Marxian Value Analysis

  • J. E. Roemer
Part of the The New Palgrave book series (NPA)


For Marx, the labour theory of value was not a theory of price, but a method for measuring the exploitation of labour. The exploitation of labour, in turn, was important for explaining the production of a surplus in a capitalist economy. In a feudal economy, the emergence of a net product, surplus to the consumption of producers and to the inputs consumed in production, was palpable. For the serf reproduced himself on his family plot of land during part of the week, and then worked for the lord, doing demesne or corvee labour during the other part. There was a temporal and physical division between production for subsistence or reproduction, and production which generated an economic surplus and was appropriated by the lord. Under capitalism, with the division of labour, such a demarcation no longer existed. If capitalism is characterized by competitive markets, where each factor is paid its true ‘value’, and no one makes a windfall profit by cheating his partner in exchange, how could a surplus emerge? In what manner could a sequence of equal exchanges transform an initial set of inputs into a larger quantity of outputs, with the surplus being appropriated systematically by one class, the capitalists? Marx’s project was to explain the origin of profits in a perfectly competitive model, where each factor, including labour, received its competitive price in exchange.


Capital Stock Equilibrium Price Price Vector Initial Endowment Corn Output 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Roemer

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