The interminable confusion over the useless ‘labor theory of value’
I studied Marxist theory for decades and never arrived at any conclusion confidently taken on this question. Over fifty years nothing has changed: the same old useless non-debate. Suspicions arise that the terms of discussion are inherently flawed. The legacy of Marx has been frittered away by a futile debate over the labor theory of value. And yet an utterly simple resolution stars in the face: labor is exploited over issues of wage. That’s an empirical observation, demonstrable by case and example, with a reasonable generalization that capitalists exploit labor. The proposition is obvious. But the add-on the labor theory of value precipitates error in those who protest the wage issue in terms of exploitation.
Part of the problem is/was the obsession to be scientific, an obvious point, it seems. But the question of science is problematical throughout not just Marxist but any other sociological or economic theory. The point is especially glaring with neo-classical economics. This obvious pseudo-science eludes the Marxist because he is defending his own theory, those that Marx obsessed over but never resolved. The result is a strange proof that hyper-intelligent people like Marx can end up stuck on the question because is a crypto-metaphysical one.
In the end, the problem is obvious: the term ‘value’ flags the problem as a confusion of facts and…values! It is a metaphysical problem in a numerical fog. The worst part of the confusion is that it is neverending. It is impossible to point out to Marxists there is a problem here that has harmed the left. There is no system of theory that has resolved issues of economics, left or right. In poker, the best strategy is usually to fold, and not throw good money after bad. This issue seems like that, fold and drop the labor theory of value. In every generation, a new set of enthusiastic beginners are befuddled by this issue, which also has a crypto-theological demand for faith.