Newsgroups: alt.politics.communism
Subject: Re: On the labour theory of value…
References: <>
From: Haines Brown <>
Message-ID: <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 12:20:21 GMT

On the labour theory of value...

From a discussion in the alt.politics.commmunism newsgroup, 30 June 2006

“John R.” <> writes:

> According to the labour theory of value used by Marx, the labour
> is the source of the value.
> I know that Marx states that only *human* labour is the source
> of the value.
> But“economically speaking”what's the substantial
> difference between *machine* labour and *human* labour?
> Why doesn't machine labour create value?
> Thanks.
> Johnny

“Value” is not some independent empirical measurement, such as temperature or color, but refers to a relation of something to something else. A commodity has “exchange value”, because of its ability to command other commodities in the marketplace. This takes place in the “sphere of exchange”, however, not in the “sphere of production” to which your question refers.

In the sphere of production, the product acquires “use value” because of its relation to human needs. While the machine can hypothetically be self-directed and self-repairing, the resulting product is determined by the features originally built into the machine, which in turn reflect needs of the past, not the present. While the factory could have originally been designed to meet human needs when it was built, because human needs are “emergent” (are a result of our emerging capacities), a fully automated factory can only satisfy our past needs, not our present needs.

That is, the machine by itself can’t support human development, but only hold it back. Capital is a product of the past that in itself can only retard human development and human freedom. It is only when capital is under the control of those whose who are the consumers of the product can productive capacity be directed to meet emergent needs as they exist in the present.

This is where labor comes in. The worker, whether by mind or by hand can direct the productive process so that it will satisfy current needs. When you do a home repair, your work is directly guided by your existing needs. However, under capitalism, the purpose of production is not the satisfaction of present human needs, but profit and maximum exchange value, and this only indirectly and to a degree addresses human needs.

What needs are actually met under capitalism is limited by its necessary drive to realize the greatest profit in relation to capital investment, and this leaves many needs to the side. It ignores needs that have emerged, and its satisfaction of needs tends to be a function of people's buying power. Capital accumulation and investment is based on market demand at the time when it took place, not present needs that can be met only if the producer is not subject to this past capital investment, but responsive to presently existing social needs, whether personally or through some kind of democratic decision making.

In short, the “value” that the machine produces can only satisfy social reproduction, not social development. Capital investment represents the burden of history if the worker's labor power is not continuously subject to emerging social needs.

Haines Brown KB1GRM