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Labour and Value: Rethinking Marx’s Theory of Exploitation

Labour and Value: Rethinking Marx’s Theory of Exploitation Ernesto Screpanti
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This is a very nice, tightly argued, interesting and thought-provoking book and a prime quality intellectual endeavour. Labor and value is likely to attract attention and stir debates. It is a rigorous piece of academic work but it is of interest to a much wider readership, also thanks to an exceptionally clear and engaging style. It is a strong contribution in economic theory – and in particular, in Marxian and more generally heterodox economics – but it has a refreshing interdisciplinary approach which will be of interest for scholars in other disciplines too, including moral and political philosophy, sociology and political science. Even those who disagree with the answers provided will find the questions raised of primary importance and the arguments subtle and original.
—Roberto Veneziani, Queen Mary, University of London

Screpanti is right: workers are not golden-egg-laying geese, whose productivity remains constant wherever you put them. Rather, what enables the capitalist to extract surplus value from the worker is that productivity is endogenously determined, such that the capitalist can increase the duration and intensity of work to levels that will avail her of surplus value. So abstract labour is not a natural or monadic substance that will tend to manifest itself under any set of commodity-producing arrangements, but a relational property coextensive with the subordination of labour to capital. This makes the wage "the price of freedom, a payment for obedience, and not the value of a commodity”. Screpanti’s book contains a lucid elaboration of Marx’s theory of subsumption, to go along with a novel critical synthesis of Marx’s theory of value. Screpanti’s exegetical views are also right: a neglected but central aspect of Marx’s critique of political economy has to do with the diverse ways in which capital comes to control, and therefore dominate, the labour of others.

—Nicholas Vrousalis, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, Vol. 13, Issue 1, Spring 2020, available online.

In this book Ernesto Screpanti provides a rigorous examination of Marx’s theory of exploitation, one of the cornerstones of Marxist thought. With precision and clarity, he identifies the holes in traditional readings of Marx’s theory before advancing his own original interpretation, drawing on contemporary philosophy and economic theory to provide a refreshingly interdisciplinary exegesis.

Screpanti’s arguments are delivered with perspicuity and verve: this is a book that aims to spark a debate. He exposes ambiguities present in Marx’s exposition of his own theory, especially when dealing with the employment contract and the notions of ‘abstract labor’ and ‘labor value’, and he argues that these ambiguities have given rise to misunderstandings in previous analyses of Marx’s theory of exploitation. Screpanti’s own interpretation is a meticulously argued counterpoint to these traditional interpretations.

Labour and Value is a significant contribution to the theory of economics, particularly Marxist economics. It will also be of great interest to scholars in other disciplines including sociology, political science, and moral and political philosophy. Screpanti’s clear and engaging writing style will attract the interested general reader as well as the academic theorist.

Labour and Value: Rethinking Marx’s Theory of Exploitation
Ernesto Screpanti | October 2019
144 pp | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783747795
ISBN Hardback: 9781783747801
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783747818
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783747825
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783747832
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783747849
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0182
Subject codes: BIC: H (Humanities), HB (History), HBG (General and world history), 4 (Educational purpose qualifiers), JP (Politics and government), JPS (International relations); BISAC: EDU016000 (EDUCATION / History), HIS000000 (HISTORY / General), HIS037000 (HISTORY / World), HIS054000 (HISTORY / Social History), HIS039000 (HISTORY / Civilization); OCLC Number: 1193041473.

You may also be interested in:

1. Abstract Labour as a Natural Substance
2. Abstract Labour as a Historical Reality
3. Labour Subsumption and Exploitation
4. Values and Prices
5. Measures of Exploitation

Conclusions: Rethinking Exploitation
Appendix 1. Reproduction Conditions
Appendix 2. Advanced or Postponed Wage Payments?
Ernesto Screpanti teaches on the Economics of Globalization and the History of Political Economy at Siena University. His research interests range from the distribution of income to the socio-economic dynamics of cycle and growth, from the history of economics to economic philosophy, from monetary economics to the theory of the institutions of capitalism.