Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


+4 votes
related to an answer for: Anarcho-marxists?

2 Answers

+5 votes
The labor theory of value was a theory articulated primarily by John Locke, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and David Ricardo. They asserted that for any socially-necessary commodity, the human labor necessary to compose it comprises its true value (usefulness to humans), and any form of markup beyond that value is exploitation via profit, interest, and rent. In capitalism, workers receive only a portion of the value they create as wages, with the rest going to capitalists, who enrich themselves via ownership alone rather than actual production.

The LTV supports the assertion that capitalism is exploitative via profiteering, and depends on class hierarchy. Beyond the production process, LTV adherents also believe that usury (selling commodities for a markup) is exploitative as well since the reason this is done is to take advantage of someone else's need for one's own personal gain by artificially creating a false, higher value that the "consumer" must pay.

Some anarcho-communists (e.g. Kropotkin and Malatesta) reject the labor theory of value because they feel it does not reflect how the totality of social relationships interact with the creation of commodities, how, for example, the laborer's product could not exist without educators, trainers, colleagues, homemakers, etc. This allowed for the later theoretical formulation of productive v. reproductive labor. They also felt there was no "appropriate wage" for labor (unlike collectivists and mutualists), because quantifying labor (making labor in some way equivalent to commodities) is a dehumanizing aspect of capitalism.

Some green anarchists reject the labor theory of value because they feel it incorrectly or inappropriately presumes the only value worth measuring or noting is the value of commodities produced by humans for humans. Typical criticisms center on the assertion that "value does not exist without labor", which green anarchists see as merely a modification of the capitalist paradigm that "unowned resources have no use or value", i.e. both center around a framework of dominion over the Earth.

Most anarchists who accept economics as a useful framework, primarily Left-anarchists such as anarcho-syndicalists, collectivist anarchists, mutualists, and many individualist anarchists, accept the labor theory of value and believe the reward for labor should be the full product of that labor. Recent mutualists such as Kevin Carson have tried to resolve apparent contradictions between the labor theory of value and the theory of marginal utility AKA subjective value theory that neoliberals, US Libertarians, and Austrian economics adherents believe in.

Egoist anarchists and nihilist anarchists as far as I know have not espoused or endorsed any particular theory of value and probably reject economics as a discipline.

Also worthy of note: one does not need to accept the labor theory of value to believe capital exploits labor.
by (8.9k points)
edited by
+1 vote
The labour theory of value (LTV) as defined by wikipedia "argue that the value of a commodity is related to the labor needed to produce or obtain that commodity. Presently the concept is most often associated with Marxian economics, although it appears as a foundation to earlier classical economic theorists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo."( What Marx critiziced in Smith and Ricardo was that they did not take into account the role of salaried workers in the work process which was really producing the things while the capitalists kept most of the profits and decided on the salary of the workers. So Marx denounced that capitalism was not making justice to the LTV and so he argued for a socialist system which will make justice to it, namely that the workers who produce the things have to keep the profits or the benefits of it without intermediaries. Afterwards capitalist economics also decided to abandon the LTV over a thing called marginalism ( which mostly accepts cyniclly the fact that in a capitalist market what matters is what a consumer decides to purchase even if she is valuing more a pair of nike shoes over water or diamonds over a clean environment or something made by robots over something made by labourers who worked 12 or more hours. So the "workerism" of Marxism is clear here and it can be argued that also bakuninist collectivism and proudhonian mutualism share this workerism of marxism.

Anarcho-communism is a tendency within anarchism which rejects the labour theory of value altogether ( and so it can be certainly seen as a less workerist form of thought that those previously mentioned. It happens to be the largest and most influential economic tendency within anarchism and it goes on even in so called US "post-left anarchy" tendencies such as in the interest writers like Bob black and Hakim Bey manifest for Gift economies ( over schemes of labour value calculation (such as those of the neo-collectivist Parecon scheme ( as well as what can be seen in the work of a prominent anarchist academic such as David Graeber and his recent book "Debt: The First 5000 Years" ( and the views of both platformists and insurrectionists anarchists who both agree with anarcho-communist economics. Clearly the recent "criticism of work" then will tend to sympathize more with anarcho-communism than with the more workerist views of marxism, collectivism and mutualism.

Nevertheless two important historical tendencies within anarchism, namely the mutualism ( of Pierre Joseph Proudhon and the Collectivist anarchism ( of Bakunin advocate a form of the labour theory of value.

A historical and theorectical detailed view on why anarcho-communism came to reject the labour theory of value of collectivism, mutualism, liberalism and marxism can be found here ( The main points of it are:

*Saying that what an individual or collective labourer give in work is what gives value to a previous thing tranformed in a work process is not taking into account all the past knowledge which was created by individuals and collectives which is used in the work process. This is a form of collective intellectual property which is defended in opposition to the contemporary capitalist intellectual property rights which tend to be defended by states.

*Saying that what an individual or collective labourer give in work is what gives value to a previous thing is also not takin into account the conditions created by a particular societal situation which allow for a particular work process to take place at all. Such societal situation is indeed a form of work performed by us all who participate in a society. For example in a state of warfare very likely your work will not be possible or allowed. Something related to this leads us to the next point.

*From a consumption point of view a society or a group of consumers and also those living in a specific place will have to have a say on what has to be produced and what does not have to be produced. Marxists call this point of view "use value" ( and from this point of view a rational society can be said to be wiser in preferring the production of food, housing or art over guns, TV commercials and gold. This has also been identified as the criticism of the "waste" of natural and human "resources" that happens in capitalism. On this anarcho-communism and marxism will coincide. Nevertheless this only goes further in making anarcho-communism less workerist than marxism in this taking into account of consumers. But this was also an important reason why anarcho-communists like Kropotkin and Malatesta tended to be critical of anarcho-syndicalist calls for workers ownership of means of production which of course did not mean workers should not control the conditions of work (of course also taking into account that they have environmental controls since nothing important can prevent sometimes workers cooperatives driven by a collective profit objective from polluting), but just that the views and need of consumers and those affected by production processes have also to be considered.

*From these points of view  a possible calculation of the value created and what belongs to whom from the point of view of labour is almost impossible and a pointless enterprise. On top an ecologist/green point of view can also be brought which will argue that anything that was transformed in a work process was wild nature before and so we will have to value nature also in the "valorization" for producing what was transformed by humans in a work process.
by (3.3k points)
edited by