INTRODUCTION

As well as it happens for most of the main “Classics” in every field of knowledge, also Karl Marx’s works and ideas have been subjected to a process which we could call “implicitation”, as they are not anymore openly studied and criticized by mainstream scholars, being their knowledge considered totally acquired and fully developed.

It could seem that Marx’s thought has nothing new to say nowadays, and that all his relevant contributions to social sciences have already been pointed out and developed by his followers, or that all his weaknesses have already been discovered by his criticizers.

This aspect of modern science probably derives from its tendency to “institutionalize” its findings, that is, to make them conclusive and certain, strengthening them by the inclusion in a coordinated and coherent system.

The creation of such a system is indubitably one of the factors that determined the enormous progress experienced by science in the last three centuries, but, at the same time, every system presupposes some kind of standardization, which allows its single elements to fit the whole.

Even without considering the still interesting matter of a general critique of this system, we can easily realize the usefulness of an approach which goes out of this channel, and tries to understand a phenomenon for the sake of the understanding itself, not with the intention to make it fit to broader theories or even with some world view. Such an approach would allow to rediscover some of a thinker’s cues which were left aside by his followers, not always for their inappropriateness or inconsistence, but often just because they resulted conflicting with  the reconstruction those scholars were making or, even worse, with the political use they wanted to make of his thought.

The originality of Marx’s thought is probably made by his point of view, which is philosophical rather than scientific: this makes it possible for his theories to somehow come out of the “implicitation” we earlier referred to, as they are aimed not to be adapted to a system, but rather to analyze the system itself from its deepest foundations. His aim, we could say, is not an explication, but an understanding: his method is not simply descriptive, but also “problematic”, as he does not necessarily want to find a functioning in the system, being not afraid to give account of dysfunctions and contradictions, even though the solution to them does not seem to be easy to find.

One of the problems underlying the economic science from its origins to the present, which we want to explore trough Marx’s approach, is the one of value, which could be considered as important as the concept of space is for physics or as the one of number is for mathematics.

In such kind of concepts, their utilization is so necessary for the following developments of the discipline, that the clarification of their meaning, especially when it raises big theoretical problems, is often left aside as a secondary matter.

This consideration is at the basis of the probably most important book of the past century, “Being and Time” by Martin Heidegger. The German philosopher pointed out the oblivion about the most important and basic concept of all: the one of being. What happened to such concept is that it is commonly used, and many, more or less sophisticated, theories were built basing on it, even though its meaning has never been totally clarified.

The problem of value is a perfect example of this phenomenon, having it been now almost totally excluded by the study of economic science, being it even considered useless and redundant, as P. Samuelson stated in 1970.

My aim in this essay is to show the importance of this problem for economic science, and how its oblivion has determined serious weaknesses not only in the theory, but also in the functioning of the economic system in general, being the possibility to intervene on the system directly related with the degree of its knowledge and understanding achieved by the theory.

The choice of Marx’s works as a starting point for this analysis should not be interpreted as a simple revisionism or as the umpteenth attempt to “save” his prophecies, nor either to accept the possibility of an “happy ending of History”, with the solution to all the problems of humanity.

What I considered relevant and original in the work of this author is just the fundamental character of his analysis, insofar as it tries to inspect the foundations of economic and social sciences in general. I will not consider the revolutionary solution he later found for the contradictions he pointed out, criticizing the method of  historical dialectic from an innovative point of view, based on Martin Heidegger’s thought.

1. THE PROBLEM OF VALUE AND ITS ORIGINS

Like most of Modern Sciences, Economics have developed from branches of other disciplines: mainly philosophy, jurisprudence and history in the specific case. It is often pointed out that the development of this science has corresponded with a particular development of its object, namely the transition to a capitalistic system of production.

The first theorists who tried to give a systematic explanation of the whole set of economic activities within the modern society were the Physiocrats, among which François Quesnay and Victor de Mirabeau were the most relevant figures. Their fundamental contribution was the introduction of the concept of surplus, which is defined as the amount of product which exceeds the resources employed for its production. The evident limit of their analyses was that such surplus was only thought to be originated from agriculture, being it the result of land’s fertility: for this reason, agriculture was considered the only really productive activity, while handicraft was defined as “sterile” (Whitaker, 1904; Napoleoni, 1970).

Yet in those thinkers, the problem of value emerged, even though it was not considered as a central one: the point was to calculate the value of surplus, and we can identify the first difficulty in the fact that this was only calculated on the total production in the agricultural sector, being it not possible to calculate for the single unit of land or for the single producer.

The Physiocrats’ works were the fundamental starting point for Adam Smith’s ones, and then for all “classical” thinkers: in those authors the problem of value is finally  faced and put in a central position.

As it is quoted in Whitaker (1904), Ricardo resumed the problem in a letter to J. B. Say:

The utility of things is incontestable the foundation of their value, but the degree of their utility cannot be the measure of their value… The difficulty of [a thing’s] production is the sole measure of its value”.

 

2. THE PROBLEM OF VALUE IN MARX

The problem of value is analyzed by Marx in the first Volume of “Das Kapital”, namely in its first section, which is also known with the name of the preparatory work for it “A contribution to the critique of political economy” (1859).

As he affirms in the first lines of that essay, Marx considers “the system of bourgeois economy in the following order: capital, landed property, wage-labour, State, foreign trade, world market (K. Marx, 1859 - Preface).

The analysis of value makes part of the first step: capital. The description of commodities in their economic meaning is introduced as a necessary element for such analysis.

a)     Commodity

Commodity is generally defined as “any thing necessary, useful or pleasant in life” (K. Marx, 1859 – Part I). The basic element of Marx’s analysis is the distinction between two main aspects within the commodity itself: use-value and exchange value, where the former is “the physical palpable existence of the commodity”, while the latter is “a quantitative relation, the proportion in which use-values are exchanged for one another” (K. Marx, ibid). Every commodity is the product of human labour, but immediately related with the distinction we do about the value, there is a distinction to make about labour: if we consider the use-value, this is produced by a specific form of labour, whose purpose is the production of the specific benefit offered to life by that commodity; on the other hand, being the exchange value a mere quantitative relation between goods, in the perspective of an exchange, what matters is the objective and abstract dimension of labour.

According to the theory exposed by Marx, “regarded as exchange-values all commodities are merely definite quantities of congealed labour-time (K. Marx, ibid). Labour is intended here as social, being it not referred to the single worker or to individuals, but to the average productivity of an hour of the so-called unskilled labour. The existence of skilled labour is of course not forgotten, but it does not affect the validity of the model, since it is possible to decompose every kind of complex labour into an higher number of hours of simple labour.

On the basis of the exchange-value, it is possible to elaborate a series, tending towards infinity, representing the quantities of all commodities corresponding (and exchangeable) with a definite quantity of one commodity: all those quantities will represent the same amount of general labour, which is the one necessary for its production.

The commodity chosen as a meter of comparison in the previous example, where it can be used in order to realize the equivalence with other commodities, is called the universal equivalent.

That is the concept on which the analysis of money is based in the following section. The relation between money and value will be very useful when it comes to describe the main problem Marx incurred in, namely the transformation of value in production prices and then in market prices.

b)    Money or Simple Circulation

Circulation is here described towards different aspects: measure of value, medium of exchange, and then proper Money, whose functions of hoarding, mean of payment and world money are distinguished. After that, the theories about precious metals and about money as a medium of circulation are presented by the author.

Gold becomes measure of value because the exchange-value of all commodities is measured in gold, is expressed in the relation of a definite quantity of gold and a definite quantity of commodity containing equal amounts of labour-time” (K. Marx, 1859 – Part II). So the possibility to use it for the measurement of value is not a characteristic of gold only, but of all commodities: the reason for choosing gold is given by the physical features of this metal, which are analyzed in the dedicated paragraph. The point here is that “given the process by which gold has been turned into the measure of value, and exchange-value into price, all commodities when expressed in their prices are merely imagined quantities of gold of various magnitudes”. […] “It makes no difference, therefore, to gold as money of account whether or not its standard unit or its subdivisions are actually coined” (K. Marx, ibid).

 Proper circulation is described as a transformation of the commodity from an use-value to an exchange value, and vice-versa, trough the process of exchange. The various forms of money are here the materialization of this metamorphosis. Circulation of money is then a result of the circulation of commodities. After that, the essay explains the relation between speed of circulation of money, sum total of commodity prices, and amount of medium of circulation, interlinking the variations of those parameters.

Hoards are then described as “channels for the supply or withdrawal of circulating money, so that the amount of money circulating as coin is always just adequate to the immediate requirements of circulation” (K. Marx, ibid).

The function of money as a means of payment is then analyzed.

When money circulates simply as a means of circulation and hence as a means of purchase, this presupposes that commodity and money confront each other simultaneously; in other words, that the same value is available twice, as a commodity in the hands of the seller at one pole, and as money in the hands of the buyer at the other pole” (K. Marx, ibid). But when the number and the frequency of transactions increase, this contemporary action only remains possible for exchanges of a small entity; in the bigger deals, one does not generally see the commodity and the money in the same place at the same time: “In the same way as within the sphere of internal circulation money becomes nominal, and a mere piece of paper representing gold is able to function as money, so a buyer or seller who comes forward as a mere representative of money or commodities, namely one who represents future money or future commodities, is enabled by the same process to operate as a real buyer or seller” (K. Marx, ibid). The basic aspect of such purchases in credit is then a separation in time between the two poles of the transactions, which result to be facilitated by this practice. Focusing on the meaning of money in this kind of circumstance, we can realize that now it does not anymore only work as a means of circulation, but it becomes the object of a juridical relation (obligation) between debtor and creditor, where the payment represents the end of such relation.

In an economy where this form of transaction becomes the standard in commercial activities (like all the modern systems), the juridical obligations between debtors and creditors are not isolated, but become many and mutual: for this reason, the actual transfer of money will not happen at the end of a single operation, but after the compensation in a balance of positive and negative quantities, in which payments cancel one each other. In those cases, no real money appears on the scene until the final compensation, and in all the previous transactions it was only used in its abstract form, as a measure of value for the commodity on one hand, and of the entity of an obligation on the other.

This analysis of money allows us to understand what Marx means when he refers to prices in the following steps: a price expressed in money is considered as the representation of a definite amount of congealed labour.

3. TRANSFORMATION OF VALUES INTO PRODUCTION-PRICES

One of the biggest weakness by which Marx’s analysis is affected, is the missing linkage between what we perceive in real life, prices, and what is supposed to be the cause of this phenomenon, values.

In the first Volume of “Das Kapital”, the value (W) of a commodity is defined as the sum of constant capital (C), variable capital (V) and surplus-value (Sv)[1]:

W= C + V + Sv              (1)

The proportionality between value and price is implied by the author, on the basis of a simple, but not demonstrated, consideration: the total profits realized into the economy must correspond with total surplus-value. This would make  things work quite smoothly in his model: if profit rate (r) is given by surplus-value divided capital

r =        Sv                        (2)

          C+V

 

and production prices (PP) are composed by capital plus profit,

PP = C + V + r(C + V)     (3)

 

then the equivalence between value and price is easily verified:

PP = C + V + Sv = W     (4)

However, the equivalence is only verified if we suppose that the “organic composition of capital” (C/V) is the same in all the sectors of production, excluding this way the differences among technological structures in different industries (Von Bortkiewicz, 1907)[2].

This simplification is removed in Volume III, where the formation of prices is linked to the principle of profit maximization by capitalists. Introducing the element of competition, both within and among economic sectors, Marx recognizes that, within the same sector, the configuration of productive techniques will converge to the most efficient choices, while competition among sectors will make all profit rates converge to a similar level, being the capitals attracted by the most profitable sector. In the case of competition among sectors, anyway, technologies of production will necessarily have to be different, then levels of productivity and compositions of capitals will be different as well.

Considered that point, the transformation of values in prices does not anymore take place automatically, but is the result of an adjustment process, where production prices are modified in order to make the profit rates converge, by virtue of competition. So prices do not depend on the amount of value objectified in the commodity: they just reach the level that ensures the parity of profit rates among sectors, given the optimal technological structure of each sector. In “real life”, commercial exchange rates are similar to those production prices, rather than to values.

After we remove the simplifying hypothesis, the composition of production prices (PP) is still the same:

PP = C + V + r(C + V)

but here the differences between values of the rate C/V (organic composition of capital) in different sectors are admitted, while “r” is fixed by hypothesis, so that the equivalence (4) is not always verified and prices can differ from values.

The correspondence between total profits and total surplus-value in the economy, hypothesized at the beginning of this formulation, is not necessarily unproved, but the introduction of competition demonstrates how the profit rate obtained in an industry does not depend on the surplus-value accumulated in that industry: by effect of competition, the common profit rate can be higher than the amount of surplus collected in one industry, and lower than the one accumulated in another.

4. THE PROBLEM OF VALUE AFTER MARX

It is exactly from the problem of profit rate and surplus, which we presented at the end of last paragraph, that starts the main criticism to Marx’s analysis, as it was reconstructed by the Italian political economist C. Napoleoni:

The total amount of labour contained in every commodity is divided in three parts: the (indirect) one contained in the factors of production (constant capital, in Marx’s vocabulary), the (direct) one contained in the wage-goods (variable capital), and the (direct) one contained in surplus (profit). In general, the rate between constant capital and variable capital is different from commodity to commodity, while (if we suppose the working-day and the wages to be the same everywhere) the rate between surplus and variable capital (that is, between the two parts of direct labour) is the same. This implies that the exchange of commodities, in conformity of the total amounts of labour contained in the commodities themselves, is not compatible with the formation of a general profit rate (that is an equal rate, for all commodities, between surplus and total capital). Considered, however, that the general profit rate is constitutive of the substance itself of capital, and that competition, of which that rate is the effect, does nothing more than bringing to reality this essential component, the theory of labour-value leads to a contradiction”.

The contradiction basically consists of the mutual logical exclusion between two possibilities: the correspondence between exchange of commodities and the labour contained in the commodities themselves, on one hand, and the formation of a general profit rate, on the other hand.

This contradiction was firstly pointed out by Böhm-Bawerk and then formulated by von Bortkiewicz. Such an incongruence of the theory was one of the main reasons for the development of the marginal theory, introduced with the works by Jevons, Menger and Walras (Stigler, 1950).

In those economists, also called neo-classical, the theory of value, even keeping the same name in some cases, is basically substituted by a theory of “factors of production”, where wage is the price of labour, and profit is the price of capital (Napoleoni, ibid). What is observed in reality, they say, are prices, not values: that is what Samuelson’s statement we reported earlier was based on.

  • Marginal Theory, Factors of Production and their criticism

Everyone who has even a minimum knowledge of the main concepts in economic science, will know that market prices are formed by the interaction of supply and demand, which can be represented with the intersection of two curves in a graph of prices and quantities.

The theory on which this concept is based is the Marginal Theory, developed immediately after the publication of Marx’s “Kapital”, which was probably one of the main reasons for its success. In fact, concepts like the ones of marginal utility and marginal productivity seem to give a perfect answer to the problems faced by Marxist and classical theories in general, just taking a completely different point of view on the same matters. This point of view is then reinforced by the possibility, this theory has, to be systematized and given a formal coherence.

It does not make part of the intentions of this work to retrace the entire history of marginal theories, nor to expose detailed microeconomic formulas: it will be enough to consider the basic principles of this approach, in order to compare them with those of the Marxian point of view.

The theory of utility was conceived, at the beginning, as a foundation for the theory of demand: the intention was to derive demand functions from the structure of individual preferences. Successively, it was realized that the only way to recognize individuals’ preferences was to observe their behaviour in the market, which must necessarily be an effect of their demand functions.

With the theory of “revealed preferences”, the direction of the mental procedure was so inverted: no more from utility to demand, but from demand to utility.

As Napoleoni points out, this inversion gives room to two main considerations:

Firstly, with this inversion, utility theory becomes, at least regarding economics, totally useless, and to assume it as the basis for a value theory does not make sense anymore.

[…] Secondly, and that is what really matters, there is not only the fact that utility can be deduced by no other means than the actual market behaviour, but also the fact that preferences, of which utility consists, only exist as actual choices. We cannot think about a structure of preferences which is the presupposition of actual choices: the configuration of preferences is the configuration of choices. Otherwise what is presupposed about the actual behaviour is only a content of imagination which has in general no relation with that behaviour, least of all a causal relation” (Napoleoni, 1985).

This criticism was referred to the side of demand in the mechanism of prices formation; another criticism can be addressed to the other side, the one of supply. As it was previously said, neo-classical economists introduced the concept of factors of production, where each factor has its price: wage for labour and profit for capital. These production costs are what contributes to the formation of market prices from the side of supply, trough the construction of marginal costs.

The problem here is that the theorists who proposed this solution[3] could not find a way to refer to capital as a commodity with its own price, due to its not-unitary nature (as it is composed of labour and fixed capital, and the proportions of those components are variable): for this reason it was not possible to find “a general equilibrium” like it was intended by L. Walras.

If we keep following C. Napoleoni’s argumentation on this point, the history of the concept of value arrives to a fundamental development with P. Sraffa’s work “Production of commodities by means of commodities”: his work resolves the point which led to the division between classical and neo-classical school, where the latter has not found yet a solution to the contradictions in the theory, while the former can be “saved”. Sraffa’s theory on the determination of prices, in fact, allows to maintain the category of surplus, and the related one of surplus-value.

In Sraffa, profit rate and surplus rate can be determined independently from prices, and prices independently from value, being net product and means of production the only variables required for those determinations (Sraffa, 1960).

5. DO CONCEPTS DIE?

The validity of the conclusions to which Sraffa’s work led is almost universally recognized, and even though those conclusions were the input for the raise of a new stream in economics, the so called “Sraffian” or “Neo-Ricardian”, most of their findings are totally accepted by scholars of other theoretical orientations as well.

Someone could maybe find a more diplomatic way to say it, but basically all the academic community agrees with Samuelson’s statement on the uselessness and redundancy of the concept of value.

Many scholars, after this development in the theory, have tried to check the validity of Marx’s analysis in those changed conditions, basically applying a different theory for prices to the Marxian structure. This possibility was immediately offered by Sraffa’s work itself, considered that, as we pointed out previously, the concept of surplus was saved, and with it the possibility of its attribution to an exploitation of the working class, on the basis of a socially dominant position held by capitalists.

The problem we want to point out here is what labour-value theory represented for Marx.

As Baumol hypothesized, what Marx was really concerned with was not the problem of pricing, which, even though not with the maximum precision, yet in Ricardo was traced back to market mechanisms; his concern was rather to give account of the distribution of income within the society.

Reporting Baumol’s example, “The economy is described as an aggregation of industries each of which contributes to a storehouse containing total surplus value. The contribution of each industry is its total output minus the consumption of labour it uses, […]. This, then, is how society’s surplus value is produced.”(Baumol, 2001).

In such example, the distribution of surplus value from the storehouse to society is determined by the competitive process, which converts surplus value into profit, interest or rent.

Baumol’s contribution continues showing that in Marx’s work values are only rarely referred to as they were meant to approximate prices, adding arguments to an interpretation where the author’s main concern was rather to find the essence of the economic system, rather than to describe some of its mechanisms.

At this point it becomes necessary to make clear what Marx, in our interpretation, put at the centre of capitalist economy as its fundamental element: alienation.

In the Grundrisse, Marx explains how means of production incur in many transformations during the capitalistic process: the last of those transformations is called the “system of machines”, where the technical process of production is perfectly accorded to the nature of capital.

In the system of machines, the machine is not anymore an instrument for the worker: it is the worker who becomes a mediator for the intervention of the machine on the materials, just looking after the process and avoiding any interruptions.

Even though this description could be easily criticized from an empirical point of view, being such a working condition an exception rather than normality, the concept Marx wanted to express here is still valid: what determines the characteristics of work, the instruments it involves, the working hours and rhythms, is determined by capital and by the pursuit of a return on it.

Working conditions are not determined by the people who work, nor by capitalists, but by the current status of technological evolution, to which production must be adapted in order to resist to the competitive process. The same could be said for the management, which is more and more subjected to systems resulting from the application of scientific theories, based on sociology, psychology, economics and so on.

Napoleoni (ibid) brings the problem of alienation back to the initial matter of the difference between use-value and exchange-value: in the essay we presented earlier, Marx defines use-value in two different ways. Firstly it is defined as something which satisfies a need, then as the “material support” for exchange-value. Those two definitions are not compatible for this reason: if the specific function of use-value is to offer a support to exchange-value, then the need to which use-value has to necessarily correspond, must be the set of the capital’s exigencies, that is, of the economic form which makes general the presence of exchange-value.

The revolutionary perspective, which constitutes the conclusive point of Marxian analysis, and the starting point of Marxist politics, is justified by its theorist as a dialectical opposition between use-value and exchange-value, where the production for exchange should be substituted by the production for the satisfaction of human needs.

In an analysis like Napoleoni’s one, the concept of alienation cannot only be applied to the relationship between working class and bourgeoisie, which constitutes a clear reminiscence of Marx’s Hegelian background, an attempt to identify a contradiction to be resolved by History.

Machines, management systems, corporate legal forms, briefly the whole configuration of the contemporary economic world, are a result of the capitalistic system of production: it is the relation between structure and superstructure in Marx’s materialism[4].

A non-subjectivist point of view on this problem, which would not be based on the perspective of a revolutionary “happy ending of History”, would realize that workers and bourgeois people (if those categories have any sense), as well as use-value and exchange-value, are all equally subjected to the same structure.

In order to face this theoretical problem, Napoleoni refers to M. Heidegger’s thought, where production (or the essence of technique) is considered over the subject, from a point of view where subject and object are converted in the one figure of the “availability to utilization”: this allows to understand how exchange and use have the same origin and the same destiny, instead of being opposed and able to give place to a dialectical movement.

In his commentary on the Hegelian Phenomenology, Marx faces the problem of the origins of alienation: “the real, active behaviour of man in front of himself as a generic being […] is only possible insofar as he really explains all the powers proper to his genre, he refers to them as objects, which is only possible in the form of alienation” (quoted in Napoleoni, ibid).

Referring to this point, H. Marcuse (1975) questioned why human behaviour should only be possible as alienation: in his opinion, the answer was to be found by economic science, not by philosophy. Here again Napoleoni points out that economic science is only able to explain the modalities of such a phenomenon, not its origin: the origin should be found in Heidegger’s reflections on the essence of technique.

In this new perspective, Trennung, the subordination of man to market and to the abstraction of value, “… is only a part of the more essential alienation, which dominates Western history: the cancellation of the thing into the subject, which makes the thing nothing else than the producible” (Napoleoni, ibid).

The point seems now to be: why the “guilt” for alienation should be found in subjectivism?

An answer, always based on Heidegger’s thought, is the one offered by G.C. Leone:

The process of definition of the subject in the Modern age, in truth, is not based on the research of the mode of being of the concrete individuality, but it begins with the unquestioned acceptance of the existence of the soul, intended as the substance created from God’s image and resemblance, or with the metaphysical preconception of the ego as constituted on the basis of the principle of reason, which actually represents the laic equivalent of God” (Leone, 2007).

Those preconceptions where also at the basis of human sciences, which have searched the subjective essence of man, each one in different aspects, with the risk to reduce man to a mere object of study, separated by his concrete destiny. The illusion of those sciences to substitute philosophy determined the dispersion of man in innumerable representations.

The separation between subject and object is a theoretical framework only introduced at the beginning of modernity, as an aspect of the introduction of the so-called scientific method in almost all the fields of knowledge. The enormous development of sciences from the introduction of this method to the present was of course facilitated by the similarly enormous accumulation of capitals in the same period: here again it would be not easy to state whether science was controlled by capital or vice-versa. Anyway, we can recognize that the fusion of those two elements determined the inclusion of human existences in a structure, which was created by men in order to control, measure and foresee all natural phenomena, and ended being what Leone calls “the dominion of abstraction” and Heidegger calls Gestell.

CONCLUSION

As it should have been understood at this point, the concept of value was used as a starting point and an instrument to penetrate the foundations of economic sciences and of the society built on it.

The absence of its understanding in economics should be less surprising at this point, considered that the whole method on which economic science is based, is oriented to the description (and possibly prevision) of phenomena, not interested in the questions about their meaning and foundations.

The concept of value is an abstraction, that is, the basis of every science: it was created in order to make measurable what is not so, like the importance things have for men. 

The perspective on which a study like this is oriented, is not to undermine the current order of society and economy, trying go against sound and organized structures with weak and “underdeveloped” arguments: it is rather an interpretation in which political science resembles architecture (like is also suggested by etymology). In such discipline, rethinking continuously concepts like to inhabit, home, space, is not considered like a destruction of  the discipline’s foundations, but like the addition of new life to it. Things have always something new to say, but their imprisonment in a structure, where all they have said once remains the truth forever, makes definitions prevail on things, and abstraction on reality.


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[1] Here Constant Capital is the set of machines and facilities employed in the production; Variable Capital is labour; Surplus-value is the value produced in the working time which exceeds the correspondence between a worker’s output and the wage allowing the reproduction and maintenance of his work (Napoleoni, 1970).

[2] The exposition of Marx’s theory given by Von Bortkiewicz (1907) was here simplified, both in order to make it fit with the purposes of this article and to keep in the limits of what is written in Das Kapital, excluding then Von Bortkiewicz’s additional specifications.

[3] Böhm-Bawerk, Walras. Quoted in Whitaker, 1904

[4] A further implication of that constitutes an additional possible criticism to marginalism: in such a configuration, consumers do not really express any preferences, simply exercising a choice among the set of supplied products. Consumption is also produced within the same technical configuration of society, in which both consumers and producers are subjected to the autonomous and abstract dynamic of capital accumulation (Napoleoni, ibid).