Work value teachings

of products of human work have a value in use, a chair for example is for sitting to be used, a table, in order to turn to it something off. In market managing work products are bought and sold, them to have not only a value in use, but also a price. What determines the height of these prices? Economist such as William Petty, Adam Smith or David Ricardo in 17. to 19. Century answered this question with the value. Quantities are exchanged against each other with same in each case value. If a chair has for example a value of 1,5 and a gold coin a value of 3, then the exchange value of a chair in gold amounts to been expressing a half gold coin. Turned around one can buy two chairs with a gold coin. From where comes however the 1.5 and 3? According to the work value teachings the value of a chair of 1,5 determines itself therefore that 1.5 working hours are needed, in order to manufacture this chair. Exactly the same the value of the gold coin of 3 determines itself by the fact that 3 working hours are needed for their production.

Under “work time” thereby the work time of a “normal” worker is meant, who works with “more normally” production engineering. “Putridly” if a worker needs 3 hours, in order to manufacture a chair, then he creates a value of 1,5 in these 3 hours only, because other workers need evenly only 1.5 hours for a chair. Accordingly it applies that if a worker needs 3 hours for a chair, because his employer lets work still with outdated technology it likewise only one value of 1,5 creates.

Turned around an industrious worker, who manufactures two chairs in 1,5 hours, creates a value of 3. If a manufacturer uses a completely modern technology, with which in 1,5 hours by a worker 2 chairs can be manufactured, then this worker creates a value of 3 likewise in 1,5 hours.

Therefore a strong incentive exists for letting workers manufacture as much as possible in as short a time as possible is it with pressure to more “diligence”, is it by better production engineering. If the new production engineering spreads however on the whole industry, then the new shorter work time becomes “normal”. Succeeds generally manufacturing chairs with the help of better technology in 1 hour, then the value of a chair of 1,5 to 1 sinks.

Table of contents

in detail

nowadays the work value teachings Karl Marx are attributed to general, who tied thereby however at forerunners like the mentioned Petty, Smith or Ricardo. Its work value teachings differ however from these “civil” forerunners in the fact that it the work value teachings not when a over-historical law of nature regards. It is not a nature characteristic of the work to create value. Rather the work value teachings develop only under certain conditions, evenly in the capitalistic restaurant way.

This is characterized after Marx by the fact that a class, which is Bourgeoisie, in the possession of means of production (factories, properties, materials, money), while the other class, which free hired hand, only can sell their worker, in order to earn their living costs.

The workers exchange thus their worker like a commodity W for money G, which they exchange then again in goods W, which need it to the life: W-G-W

in reverse with the capitalists: They buy with money G goods W (means of production and worker), in order to set thereby a production process on, which leads to the production of new goods, which are sold then again against money G as goods: G-W-G or G-W-P (production process) - W-G.

For the capitalists this is however meaningful only if they take at the conclusion more money, than they invested at first. There it meets well that the workers of something must live. They are forced as „free “workers to be content with the sales of their worker „voluntarily “with wages which are sufficient, in order to buy the goods necessary for the life. Altogether more goods are actually provided, the multi-product remains with the capitalists. Only on this condition the attitude of workers pays for the capitalists.

Altogether in the production process a certain quantity of goods is thus provided. The workers with their wages of the capitalists can buy a part of it. The other part remains than multi-product with the capitalists, who buy and sell these goods as goods among themselves.

In which relationship now do the goods (exchange value of the commodity) exchange themselves? If a commodity, about gold, takes over the task of the money commodity, the question arises, in which relationship the goods exchange themselves to the money (price as special exchange value).

On the assumption that the capitalists want to optimize the exploitation of the workers, it competes also with one another, arises (when first solution) that the goods exchange themselves in relation to the work time, which is normally on the average necessary in order these goods to manufacture (work value teachings). One exchanged to another relationship, approximately after the weight or the size of the goods, some capitalists did not behave optimally. They are pushed either from the market or learn to change to it and their behavior.

Also the commodity worker is sold and bought to its work value. The value of the commodity worker like the value of every other commodity also by the work time certainly, which is necessary for their production, here by the work time, which is necessary to receive in order to manufacture the goods, which need the workers, in order their worker. Therefore thus no “unfairness” can be stated (see below to “moral questions”).

Actually in an unplanned economy never after work values one exchanges exactly, since these change constantly and does not admit are. The work values are rather equilibrium values (Marx: Gravitation centers), around which the actual prices (the values expressed as exchange value of the goods in the money commodity) vary.

Thus to the money a special meaning comes, because only after payment in money the market participants know, which value practically the commodity now had, indifferently whether this value corresponds to its unknown theoretical work value exactly now or not. Marx differs also here from his civil forerunners, since with it money is not simply only “pfiffiges” article of exchange, but the practical proof necessary in an economy, which is not socially planned, the goods are practically” worth which “.

The value of the multi-product is the increase in value. The wages are the variable capital v. Together with the increase in value m it forms the original value m+v (creation of value). The value of the goods, which buy the capitalists from each other as means of production (machines, building, materials etc.) are the constant capital C.

The relationship from m to v is the increase in value rate. If the capitalist invests thus C and v, in order to obtain thereby an increase in value from m to, then the profit rate is m (c+v). Differently expressed: (m/v)/(c/v + 1). The relationship of the constant capital C to the variable capital v designates Marx in volume I of the capital (MEW 23, S. 640) as value composition of the capital.

the work values would apply for reconciliation

of the profit rates between the industries to each commodity, then a high, for other industries a low profit rate on the assumption for some industry would result that the increase in value rate is alike in all industries. In industries, where comparatively much work is used and little constant capital (z. B. Nearly food industry), where thus the organic composition is low, would have turned around the profit rate highly, and, in industries with much constant capital and little work input (z. B. Power stations), where thus the organic composition is high, low. The capital will divert from the industries with low profit rate into the industries with the high profit rate. Because of the law of supply and demand the prices will rise there over their values and under their values sink here in all industries the same profit rate prevail so long. It develops so at least in the tendency a general profit rate . Then the prices (now in second solution) correspond, which Marx now as production prices designate, in the individual industries no more the work values. The work value teachings however still apply in the overall economic average.

In the individual industries the profit is not now any more equal to the increase in value. Overall economic however the sum of all profits is equal to the sum of all increases in value. Increase in value between the industries is thus umverteilt by the reconciliation of the profit rates.

automation and Vollautomatisierung


after the work value teachings result to value only from the employment of Lohnarbeit. The capital, which the capitalists invest into the purchase of worker, whom they buy from the workers, calls Marx „variable capital “, because value is added to the products the longer on it by the hired hands is worked. On the other hand Marx designates the capital, which is invested in means of production, which are bought by other capitalists, as „constant capital “, since this value will invariably transfer in accordance with condition of consumption during the production process to the final products.

Assumed an automobile company rationalizes all workers away, the cars fully automatic by robots is manufactured. In this company then no increase in value develops, since there are no more hired hands. Nevertheless the company makes a profit, since each car has still the value, which corresponds to the usual work time, which is still necessary with the mass of the remaining automobile companies.

Accepted, the whole autoindustry rationalizes all workers away, all cars fully automatic by robots is manufactured. In the autoindustry then no more value, an increase in value does not develop. Nevertheless the autoindustry makes still for profit, since because of the reconciliation of the profit rates the increase in value, which develops altogether in the industries, is umverteilt thus on the industries in the form of profit that everywhere the same profit rate results. Also in the fully automated autoindustry thus the average profit rate results. However precipitates this lower, since the increase in value mass decreased altogether, if in the autoindustry no more increase in value develops.

It becomes problematic at the latest if all industries would automate. No workers, no increase in value. The capital would be in a crisis. Capitalistic restaurant way and automation do not fit thus to each other, although from view of the individual capitalist automation can provide competition advantages (law of the tendentious case of the profit rate).

„only alive work can create value! “

This is a statement repeatedly which can be heard, which, because only wages is not correct in such a way - work value to create can, which so generally discovers in addition, Unglauben. Indeed first, why a robot, which manufactures cars, does not create value, a hired hand, who builds cars, is not to be seen but already. Why doesn't an apple tree, which brings apples out, create value, the hired hand, who picks the apples, but already? A course animal does not create value, probably however the hired hands, who pull a truck. The slave, the cotton picks, creates no value, the hired hand, who does the same, creates value.

Here it shows up that it concerns at the work values social conditions. Slaves it is common to the robot, the apple tree, the workhorse and that that they are all property of a capitalist. Are they or their products sold, how increase in value can develop there? The selling capitalist has no interests to keep the price so low that the buyer with profit can sell further. Did not turn around the buying capitalist interest to pay a so high price that for the salesman a profit develops. Capitalists will exchange among themselves in such a way (to buy and sell) that same value approximately same value are exchanged, it can thus no increase in value develop. (Also the sales of consumer goods to the workers over value does not go, since this would have to increase the wages, and on the other hand have all capitalists something, the worker buying want.)

also the worker is sold to her value, but evenly also only to their value. The workers obtain the value, which is necessary for the production of the worker for their worker only. The hired hands are forced due to the circumstances to in-permit itself on this trade. With the help of the worker however more is actually produced, than only the products for the workers. This the workers squeezed off multi-product, evaluates increase in value, is the reason, why each capitalist can make a profit impact on production costs. It sells thus more expensively, than production cost it. The multi-product slaves against it heimst also the owner of slave, it can sell it however not with profit, since this could not be offered the buyer.

“moral” questions

frequent the work value teachings are considered as proof that the workers “bestohlen” exploited, thus become (whereby the word “exploitation” can have also a not moral meaning in the sense of “a mine to exploit”). Marx approved of however the capital a “historical mission” too, thus the capitalistic restaurant way estimated as progressive in relation to previous restaurant ways. Therefore it approves of the capitalist as the “functionaries of the capital” the increase in value too similarly as economists, who stood for the capital less critically opposite and who the increase in value as payment for entrepreneur achievements, for which “and for business decisions regarded risk”.

However this historical mission exists only one time long. If the productive forces of the society far enough and after Marx are developed happen this in capitalism, then the capitalistic production way finally becomes outdated. The decisions of the individual capitalists, who are committed only to their private interest, contradict increasingly a production, which takes place actually already socially. Crises and unemployment are the result. Capitalism must be replaced then - so Marx - by social democratic planned economy a fitting social production.

other value theories

first are worth-determining from view of the economist means of production, which form the bottleneck factor. Is to be gone around for example in an oasis as economically as possible with water, then it is meaningful all products after the water consumption, which accompanies with its production, to evaluate. So economical handling the scarce property water can be attained. Work values would result from this view, if work is the knappe factor. In view of continuous unemployment thus no work values might exist. Marx sees „the scarceness “however differently. The one which can be solved the scarceness problem consists with it of the fact that the difference between the expenditure on work time, which is necessary for the production of the goods needed by the workers, and which work time, which the workers work altogether, becomes as large as possible. The solution of this optimization problem leads likewise to work values (in first approximation, see above).

the use theory

objectives value theories is against-placed the subjective value theory. Therefore the value is formed not by objective causes, like necessary work time, but by the subjective use, which the individual subjects draw from a property. Always objective and subjective causes actually play also in here. With Marx a work product has value only if there is someone, which wants to pay for it the price and can. A useless product does not have value, equal how much work in it may be.

According to use theory the prices of the different goods behave like „the marginal utilities“these goods (marginal utility theory). An additional euro, which is spent on an additional piece apple, is to thus donate the same use, as if this euro was spent on an additional piece of pear. In addition, in the total micro-economic equilibrium the factor of production work is divided in such a way on the production of the different goods that one minute brings work out in apple production same use as one minute of work in pear production (border productivity theory). So regarded thus also a kind of work value importance applies.

However this applies for capital to all factors of production such as soil or „“. In the equilibrium if a square meter soil is taken off from apple production, in order to be able to produce more pears, then the use reduction corresponds to the use gain because of smaller apple production exactly because of increased pear production.

the Sraffa school

the Italian economist Piero Sraffa proceeds from the production coefficients. How much do wheels for example have to be supplied with to autoproduction “by the industry „wheel production “to the industry „, in order to produce a certain quantity of cars? The entire production of a national economy is so certain by these production coefficients. Can mathematical be computed, in which relationship the different industries to each other to stand to have, so that all can grow evenly. In the case of it that the more goods for the wages „“are lost, are the lower the profits, with which the production extension is financed, result the smaller are the economic growth. There is thus conflicting aims between as high an economic growth (if necessary as rapid a dismantling of unemployment as possible) and as high a wages as possible.

That the profit rate sinks, if the wages rise, the English economist already represented David Ricardo, why the Sraffa school is called also the Neoricardianer.

The Sraffa model can be examined by matrix calculus more exactly. In particular the work values, thus not only the work, which are received directly in the production process into the goods, but also the work, which are received indirectly over the production materials into the final products, can be computed. This made the Sraffaschule attractive for the Marxist economics. However this can be exactly the same made with every other means of production, it can for example also „steel values “be computed. Similarly as already with the marginal utility theory thus also of the Sraffaschule the work value teachings are found not simply wrong, it give only no reason to make the values straight firm on the work times instead of at possibly another means of production.

Marx attaches the values to the work, because he sees the economy not only under technical criteria (values in use), but also as a social relationship between two classes.

see also:

Work value theory, exchange value, value law


  • in the same measure, as the work time - which is set bare quantity work - by the capital as only worth-determining element, in the same measure disappears the direct work and its quantity as the determining principle of production… and both quantitatively to one geringern to proportion is lowered and qualitatively as an indispensable, but subalternes moment against the general scientific work. The capital works in such a way on its own dissolution as production controlling form. … Karl Marx, MEW 42, sketches, S. 596.
  • … production which is based to the value. Their condition is and remains - the mass direct work time,…… the work appears no longer so much than enclosed into the production process, when humans behave rather as guard and modulator to the production process. … [The worker] steps apart from the production process, instead of being its main agent. … As soon as the work in direct form stopped being the large source of the wealth hears and must stop to be the work time its measure and therefore the exchange value the measure of the value in use. … Thus production ruhnde on the exchange value breaks down,… Karl Marx: MEW 42, sketches, 600f.


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