Law of Value- the series

Though most use the term “Labor Theory of Value” Marx never did. Instead he referred to the “Law of Value”. Either way, that is the subject of this video series, which you can find linked below. The series will hopefully be around 15 videos long in the end. At the moment I’ve only completed the first few videos. You can see an initial draft of the scripts for all of them here.

1. Introduction

1.2 A quiz on Marx’s theory of Value

1.3 Addendum on how to watch these videos

2. The Fetishism of Commodities.

3. Das MudPie (on what it means for private labor to become social labor)

4. Use-Value, Exchange-value and Value

5. Contradiction

6. Socially Necessary Labor Time

7.  Production and Exchange

8. Subject/Object

9. Abstract labor

10. Value and Price

11. Money

12 ?

37 Responses to Law of Value- the series

  1. sasha says:

    Please finish this! I need to know # 13, # 14 and # 15!
    or, at least give me something to read about it.

  2. antonshavlik says:

    Neo-classical economists argue that exchange occurs not because of an equality, but a double inequality. Marx, on the other hand, considered it as a subjective double inequality but a social equality. I think a lot of opponents of the LTV would find this interesting to know, as the idea of a double inequality is important to modern bourgeois theories, and does make a lot of sense.

    “His commodity possesses for himself no immediate use-value. Otherwise, he would not bring it to the market. It has use-value for others; but for himself its only direct use-value is that of being a depository of exchange-value, and, consequently, a means of exchange. Therefore, he makes up his mind to part with it for commodities whose value in use is of service to him. All commodities are non-use-values for their owners, and use-values for their non-owners. Consequently, they must all change hands.”

    • Patricia X Phillips says:

      I developed a many charts of Marx’s Capital, of the law of value, the working day, RSV and ASV which I cannot reproduce here. If anyone is interested in it, be happy to oblige.

      But to your point on this passage Anton, I too reflected upon it as possibly being springboard to use for a critique of the inverted reality of capitalist relations, the false realities made of the actual realities. Originally I took as explaining how the operation of exchange works but then in reading the fetishism of commodities it came to me as premise how money emerges from this contradiction as a modus vivendi, to resolves i the contradiction.

  3. Nick says:

    This is a fantastic site! Thanks for making the effort to clarify Marx for everyone!

  4. JosAlembic says:

    This is an amazing project that fills a much felt gap!

    I’m planning to use your video’s on our website in a series about explaining Marx’s ideas.

    I’m trying to overcome the little problem of adding Dutch subtitles though, as the auto-translations are pretty useless 🙂 I think I need to manually add them then to the video, but am not entirely sure. Could you help me out here?

    • Joe. The best way to do subtitles is to go to the website which will help you generate a .srt or .sub file (either will do.) Then you can email me the .sub file and I can upload to the youtube video. It is a bit time consuming, but it is really valuable to have. Many of my videos have been translated into different languages by viewers and I am always very appreciative of the effort. In order to email me the file you can send me a personal message over youtube (if you have an account) with your email address. Or you can post a comment here with the address and I can delete it so nobody else sees it.

  5. J Young says:

    Your videos are fantastic! Thanks so much!

    I just have a quick question (and pardon my ignorance if I didn’t fully understand something; my question is certainly not meant to be accusative, or in any way confrontational). If all value is created by labor, then couldn’t it be said that the capitalist is laboring by combining all of the disparate elements needed to produce a commodity into the finished product?

    That is, similar to the way in which a resource (say, iron ore) has no value until extracted by a laborer, and refined through production (again, by a laborer) into some good (say, metal; and eventually into, say, a fender for an automobile); each of those heterogeneous elements have no value until the capitalist who, through his own version of labor, combines the means of production with labor (not necessarily an easy task) to create an end-product. Further, with modern corporations being what they are: who within that corporation might be termed ‘the capitalist’? The middle-managers may not be a whole lot better off in this process than the lowest level employee, and their labor (say, in creating a documenting the paychecks for said laborers) does not seem to be less essential. I think you’ll probably see where I’m going with this, so I’ll leave it here.

    My question then would be this: Couldn’t the capitalist argue that it is his labor which is the most essential–above of all of the laborers beneath him because without it there would be no finished product to sell–and therefore deserving of the highest compensation?

    Thanks again!

    • arharris says:

      The same argument has been used for at least two centuries. Here is Marx’s answer: ‘”Have I (the capitalist asks) myself not worked? Have I not performed the labour of superintendence and of overlooking the spinner? And does not this labour, too, create value?”‘ His overlooker and his manager try to hide their smiles.” Vol I, Chapter 7, Section 2, Capital.

      The capitalist does not perform any work. In the U.S. about 1% of the people own about 80% of the wealth. Any guess on where the capitalist class is located?

  6. Everpresent says:

    “My question then would be this: Couldn’t the capitalist argue that it is his labor which is the most essential–above of all of the laborers beneath him because without it there would be no finished product to sell–and therefore deserving of the highest compensation?”

    Without laborers there would no capitalists and vice versa. A laborer transfers value of the technology into a commodity that discloses the nature of social relations in the mode of production.
    Keep also in mind that “capitalist” and “worker” are roles in Marx his work. For example: a miser can become a capitalist if he reinvests his money into variable or constant capital. If he doesnt he isnt a capitalist any more. This is very important to acknowledge.

    • Thanks so much for the reply, Everpresent 🙂 Very helpful!

      Also, I noticed in Kapitalism101’s video titled, ‘Who is Exploited?’, that he addressed my question perfectly.


      • Everpresent says:

        No problem. If you have more questions, I’ll answer them. Marx has no more secrets for me.

  7. Omaha wob says:

    Dude, can’t wait for you to finish these. I just finished reading Marx’s “Capital Vol. 1” and your videos are just as good, if not better, than David Harvey’s lecture on the book. Can’t wait for the rest of the series.

  8. Luke says:

    Oh man I am so thankful for this this site!!! I am currently taking Macroeconomics in a C.C and it’s very fun to screw with my professors by using what you have done here. They all have no idea about Marx or his criticisms or insights, not even a little understanding. It makes me sad, but it makes me want to learn this that much more so I can speak to people with a great understanding of this very powerful subject.

    I have had a paradigm shift in my world view after being seriously introduced to Marx criticisms and you’re another amazing source for me to learn from. I’ve also been looking at, for those looking for more to ingest on this sadly ignored subject.

    Any idea when you will be finishing these up?

    I am really very appreciative of this site, even if you do not finish it, you have contributed a lot to me and those I will talk to when I attempt to summarize some of Marx’s fundamental insights.

    • Thanks for the support! The next Law of Value video,which contains a critique of marginal utility theory that may be of interest to you, will be up later today, as soon as I get done processing and uploading the video.


  9. thepeoplesfriend says:

    if the rate of profit is determined by the organic composition of capital (!) and the rate of surplus value, why do you state that machines do not create value?
    Best regards,
    Tomislav Zahov.

  10. thepeoplesfriend says:

    If the machines do not create value then this contradicts to Marx’s statement that the rate of profit is determined by the organic composition of capital (= machines) and the rate of surplus value. Am I wrong? Is there any contradiction between ,,the machines do not create value” and ,,the rate of profit is determined by the organic composition of capital and the rate of surplus value”?

    • The rate of profit is the total surplus value produced (s) divided by the cost of producing that value (c+v). The surplus value is produced by labor. The cost of production is the cost of buying materials (c) and labor power (v). The fact that machines are in the denominator of the equation doesn’t make them productive of value.

      The organic composition of capital is the ratio of living labor to dead labor in production. Because this ratio is a determinant of the profit rate doesn’t mean that the ratio itself creates value. I think you are confusing the terms “determinate of” and “create”. Or maybe you are confusing the rate of profit (the ratio of surplus value over cost of production) with the value product (the total amount of new value produced by living labor.)

      • arthur smithers says:

        “The fact that machines are in the denominator of the equation doesn’t make them productive of value.” But why doesn’t it? If a worker who manually spray paints a car as it moves along an assembly line adds value, it sure seems like a robot that instead spray paints the car as it moves down the assembly line does too. If not, what is the fundamental difference here?

      • In answer to “but why doesn’t it?”: Because putting something into the denominator of said equation just means that it is a cost of production, not that it creates value.

        Your example about robots and workers has nothing to do with whether putting machines in the denominator of the equation for the rate of profit makes robots value-creating. It has, rather, to do with the fact that both robots and people create use-values and why it is that when people create use-values they have value and when robots create them they don’t. The reason is that commodity value is objectified labor time, not a measure of use-value. This is why values fall as productivity increases. This would not happen if value was just the creation of use-value. That’s the basic empirical support for not treating robots as value-creating. The theoretical reason has to do with the derivation of abstract labor time as the substance of value and this is a larger question, for which I have written one draft chapter on this blog… I think it’s called “Labor as substance of value”. But honestly the draft has some flaws and I need to work on them. stay tuned.

  11. thepeoplesfriend says:

    Thanks a lot for the answer Brendan. I will think about it, but now it is too late, it is 03:40 in the morning here in Europe. If there is again something unclear to me after this answer I will come back. Thanks once again.

  12. thepeoplesfriend says:

    Aha! However, I understood. The machines actually are dead labor. And that’s why the machines as such do not produce value, but use values. Thanks Brendan! 🙂

  13. MrEverpresent says:

    Brendan: which parts of your law of value series will still be made in the future? Are you still following this plan?

    • The loose plan at this point is:
      Supply and Demand
      Value and Price
      Behind the Backs of the Producers
      Machines, Robots, Land and the Mona Lisa
      The Challenge of the Law of Value

      So, that’s a modification of the original plan… we’ll see. I wonder if I can finish in a year…. life has gotten busy.

  14. mreverpresent says:

    Are you still alive Mr.Kapitalism101? Last update was long time ago.

  15. Denzal says:

    Good day

    This is the best video series on the topic I have encountered.

    On the topic of machines, why cannot it be said that they are in fact creating values via their own labour? I am new to these concepts, so I admit I may be missing out on something fundamental. Yet a machine such as the ones shown in the Humans Need Not Apply video by CGPgrey:

    Will those machines/robots, whatever synonym to call them, still not be producing values for services and consumption? What about a theoretical future where machines build and program themselves? Would they then take on the role of the working class, except without consciousness.

    Well thanks if you answer that. Secondly where do you think one would start with Marx’s writings? I have ordered Kliman’s book on the refutation of inconsistency because that to me is the main basis for the intellectual value of these writings, once that is covered I wish to gain a much, much deeper understanding of these concepts. I have a copy of Capital, which I was going to pair with David Harvey’s lectures/Introbook. Advice on this?

    Finally, on the issue of dialectical materialism. Anything suggested for that? It is difficult to find anything tangible on the topic. links to science etc… in my opinion seems a bit woolly. Also I commonly get this shoved in my face:


    Thanks for everything.
    Hope to see more from you soon.

    • mreverpresent says:

      I really don’t like many things that Popper wrote. The most damaging thing that he wrote is his ‘rejection’ of the possibility of social laws or regularities. It now dominates the human sciences and actually destroys the reputation of social scientists

  16. mandeepk02 says:

    Its a remarkable work you did for putting ‘Marx’ across the world in easy and clear manner. i really appreciate it .

  17. Ron Telfer says:

    Will your series deal with the problems that arise from globalization of capital, raw materials, manufacture, distribution and management being planned and managed by multi-national conglomerates and inter-governmental organisations, while globalization of labor is left in the hands of human traffickers?

  18. anon mus says:

    Hey there. I was wondering when you would start posting new content again. Also, will you be talking about ecological disasters and how they relate?

  19. anon mus says:

    Hey there. I was wondering if you’ll be able to continue your series soon?

  20. Pat says:

    Hey Brendan, I’ve been having trouble accessing a lot of your videos- they all say that they’re “private video”. .

    Thanks so much for all the work you put into these videos and this blog!

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