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884. From Addition to Multiplication: The Labour Theory Of Value and the Economic Institutions of Capitalism. Part One: Profit and Surplus-Value in light of Transaction Costs

Working Paper n. 884 - Luglio 2022

Alberto Battistini

DEPS, USiena


this three-parts study presents an institutional and evolutionary -or a qualitative and intersubjective-re-interpretation of Marx’s version of the labour theory of value. More specifically, in this Part One Marx’s own contribution to that theory - that is, the theory of surplusvalue, or the difference between use-value and exchange-value of labour power as a determinant of profit in perfectly competitive conditions and of the contradictory nature of the capital accumulation process- is re-dis-covered. Accordingly, the amount that would have been the cost of obtaining the same commodity in the noncapitalist Commodity → Money → Commodity circuit -that is, in the market of independent or smalland medium-size producers, takes the place of the direct and indirect quantity of working hours contained in a given commodity, thus representing its exchange value. By applying - as Marx did- the same pricing rule which holds for the other commodities to labour power, therefore, the quantity of labour socially necessary to produce subsistence goods is in its turn substituted with the amount that is possible to earn from independent participation in the production process, without specific means of production in the usual meaning of the term. Since the step in terms of surplus-labour is then skipped for theoretical as well as practical reasons, the use-value of labour-power corresponds to the exchange-value of the commodities. Consequently, as in Marx, also in this case a kind of profit that derives from the difference between the use-value and the exchange-value of labour-power, but measured in terms of transaction costs, comes to light. Moreover, because it derives from the aforementioned difference, this kind of profit is not eliminated by competition. As a consequence, it should be named as ‘Marxian’ or ‘industrial’ profit in order to distinguish it from monopoly profit, which instead derives from price setting. On the basis of this result, in the next two Parts of the study the hypothesis that the principle of the maximization of this kind of profit might work as a general positive principle for the economic domain, including as special cases Pareto-efficiency and conflict, will be verified


transaction costs; wealth effects; use-value; exchange-value; team production; methodological individualism

Jel Codes

A10; B00; C70; P10; D02