Political Economy and its Sociological Critics

  • Simon Clarke


It has become the Marxist orthodoxy to identify classical political economy with the labour theory of value. However, of all those who could be called classical political economists only Ricardo adhered (almost unequivocally) to the labour theory of value. As we have seen, Smith had proposed a labour-commanded theory, but this was largely for methodological convenience. Say, who first systematised Smith’s theory, adopted a theory of supply and demand. Malthus, Bailey, Senior and many other leading economists rejected the Ricardian theory of value altogether, while Ricardo’s closest followers, James Mill and McCulloch, followed in turn by John Stuart Mill and Cairnes, all modified the labour theory in order to accommodate the awkward inconsistency between price and value. Even Ricardo himself at times indicated a willingness to abandon the labour theory. If we take the labour theory of value as the defining feature of classical political economy we reduce it to a system that had but one adherent.1


Political Economy Capitalist Society Social Reform Class Conflict Political Regulation 
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Copyright information

© Simon Clarke 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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