The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Palgrave Macmillan

Marxian Value Analysis

  • John E. Roemer
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history



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 corvée 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.

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bardhan, P. 1984. Land, labor and rural poverty: Essays in development economics. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bowles, S., and H. Gintis. 1981. Structure and practice in the labor theory of value. Review of Radical Political Economics 12 (4): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cohen, G.A. 1979. The labor theory of value and the concept of exploitation. Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (4): 338–360.Google Scholar
  4. Elster, J. 1985. Making sense of Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Geras, N. 1985. The controversy about Marx and justice. New Left Review 150: 47–85.Google Scholar
  6. Morishima, M. 1973. Marx’s economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Roemer, J.E. 1981. Analytical foundations of Marxian economic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Roemer, J.E. 1982. A general theory of exploitation and class. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Roemer, J.E. 1985a. Value, exploitation, and class. London: Harwood Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Roemer, J.E. 1985b. Should Marxists be interested in exploitation? Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 (1): 30–65.Google Scholar
  11. Samuelson, P. 1982. The normative and positivistic inferiority of Marx’s values paradigm. Southern Economic Journal 49 (1): 11–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Vegara, J.M. 1979. Economia politica y modelos multisectoriales. Madrid: Editorial Tecnos.Google Scholar
  13. Wright, E.O. 1985. Classes. London: New Left Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Roemer
    • 1
  1. 1.