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886. From Addition to Multiplication: The Labour Theory of Value and the Economic Institutions of Capitalism. Part three: Structure, Super-structure and Institutional Change

Working Paper n. 886 - Luglio 2022

Alberto Battistini

DEPS, USiena


this three-parts study propounds an institutional and evolutionary - or a qualitative and intersubjective-re-interpretation of Marx’s version of the labour theory of value. In this third and final part, the general and dynamic extension of the analyses conducted in the previous parts is concluded. Consequently, the basic issue concerns the Marxian theory of institutional change, i.e. the effect of structural crises on the ideological super-structure and the feedback effect that a possible change of the latter can exert on the former. More specifically, the point is this: to the extent that the conflict present in reality is transferred to a cognitive level, it is possible to identify a notion of inter-subjectivity that consists in the intersection among different points of view, or, to quote the title of a well-known article by Aumann (1973), in what players ‘agree to disagree’. In its turn, provided that the rather restrictive conditions that ensure its formation are fulfilled, this notion of inter-subjectivity corresponds to a super-structural change which - by changing the perception of the legitimacy and efficacy of the existing property rights’ distribution and thereby determining structural changes in decision-making processes- proves able to support the transition from a pair of Paretoefficient equilibria that do not maximize total value to another pair of equilibria, also Pareto-efficient but which maximizes it. In other words, by resolving what in the previous parts has been called the ‘fundamental contradiction of capitalism from the point of view of production’, i.e., the problem of the separation between ownership and control of the labour force, such structural changes re-establish the coincidence between players and decision-makers that enables the transition from the tendency to crisis to the one to growth already introduced in the Part Two and respectively associated with the thinking of Marx and Smith. Moreover, since intersection means that ‘the whole is less than the sum of the parts’, the truth of the statements about this notion of inter-subjectivity does not depend on who makes them and is therefore interpretable in terms of epistemic objectivity. However, since this notion of objectivity does not need unanimity, the philosophy of science which is behind the axiomatic approach - on which in its turn is based standard economic theory, that is, the transformation of normative principle like the Paretoefficiency one into the universal positive principle for the economic domain- turns out to be likewise questionable.


beliefs, expectations, inter-subjectivity; structural interdependence, property rights, self-evidence.

Jel Codes

A10; B00; C70; P10; D02