Post-Marxist reflections on the value of our time. Value theory and the (in)compatibility of discourse theory and the critique of political economy

Simon Tunderman*

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    This article aims to bring together post-Marxist discourse theory and the critique of political economy in the context of the debate on the Marxian theory of value. Although Laclau and Mouffe criticized Marxism for its economic reductionism, they did not connect this to a comprehensive critique of Marx's writings on value and labor. The merit of considering the theory of value in more detail is underscored by discourse theory's relative silence on the capitalist economy. By drawing on the work of Postone and Elson, it will become clear that there are largely two ways to interpret Marx's theory of value: either as an essentialist theory of price and exploitation, or as a historically specific theory of the constitution of social labor relations in capitalist society. By teasing out Laclau's implicit understanding of Marx's value theory, the article argues that it is in fact his essentialist interpretation of the labor theory of value that constitutes an obstacle toward grasping the social relations of labor and commodity production from a discourse-theoretical perspective. This clears the ground toward approaching Marx's value theory from a post-Marxist perspective, which would grasp the social relations of abstract labor as a hegemonic formation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)655-670
    Number of pages16
    JournalCritical Discourse Studies
    Issue number6
    Early online date7-Oct-2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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