Equivalence and antagonism in Marx’s theory of value

Simon Tunderman*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The centrality of abstract labor in the Marxian theory of value seems to imply an essentialist position incompatible with Ernesto Laclau’s poststructuralist theory of hegemony. However, this essay argues that the Marxian value theory—in the interpretation offered by Moishe Postone—is in fact very much compatible with Laclau’s focus on social contingency insofar as it understands abstract labor as a framework of social relations. This raises the question: if abstract-labor equivalence does not derive from a metaphysical essence, then how does it emerge as a socially constructed universality? The theory of value already anticipated Laclau’s logics of difference, equivalence, and the empty signifier, and Laclau’s work on antagonism can strengthen the argument that abstract-labor equivalence does not involve essentialism. The central point of this essay is thus to interpret abstract labor as a contingent hegemonic formation, constituted upon the antagonistic exclusion of directly useful work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)134-153
    Number of pages20
    JournalRethinking Marxism
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 4-Mar-2021

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