Skip to main content

Field and Substance in the Search for the Origins of Value in Economics


March Against Marx - Part 1

David Ricardo gave us the labour theory of value we all know and hate. Marx actually deviated from it and took up some more complex thing of his own. What kind of thing is what we'll be getting at in future. For now let's just sum up the two possible ontological approaches to objective value. They are not epistemologically distinct because both are ideas that value is objected and gives rise to (and/or is measured using) prices.

We all know what prices are, right? Well, they're just exchange rates/ratios. On to the porn!



~~~ SUBSTANCE THEORY ~~~

Substance theory is thee ontological position that substances are separate from their components. For enquiry into economics this means that labour-induced value resides in things. This literal interpretation underlies the labour theory of value as posited by Ricardo. [1]



~~~ FIELD THEORY ~~~

Field theories of value hold that value is not a literal quantity out there in the world but that its presence can be inferred from prior axioms or by empirical observation of economic agents' behaviour. This is the category where Marxian economics belongs. [2]

~~~

Any objective value theory opens up the possibility of building a theory of economics that basically consists of a kind of metaphysical accountancy as we shall see soon enough. What I mean by metaphysical is that it's all based on epistemological and ontological claims that can't be verified at source and are taken on faith. What I mean by accountancy is... well, Marx actually thinks economics has units, an amazing innovation on his part and something that was actually ingenious. His unit is socially necessary labour time.

It was also utterly ridiculous. But more on that later.

~~~

The embarrassing mistake made by modern critics of Marx is that we so often attack a substance value theory of labour, which is not what Marx advocated, thus building a straw man that Marxians can gaily ignore.

Time to up one's game. A serious enquiry into the value form and socially necessary labour time will be needed, but care must be taken lest the pupil of economics start talking about ideas like surplus value, dialectical materialism, or abstract labour that Marx himself never mentioned.



[1] Substance Theory article on Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_theory

[2] Field Theory article on Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_theory_(sociology)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What Lingos Are Most Similar to English, Though?

Commentaryism - The Death Toll of Capitalism

How many people have died because capitalism exists? How many would still be alive if it had never existed? Let's dig in!

We will take two approaches over the course of this blog post by looking at the the death tolls attributed to the word in its broad popular definition - everything socialists don't like - versus the toll that fits the definition offered previously on this blog.

By the same token I will not lay any outsized figures at any other mode of production's door except where that mode of production demonstrably caused the problem that killed people. It's political ideologies that really matter here, and this is where the first big problem with even trying to lay a specific body count before capitalism runs into problems - there is no political ideology called capitalism.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now then, Alfonso Gutierrez says in a comment thread that "capitalism and free-markets have murdered billions of people" which is a risky claim at the …

Trickle-down Economics as Economic Theory in Reality

I watched an interview with Deirdre McCloskey on the Youtube channel of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. [1]

After doing so I contributed to a comment thread, recreated in full below, wherein a chappy who claimed to be an economist tried to convince me that trickle-down economics actually is a serious thing after all. This was in response to my posting a link to Thomas Sowell's article The Trickle-Down Lie, and I am so far unconvinced by the tale the economist in question spun for me.

He cited a paper from the 90's as his example, and I entreat you to have a gander at its abstract and compare that to trickle-down as described by David Stockman in his interview with William Greider on supply-side economics. [2][3][4]

Steve Horwitz isn't in love with the phrase, but offers a decent definition;
It’s hard to pin down exactly what that term means, but it seems to be something like the following: “those free market folks believe that if you give tax cuts or subsidies to …