Marx’s Metaphysics of Human Labour in the Light of Sraffa: Labour Theory of Value Reconsidered

  • Ajit Sinha
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


In this chapter, I analyse the foundations of Marx’s analysis of a capitalist economy in terms of labour time to locate the root cause of Marx’s problem of relating values to prices and surplus values to profits, and then show how Sraffa succeeds in solving the problem by liberating Marx from his metaphysics of “human labour.”


Karl Marx Piero Sraffa Labour theory of value Surplus value Standard system Standard commodity Adam Smith David Ricardo 



I take this opportunity to thank Professors Amit Bhaduri, Meghnad Desai, and Geoffrey Harcourt for their comments on an earlier draft of this chapter—the usual caveat applies.


  1. Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von. Capital and Interest. 3 vols. Translated by George D. Huncke and Hans F. Sennholz. Illinois: Liberation Press, 1959.Google Scholar
  2. Harcourt, G. C. and Prue Kerr. “Marx, Karl Heinrich (1818–83).” In International Encyclopedia of Business and Management, edited by Malcolm Warner, 3388–95. London: Routledge, 1996.Google Scholar
  3. Jevons, W. S. The Theory of Political Economy. New York: Kelly & Millman, Inc, 1957.Google Scholar
  4. Marx, Karl. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. New York: International Publishers, 1964.Google Scholar
  5. Marx, Karl. Theories of Surplus Value, Part II. Moscow: Progress Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  6. Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. New York: International Publishers, 1970.Google Scholar
  7. Marx, Karl. Grundrisse. Middlesex: Pelican Books, 1973.Google Scholar
  8. Marx, Karl. Capital. Vol. I. New York: Vintage, 1977.Google Scholar
  9. Marx, Karl. Capital. Vol. III. London: Penguin Classics, 1991.Google Scholar
  10. Marx, Karl. Capital. Vol. II. London: Penguin Classics, 1992.Google Scholar
  11. Marx, Karl and F. Engels. The German Ideology. New York: International Publishers, 1991.Google Scholar
  12. Menger, Carl. Principles of Economics. Translated by J. Dingwall and B. F. Hoselitz. Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Ricardo, David. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951.Google Scholar
  14. Ricardo, David. Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo. Vol. VIII. Edited by Piero Sraffa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952.Google Scholar
  15. Sinha, Ajit. A Revolution in Economic Theory: The Economics of Piero Sraffa. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sinha, Ajit. Theories of Value from Adam Smith to Piero Sraffa. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2018.Google Scholar
  17. Sinha, Ajit. Essays on Theories of Value in the Classical Tradition. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Vol. 1. Indianapolis: Library Fund, 1981.Google Scholar
  19. Sraffa, Piero. “Introduction.” In Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo. Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951.Google Scholar
  20. Sraffa, Piero. Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960.Google Scholar
  21. Sraffa, Piero. Sraffa Papers. Cambridge: Wren Library, Trinity College, n.d.Google Scholar
  22. Wicksell, Knut. Lectures on Political Economy. Vol. I. London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1934.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ajit Sinha
    • 1
  1. 1.Azim Premji UniversityBengaluruIndia

Personalised recommendations