version, except for retaining the archaic spelling.
  249. ^ a b Postone, Time etc., p. 45.
  250. ^ For a post-Marxist commentary, see Marcel van der Linden, "The historical limit of workers' protest: Moishe Postone, Krisis and the 'commodity logic'". In: International Review of Labour History, Vol. 42, Issue 3, December 1997, pp. 447-458.
  251. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 63.
  252. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 47.
  253. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 48.
  254. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 55.
  255. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 290.
  256. ^ Postone, Time etc., p. 297.
  257. ^ Geert Reuten & Michael Williams, Value-form and the State. The Tendencies of Accumulation and the Determination of Economic Policy in Capitalist Society. London, 1989.
  258. ^ Riccardo Bellofiore, "A Monetary Labor Theory of Value". Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 21, No. 1/2, 1989, pp. 1-25; Fred Moseley, "abstract labor: substance or form? A critique of the value-form interpretation of Marx's theory." Working paper, Mt Holyoke College, Massachusetts, May 1997.[65] Geert Reuten's papers are available at his personal web page
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  279. ^ "To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them." - Karl Marx, Preface to Capital, Volume I.
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  293. ^ Ernest Mandel, The second slump. London: Verso, 1978, p. 198; Ernest Mandel, "Marx and Engels on Commodity Production and Bureaucracy". In: Stephen Resnick & Richard Wolff (eds.), Rethinking Marxism: essays for Harry Magdoff & Paul Sweezy. New York: Autonomedia, 1985, p. 243; Geoffrey R. Pearce, Where is New Zealand Going?. Phd dissertation, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1986.[77]
  294. ^ McKinsey Global Institute, Mapping global capital markets: Fifth annual report. Washington, D.C.: McKinsey & Company, October 2008.
  295. ^ Most OECD countries nowadays publish national wealth and asset data, using surveys, administrative data and tax information as a basis for the estimates.
  296. ^ Eran Fisher & Christian Fuchs, Reconsidering value and labour in the digital age. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; Christian Fuchs & Vincent Mosco, Marx in the age of digital capitalism. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2016.
  297. ^ Guido Starosta, "Cognitive Commodities and the Value-Form". Science & Society, Vol. 76, No. 3, July 2012, 365–392.
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  304. ^ See: Ernest Mandel & Alan Freeman (ed.), Ricardo, Marx, Sraffa. The Langston Memorial Volume. London: Verso, 1984; Ben Fine (ed.), The value dimension: Marx versus Ricardo and Sraffa. Milton Park: Routledge, 1986; Ian Steedman & Paul Sweezy (ed.), The Value controversy. London: Verso, 1987; Simon Mohun (ed.), Debates in value theory. Houndmills: St Martin's Press, 1994.
  305. ^ Thus, for example, in his textbook Monetary Theory (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981) the prominent English Marxian economist Laurence Harris, well known for his contributions to Marxian value theory, paid no attention to the price-form itself.
  306. ^ Diane Elson (ed.), Value: the representation of labour in capitalism. London: CSE books, 1979. Paolo Giussani, "La 'value-form school'" (in Italian).[81]
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  330. ^ Bill Maurer, How Would You Like to Pay?: How Technology Is Changing the Future of Money. Duke University Press Books, 2015.
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  337. ^ Pierre Berger, quoted in Pierre Vilar, A History of Gold and Money, 1450–1920. London: New Left Books, 1976, p. 7.
  338. ^ OECD, The future of money. Paris: OECD, 2002; Jan Toporowski, 2013 audio lectures on the international financial system and macroeconomic imbalances, at the University of Bergamo, Italy.[93]
  339. ^ Marshall Sahlins, Waiting for Foucault, Still. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2002, p. 30.
  340. ^ See Karl Kautsky, "Gold, Paper Currency and commodity" introduced by David Gaido (MIA archive)[94]; Hilferding, Finance Capital; Ernest Mandel, Decline of the dollar: a Marxist view of the monetary crisis. New York: Monad Press, 1972. Isaak Illich Rubin, "Studien zur Geldtheorie von Marx". Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung. Neue Folge, Sonderband 4, 2012; Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political economy of money and finance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; Suzanne de Brunhoff, Marx on money. London, Verso, 2015 reprint; Fred Moseley (ed.), Marx's theory of money: modern appraisals. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005; Anwar Shaikh, Capitalism, Oxford University Press, 2016, chapter 5; Costas Lapavitsas, Marxist Monetary theory. Leiden: Brill, 2017; Michel Aglietta, Money. 5,000 Years of Debt and Power. London: Verso, 2018.
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  347. ^ Diego Pizano, "A Conversation with Professor Friedrich A. Hayek" (1979) in: Diego Pizano (ed.), Conversations with Great Economists. New York: Jorge Pinto Books Inc., 2009, p. 5. See also: F.A. von Hayek, "The use of knowledge in society." The American Economic Review, Vol. 35 No. 4 September 1945, pp. 519-530.[97]
  348. ^ Scott Meikle, Essentialism in the thought of Karl Marx. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd, 1985, p. 95.
  349. ^ Iring Fetscher et al., Social classes, action and historical materialism. Poznań studies in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities, Vol. 6. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982, p. 27.
  350. ^ Moishe Postone, Time, Labor, and Social Domination, p. 27.
  351. ^ Murray E.G. Smith, Invisible Leviathan: The Marxist Critique of Market Despotism beyond Postmodernism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
  352. ^ E.g. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin edition 1973, pp. 287, 325, 527–29, 707–12, etc.
  353. ^ Gillian Tett, "The story of the Brics", in Financial Times, January 15, 2010.
  354. ^ Tadayuki Tsushima, "Understanding "Labor Certificates" on the Basis of the Theory of Value", in: Tadayuki Tsushima, Kuremuren no shinwa ("Myths of the Kremlin"), 1956. [98]
  355. ^ N. G. Pierson, "The problem of value in the socialist community", in: F. A. Hayek (ed.), Collectivist economic planning. London: Routledge & kegan Paul, 1935, pp. 41-86
  356. ^ Michael Voslensky, Nomenklatura. Anatomy of the Soviet ruling class. London: The Bodley Head, 1984. Janine Wedel, The private Poland; an anthropologist's look at everyday life. New York: Facts on file publications, 1986. Janine Wedel (ed.), The unplanned society; Poland during and after communism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
  357. ^ "A world without values stops being a human civilization, looking rather like a society of Hymenoptera. Human beings would return to animality or change into a bio-mechanical aggregate. Directly or symbolically, values express people's projects, the constellation of their preferences professed and aimed at, the hierarchy of their preferences, their way of making a choice and being chosen. It is only through the values assumed and promoted that a person's synthetic project called happiness acquires shape." — Ludwig Grünberg,The Mystery of Values: Studies in Axiology. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000, p. 127.
  358. ^ Max Weber sociologically distinguished already between an "instrumental rationality" (the efficiency of a means-ends relationship) and a "value rationality" (the reasonableness or valuation of goals in themselves).
  359. ^ This is argued most powerfully by Milton Friedman in his book Free to Choose.
  360. ^ Strebeigh, Fred (2017-08-07). "Opinion | Lenin's Eco-Warriors". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  361. ^ Richard Pipes has famously argued, in various writings, that the lack of a clear concept of private property in the communist era was a disaster for the Russian economy. According to Pipes, since in Muscovite society the Czar either owned or controlled practically all the assets of his empire, a mature tradition of private ownership never developed in Russia.
  362. ^ Tom Brass & Marcel van der Linden (ed.), Free and unfree labour: the debate continues. Peter Lang, 1998.
  363. ^ A useful starter is: Dic Lo & Russell Smyth, "Towards a reinterpretation of the economics of feasible socialism." Working paper, Dept. of Economics, SOAS, University of London, February 2002.[99]; an overview of the socialist calculation debate from a libertarian viewpoint is provided in: David Ramsay Steele, From Marx to Mises: post-capitalist society and the challenge of economic calculation. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company, 1992. Many of the texts in the debate were usefully reprinted in: Peter Boettke et al. (ed.), Socialism or the market : the socialist calculation debate revisited (nine vols.). London : Routledge, 2000. This edition is out of print and rare, but the same texts are available from other sources.
  364. ^ Włodzimierz Brus, The Market in a Socialist Society. London: Routledge, 1972; Oskar Lange, Esconomic Theory and Market Socialism: Selected Essays of Oskar Lange, ed. Tadeusz Kowalik. Edward Elgar Publishing, 1994; Abba P. Lerner, "Statics and Dynamics in Socialist Economics," Economic Journal, Vol. 47, June 1937; Branko Horvat, Political Economy of Socialism: A Marxist View. M.E. Sharpe, 1983; David Miller, Market, state and community: the theoretical foundations of market socialism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989; Erik Olin Wright (ed. & introd.), Equal Shares: making market socialism work. London: Verso, 1996. Bertell Ollman (ed.) Market Socialism: The Debate Among Socialists. Routledge, 1998.
  365. ^ Jawaharlal Nehru, "Basic Approach", reprinted in Vincent Shean, Nehru: the Years of Power. Random House, 1960, p. 295. David McNally, Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique. London: Verso, 1993.
  366. ^ Julian Le Grand and Saul Estrin (eds.) Market Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  367. ^ Nikolai Bukharin and Evgeny Preobrazhensky, The ABC of communism (introd. Edward H. Carr). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969, p. 377.
  368. ^ Evgeny Preobrazhensky, The New Economics. Transl. Brian Pearce, introd. Alec Nove. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.
  369. ^ Nikolai Bukharin, The Politics and Economics of the Transition Period. (edited with an Introduction by Kenneth J. Tarbuck, translated by Oliver Field). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the bolshevik revolution. A political biography 1888-1938 [1971]. New York: Vintage Books, 1975, chapter 6.
  370. ^ Don Lavoie, Rivalry and central planning: the socialist calculation debate reconsidered. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 173f. See: Ludwig von Mises, "Die Wirtschaftrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen". In: Archive fur SozialWissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, Vol. 47, 1920. Translated as: Ludwig von Mises, "Calculation in the socialist commonwealth" (1920), in: F A. Hayek, Collectivist economic planning. London: Routledge, 1935, pp. 86-130. Karl Polanyi, "Sozialistische Rechnungslegung". ‘’Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik’’, Vol. 49, pp. 377-420. Translated as: “Socialist Accounting” by Karl Polanyi: with preface “Socialism and the embedded economy”.In: Theory and Society, Volume 45, Issue 5, October 2016, pp. 385–427. See also: Karl Polanyi, "Die funktionelle theorie der Gesellschaft und das Problem der sozialistischen Rechnungsregelung (Eine Erwiderung an Prof. Mises und Dr. Felix Weil)." Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, Vol. 52, pp. 218-228. Eduard Heimann, "Mehwert und Gemeinschaft: Kritische und positive Beitrage zur Theorie des Sozialismus". Berlin: Robert Englemann, 1922. Eduard Heimann, Planning and the market system". In: Findlay Mackenzie (ed.), Planned society: yesterday, today, tomorrow. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1937, pp. 703-745.
  371. ^ Michael Ellman, Socialist planning, 2nd. edition. Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 311.
  372. ^ Michael Ellman, "Did the agricultural surplus provide the resources for the increase in investment in the USSR during the First Five Year Plan?". Economic Journal, December 1975.
  373. ^ Michael Ellman, “Lest they be forgotten: inequality in non-capitalist economies during the 20th century”. Real-world economics review, issue no. 86, 10 December 2018, pp. 106-118 [100].
  374. ^ Oskar R. Lange, "On the Economic Theory of Socialism, Part One," Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 41, No. 1, 1936, pp. 53–71. Part Two, Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1937, pp. 123–142.
  375. ^ Kei Shibata, "Economic theory of planning". In: Kyoto University Economic Review, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1943, pp. 19-41, at p. 41.
  376. ^ Moishe Postone, Essays, p. 45.
  377. ^ Maurice Dobb; & C. H. Feinstein, Socialism, capitalism and economic growth: essays presented to Maurice Dobb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969 (2010 reprint).
  378. ^ Timothy Shenk, Maurice Dobb: political economist. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, chapter 3.
  379. ^ Michael Barratt Brown, Review of "Considerations on Western Marxism". in: Capital & Class, Vol. 2, Issue 2, July 1978, p. 142.
  380. ^ Bertram Silverman (ed.), Man and Socialism in Cuba; The Great Debate. New York: Atheneum, 1972.
  381. ^ Ota Šik, Plan and market under socialism. White Plains, N.Y.: International arts and sciences press, 1967.
  382. ^ Ota Šik, The communist power system. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981.
  383. ^ Ota Šik, Humane Wirtschaftsdemokratie: ein 3. Weg. Hamburg: Knaus, 1979.
  384. ^ Ota Šik (ed.), Socialism Today? The changing meaning of socialism. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan Academic and Professional Ltd, 1991.
  385. ^ Peter Uhl, Die Herausforderung. Eine sozialistische Alternative zur 'Normaliserung in der CSSR'. Frankfurt: ISP Verlag, 1981.
  386. ^ Branko Horvat, The Yugoslav economic system: the first labor managed economy in the making. [orig. 1976] London: Routledge, 2016 reprint. Branko Horvat, The political economy of socialism. London: Routledge, 1983.
  387. ^ Rudolf Bahro, The alternative in Eastern Europe. London: New Left Books/Verso, 1977.
  388. ^ Abel Gezevich Aganbegi︠a︡n, Regional studies for planning and projecting : the Siberian experience. The Hague: Mouton, 1981.
  389. ^ Aganbegyan's name is spelled in three alternative ways: Aganbegian, Aganbegân, Aganbegjan. His books include: Abel Gezevich Aganbegian & Michael Barratt Brown, The economic challenge of perestroika. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988; Abel Gezevič Aganbegân, Perestroika 1989. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1988; Abel Gezevich Aganbegyan, Moving the mountain: inside the perestrojka revolution. London: Bantam Books, 1989; and Abel Gezevich Aganbegi︠a︡n, Inside perestroika: the future of the Soviet economy. New York: Perennial Library, 1990.
  390. ^ Simon Clarke, The development of capitalism in Russia. Milton Park: Routledge, 2007, p. 7.
  391. ^ Yegor Gaidar, "The Inevitability of Collapse of the Socialist Economy". In: Yegor Gaidar (ed.), The economics of Russian transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 20.
  392. ^ Chrystia Freeland,Sale of the century: the inside story of the second Russian revolution. London: Abacus, 2014.
  393. ^ Ruslan Dzarasov, The conundrum of Russian capitalism: the post-soviet economy in the world system. London: Pluto Press, 2014.
  394. ^ Zbigniew Brzezinski, The grand failure: the birth and death of communism in the twentieth century. New York: Collier Books edition, 1990, p. 50.
  395. ^ Alexander Buzgalin and Andrei Kalganov, "For a Socialist Rebirth: A Soviet View". In: Ralph Milliband & Leo Panitch (eds.), Socialist Register 1991. London: Merlin Press, 1991.
  396. ^ A. V. Buzgalin, L. A. Bulavka, and A. I. Kolganov, Russia: capitalism's Jurassic Park. Moscow: Economic Democracy, 1999.
  397. ^ "Moscow: Red Agenda for 100th anniversary of Russian Revolution", in: Red Star over Donbass blog, January 2017.[101]
  398. ^ China Mieville, October: the story of the Russian revolution. London: Verso, 2017.
  399. ^ Tadeusz Kowalik, From solidarity to sellout: the restoration of capitalism in Poland. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011; Tadeusz Kowalik, "Marketization and Privatization: the Polish Case", in Ralph Miliband & Leo Panitch (eds.), Socialist Register 1991: Communist Regimes - the aftermath. London: Merlin Press, 1991.
  400. ^ Tim Fernholz, "What's behind the Polish economic miracle?". Quartz, December 19, 2012.[102]
  401. ^ John Feffer, "Jeffrey Sachs Disdains Neoliberalism, Embraces Poland". Foreign Policy In Focus, June 8, 2015.[103]
  402. ^ Jeffrey Sachs, Poland's Jump to the Market Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1993.
  403. ^ Jinglian Wu, Understanding and interpreting Chinese Economic Reform. Mason, Ohio: Thomson, 2005, p. 17.
  404. ^ Wang Chaohua, Wang Dan and Li Minqi, "A Dialogue on the Future of China". New Left Review, I/235, May–June 1999; Wang Hui and Rebecca E. Karl, "Contemporary Chinese thought and the question of modernity". Social Text, Issue 55, Summer 1998, pp. 9-44.
  405. ^ Boris Kagarlitsky, The disintegrating monolith. London: Verso, 192, p. 94.
  406. ^ George Novack, "The problem of transitional formations". In: George Novack, Understanding history: Marxist Essays. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1980.
  407. ^ Paul Bellis, Marxism and the U.S.S.R. The Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship and the Marxist Analysis of Soviet Society. London: Macmillan, 1979.
  408. ^ Marcel van der Linden, Western Marxism and the Soviet Union: a survey of critical theories and debates since 1917. New York: Brill Publishers, 2007. Van der Linden does not deal with the socialist calculation debate, because it was pursued by Western Marxists and Liberals who fell outside his definition of Western Marxism.
  409. ^ Günter Krause und Klaus O. W. Müller, Der 'wahre' Marxismus des Ernest Mandel. Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie des Linksradikalismus. Berlin: Verlag Die Wirtschaft, 1980. David Laibman, "The 'state capitalist' and 'bureaucratic-exploitative' interpretations of the Soviet social formation: a critique." Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 10, No. 4, Winter 1978.
  410. ^ Joost Kircz,Technological Utopianism in the early USSR, and what does that mean for us now. Amsterdam: International Institute for Research and Education, Notebook #40, 2012.[104]
  411. ^ Charles Bettelheim, The transition to socialist society. Hassocks, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1975, p. 150.
  412. ^ Ian D. Thatcher, Trotsky. London: Routledge, 2003, p. 108. Isaac Deutscher, The prophet armed. New York: Vintage Books, 1965, chapter 14, pp. 498-503. Isaac Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions. London: Oxford University Press, 1950.[105]
  413. ^ Robert Weil, Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of "Market Socialism". New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996.
  414. ^ Paul Mattick, Marx & Keynes. London: Merlin Press, 1971, pp. 307-331.[106]
  415. ^ See the homepage of Erik Olin Wright. [107]
  416. ^ Michael Albert, Parecon: Life After Capitalism. London: Verso Books, 2003; Robin Hahnel, Economic Justice And Democracy: From Competition To Cooperation. London: Routledge, 2005.
  417. ^ Michael Lebowitz, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010. Michael Lebowitz,Build it Now: Socialism for the 21st Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012. Michael Lebowitz,The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012. Michael A Lebowitz, The Socialist Imperative: From Gotha to Now. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015.
  418. ^ Makoto Itoh, Political economy of socialism. Macmillan, 1995; Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. Penguin Books, 2010.
  419. ^ Anthony Giddens, The Third Way. The Renewal of Social Democracy. Cambridge : Polity, 1998; Robert Rowthorn, Democracy and Efficiency in the Economic Enterprise. Taylor & Francis, 2003; Geoffrey Hodgson, Economics and utopia. London: Routledge, 1999.
  420. ^ János Kornai, The socialist system. Oxford University Press, 1992; Ernest Mandel "The myth of market socialism", New Left Review, I/169, May–June 1988.
  421. ^ Diane Elson, "Socialized Markets, not Market Socialism". Socialist Register 2000, pp. 67-85 at p. 68. Diane Elson, "Market Socialism or Socialization of the Market?" New Left Review, no. 172, Nov/Dec 1988, pp. 3–44. Commentary by Peter T. Manicas. [108]
  422. ^ W. Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell, Toward a new socialism. Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1993, p. 192. [109]
  423. ^ Geoffrey M. Hodgson,"Socialism Against Markets? A Critique of Two Recent Proposals", Economy and Society, 27(4), November 1998, pp. 450-76. Reprinted in: Hodgson, Economics and Utopia. London: Routledge, 1999.[110]
  424. ^ David Mandel, Democracy, Plan, and Market: Yakov Kronrod's Political Economy of Socialism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
  425. ^ Alec Nove, The economics of feasible socialism revisited (2nd edition). London: Harper Collins, 1991, p. 213.
  426. ^ Frank Furedi, "Capitalism after the 'credit crunch': what is it good for?". Spiked, 30 October 2008.[111]
  427. ^ Johanna Bockman, Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011, p. 1.
  428. ^ See e.g., Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, A cooperative species: human reciprocity and its evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.[112]
  429. ^ Samuel Bowles, "The end of liberalism", in: The Boston Globe, 20 June 2017.[113]
  430. ^ Gary Chartier & Charles W. Johnson (eds.), Markets, not capitalism. Individualist anarchism against bosses, inequality, corporate power and structural poverty. New York: Autonomedia, 2011.[114]
  431. ^ Some of the historical Marxist debates in Europe are reviewed in Catherine Samary, Plan, Market and Democracy, IIRE Notebook for study and research 7/8, 1988.[115]
  432. ^ Many of the important technical discussions in socialist or post-socialist societies have unfortunately never been translated into English, and the controversies are often strongly influenced by ideological, political or moral positions or cherished dogmas - rather than inspired by scientific principles.
  433. ^ "Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism". Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  434. ^ Massimo de Angelis, The beginning of history: value struggles and global capital. London: Pluto Press, 2007.
  435. ^ Jan Hoff, Marx Worldwide; on the development of the international discourse on Marx since 1965. Leiden: Brill, 2017; David Selbourne, "Two essays on method", Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, Vol. 10 No. 1, 1979, pp. 77-78.
  436. ^ "One has to "leave philosophy aside"... one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers... Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism and sexual love." — Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, chapter 3.[116]
  437. ^ Barbara A. Cellarius, "You Can Buy Almost Anything with Potatoes": An Examination of Barter during Economic Crisis in Bulgaria." Ethnology, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 73-92.
  438. ^ Paul Seabright (ed.), The vanishing rouble: barter networks and non-monetary transactions in post-socialist societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 98-99, 127, 147, 207, 241.
  439. ^ "...barter, credit and money can, and do, coexist. (...) We might have thought that the 20th-century economy was built on money, but the early 21st-century cyber economy is partly based on barter too." Gillian Tett, "How Big Tech brought back the barter economy". Financial Times, 18 April 2018.
  440. ^ Stephen R. Hurt, "Third world debt", in: Encyclopedia Britannica
  441. ^ Bart S. Fisher & Kathleen M. Harte, Barter in the World Economy. New York: Praeger, 1985. H.J. Maidenberg, "Bartering aids poor nations". New York Times, 17 January 1983.[117] Grant T. Hammond, Countertrade, offsets, and barter in international political economy. London : Pinter, 1990.
  442. ^ Paul Seabright (ed.), The vanishing rouble: barter networks and non-monetary transactions in post-socialist societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  443. ^ Marcie Marino, "Bartering with the Bolsheviks: A Guide to Countertrading with the Soviet Union", Penn State International Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1990.[118]
  444. ^ David Woodruff, Money Unmade. Barter and the Fate of Russian Capitalism. Cornell University Press, 2000.
  445. ^ Ruth Pearson, "Argentina's barter network: new currency for new times?" Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2003, pp. 214-230, at p. 214. See also: Clifford Krauss, "To weather recession, Argentines revert to barter". New York Times, 6 May 2001 [119]; Inés González Bombal and Mariana Luzzi, "Middle-Class use of barter clubs: a real alternative or just survival?". In: Edward Epstein & David Pion-Berlin (eds.), Broken promises? The Argentine crisis and Argentine democracy. Lanham, etc.: Lexington Books, 2008, pp. 143-162.
  446. ^ Pepita Ould Ahmed, "Politics within Complementary Currency Systems: The Case Study of Barter Clubs in Argentina". Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 50 Issue 4, 2018, pp. 773–792.
  447. ^ Mindi Schneider, “We are Hungry!” A Summary Report of Food Riots, Government Responses, and States of Democracy in 2008. Development sociology, Ithaca: Cornell University, 2008.[120]; Jomo Kwame Sundaram, "Drawing lessons from the 2008 World Food Crisis". In: Arif Dirlik et al., Global capitalism and the future of agrarian society. Milton Park: Routledge, 2016, pp. 307-320.
  448. ^ Javier Blas, "Nations turn to barter deals to secure food." Financial Times, 27 January 2009.
  449. ^ Global Report on Food crises 2018, p. 2.
  450. ^ Gustavo Ocando Alex, "Hungry Venezuelans rely on work-for-food barter as economy spirals." Miami Herald, 12 January 2018.[121]
  451. ^ "Venezuela offers to Barter Gold and Diamonds to Pharmaceutical Companies for Medicine", Barter News Weekly, 8 January 2018.[122]
  452. ^ Ekow Essabra-Mensah, "Gov’t to barter refined bauxite for infrastructure", Business & Financial Times online (Accra), 12 March 2018.[123]
  453. ^ “Bauxite agreement with China is barter, not a loan – Akufo-Addo.” GhanaWeb, 7 September 2018.[124]
  454. ^ Gillian Tett, "How Big Tech brought back the barter economy". Financial Times, 18 April 2018. Gillian Tett, "Recalculating GDP for the Facebook age". Financial Times, 21 April 2018. For technical discussion, see e.g. Recording and measuring data in the System of National Accounts. OECD Working Party on National Accounts (SDD/CSSP/WPNA(2018)5), 2 November 2018 [125]; Bartering for ‘Free’ Information: Implications for Measured GDP and Productivity. IARIW-Bank of Korea Conference “Beyond GDP: Experiences and Challenges in the Measurement of Economic Wellbeing,” Seoul, Korea, April 26–28, 2017 [126]; Leonard Nakamura, Jon Samuels, and Rachel Soloveichik, “Measuring the “Free” Digital Economy Within the GDP and Productivity Accounts”. October 2017.[127]
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