Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to the critique of classical political economy in the research by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other, and in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement or supplement other economic approaches. Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage rather than being synonymous. They share a semantic field while also allowing connotative and denotative differences.
Marxian economics concerns itself variously with the analysis of crisis in capitalism, the role and distribution of the surplus product and surplus value in various types of economic systems, the nature and origin of economic value, the impact of class and class struggle on economic and political processes, and the process of economic evolution.
Marxian economics, particularly in academia, is distinguished from Marxism as a political ideology as well as the normative aspects of Marxist thought, with the view that Marx's original approach to understanding economics and economic development is intellectually independent from Marx's own advocacy of revolutionary socialism. Marxian economists do not lean entirely upon the works of Marx and other widely known Marxists, but draw from a range of Marxist and non-Marxist sources.
Although the Marxian school is considered heterodox, ideas that have come out of Marxian economics have contributed to mainstream understanding of the global economy. Certain concepts developed in Marxian economics, especially those related to capital accumulation and the business cycle, have been fitted for use in capitalist systems (for instance, Joseph Schumpeter's notion of creative destruction).
Marx's magnum opus on political economy was Das Kapital (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy) in three volumes, of which only the first volume was published in his lifetime (1867); the others were published by Friedrich Engels from Marx's notes. One of Marx's early works, Critique of Political Economy, was mostly incorporated into Das Kapital, especially the beginning of volume 1. Marx's notes made in preparation for writing Das Kapital were published in 1939 under the title Grundrisse.
In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Smith argued that the most important characteristic of a market economy was that it permitted a rapid growth in productive abilities. Smith claimed that a growing market stimulated a greater "division of labor" (i.e. specialization of businesses and/or workers) and in turn this led to greater productivity. Although Smith generally said little about laborers, he did note that an increased division of labor could at some point cause harm to those whose jobs became narrower and narrower as the division of labor expanded. Smith maintained that a laissez-faire economy would naturally correct itself over time.
Marx followed Smith by claiming that the most important beneficial economic consequence of capitalism was a rapid growth in productivity abilities. Marx also expanded greatly on the notion that laborers could come to harm as capitalism became more productive. Additionally, Marx noted in Theories of Surplus Value: "We see the great advance made by Adam Smith beyond the Physiocrats in the analysis of surplus-value and hence of capital. In their view, it is only one definite kind of concrete labour—agricultural labour—that creates surplus-value... But to Adam Smith, it is general social labour — no matter in what use-values it manifests itself — the mere quantity of necessary labour, which creates value. Surplus-value, whether it takes the form of profit, rent, or the secondary form of interest, is nothing but a part of this labour, appropriated by the owners of the material conditions of labour in the exchange with living labour".
Malthus' claim in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) that population growth was the primary cause of subsistence level wages for laborers provoked Marx to develop an alternative theory of wage determination. Whereas Malthus presented an ahistorical theory of population growth, Marx offered a theory of how a relative surplus population in capitalism tended to push wages to subsistence levels. Marx saw this relative surplus population as coming from economic causes and not from biological causes (as in Malthus). This economic-based theory of surplus population is often labeled as Marx's theory of the reserve army of labour.
Ricardo developed a theory of distribution within capitalism—that is, a theory of how the output of society is distributed to classes within society. The most mature version of this theory, presented in On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817), was based on a labour theory of value in which the value of any produced object is equal to the labor embodied in the object and Smith too presented a labor theory of value, but it was only incompletely realized. Also notable in Ricardo's economic theory was that profit was a deduction from society's output and that wages and profit were inversely related: an increase in profit came at the expense of a reduction in wages. Marx built much of the formal economic analysis found in Capital on Ricardo's theory of the economy.
Marx employed a labour theory of value, which holds that the value of a commodity is the socially necessary labour time invested in it. In this model, capitalists do not pay workers the full value of the commodities they produce; rather, they compensate the worker for the necessary labor only (the worker's wage, which cover only the necessary means of subsistence in order to maintain him working in the present and his family in the future as a group). This necessary labor is necessarily only a fraction of a full working day - the rest, surplus-labor, would be pocketed by the capitalist as profit.
Marx theorized that the gap between the value a worker produces and his wage is a form of unpaid labour, known as surplus value. Moreover, Marx argues that markets tend to obscure the social relationships and processes of production; he called this commodity fetishism. People are highly aware of commodities, and usually don't think about the relationships and labor they represent.
Marx's analysis leads to the consideration of economic crisis. "A propensity to crisis—what we would call business cycles—was not recognised as an inherent feature of capitalism by any other economist of Marx's time," observed Robert Heilbroner in The Worldly Philosophers, "although future events have certainly indicated his prediction of successive boom and crash." Marx's theory of economic cycles was formalised by Richard Goodwin in "A Growth Cycle" (1967), a paper published during the centenary year of Capital, Volume I.
Marx used dialectics, a method that he adapted from the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Dialectics focuses on relation and change, and tries to avoid seeing the universe as composed of separate objects, each with essentially stable unchanging characteristics. One component of dialectics is abstraction; out of an undifferentiated mass of data or system conceived of as an organic whole, one abstracts portions to think about or to refer to. One may abstract objects, but also—and more typically—relations, and processes of change. An abstraction may be extensive or narrow, may focus on generalities or specifics, and may be made from various points of view. For example, a sale may be abstracted from a buyer's or a seller's point of view, and one may abstract a particular sale or sales in general. Another component is the dialectical deduction of categories. Marx uses Hegel's notion of categories, which are forms, for economics: The commodity form, the money form, the capital form etc. have to be systematically deduced instead of being grasped in an outward way as done by the bourgeois economists. This corresponds to Hegel's critique of Kant's transcendental philosophy.
Marx regarded history as having passed through several stages. The details of his periodisation vary somewhat through his works, but it essentially is: Primitive Communism – Slave societies – Feudalism – Capitalism – Socialism – Communism (capitalism being the present stage and communism the future). Marx occupied himself primarily with describing capitalism. Historians place the beginning of capitalism some time between about 1450 (Sombart) and some time in the 17th century (Hobsbawm).
Marx defines a commodity as a product of human labour that is produced for sale in a market, and many products of human labour are commodities. Marx began his major work on economics, Capital, with a discussion of commodities; Chapter One is called "Commodities".
The worth of a commodity can be conceived of in two different ways, which Marx calls use-value and value. A commodity's use-value is its usefulness for fulfilling some practical purpose; for example, the use-value of a piece of food is that it provides nourishment and pleasurable taste; the use value of a hammer, that it can drive nails.
Value is, on the other hand, a measure of a commodity's worth in comparison to other commodities. It is closely related to exchange-value, the ratio at which commodities should be traded for one another, but not identical: value is at a more general level of abstraction; exchange-value is a realisation or form of it.
Marx argued that if value is a property common to all commodities, then whatever it is derived from, whatever determines it, must be common to all commodities. The only relevant thing that is, in Marx's view, common to all commodities is human labour: they are all produced by human labour.
Marx concluded that the value of a commodity is simply the amount of human labour required to produce it. Thus Marx adopted a labour theory of value, as had his predecessors Ricardo and MacCulloch; Marx himself traced the existence of the theory at least as far back as an anonymous work, Some Thoughts on the Interest of Money in General, and Particularly the Publick Funds, &c., published in London around 1739 or 1740.
Marx placed some restrictions on the validity of his value theory: he said that in order for it to hold, the commodity must not be a useless item; and it is not the actual amount of labour that went into producing a particular individual commodity that determines its value, but the amount of labour that a worker of average energy and ability, working with average intensity, using the prevailing techniques of the day, would need to produce it. A formal statement of the law is: the value of a commodity is equal to the average socially necessary labour time required for its production. (Capital, I, Chap I – p. 39 in Progress Publishers, Moscow, ed'n.)
Marx's contention was that commodities tend, at a fairly general level of abstraction, to exchange at value; that is, if Commodity A, whose value is "V", is traded for Commodity B, it will tend to fetch an amount of Commodity B whose value is the same, "V". Particular circumstances will cause divergence from this rule, however.
Marx held that metallic money, such as gold, is a commodity, and its value is the labour time necessary to produce it (mine it, smelt it, etc.). Marx argued that gold and silver are conventionally used as money because they embody a large amount of labour in a small, durable, form, which is convenient. Paper money is, in this model, a representation of gold or silver, almost without value of its own but held in circulation by state decree.
"Paper money is a token representing gold or money." (Capital, I, Chap III, section 2, part c.)
Marx lists the elementary factors of production as:
Some subjects of labour are available directly from Nature: uncaught fish, unmined coal, etc. Others are results of a previous stage of production; these are known as raw materials, such as flour or yarn. Workshops, canals, and roads are considered instruments of labour. (Capital, I, VII, 1.) Coal for boilers, oil for wheels, and hay for draft horses is considered raw material, not instruments of labour.
"If, on the other hand, the subject of labour has, so to say, been filtered through previous labour, we call it raw material. . . ." (Capital, I, Chap VII, section 1.)
The subjects of labour and instruments of labour together are called the means of production. Relations of production are the relations human beings adopt toward each other as part of the production process. In capitalism, wage labour and private property are part of the relations of production.
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According to Marx, the amount of actual product (i.e. use-value) that a typical worker produces in a given amount of time is the productivity of labour. It has tended to increase under capitalism. This is due to increase in the scale of enterprise, to specialisation of labour, and to the introduction of machinery. The immediate result of this is that the value of a given item tends to decrease, because the labour time necessary to produce it becomes less.
In a given amount of time, labour produces more items, but each unit has less value; the total value created per time remains the same. This means that the means of subsistence become cheaper; therefore the value of labour power or necessary labour time becomes less. If the length of the working day remains the same, this results in an increase in the surplus labour time and the rate of surplus value.
Technological advancement tends to increase the amount of capital needed to start a business, and it tends to result in an increasing preponderance of capital being spent on means of production (constant capital) as opposed to labour (variable capital). Marx called the ratio of these two kinds of capital the composition of capital.
Marxian economics has been built upon by many others, beginning almost at the moment of Marx's death. The second and third volumes of Das Kapital were edited by his close associate Friedrich Engels, based on Marx's notes. Marx's Theories of Surplus Value was edited by Karl Kautsky. The Marxian value theory and the Perron-Frobenius theorem on the positive eigenvector of a positive matrix  are fundamental to mathematical treatments of Marxian economics.
The Universities offering one or more courses in Marxian economics, or teach one or more economics courses on other topics from a perspective that they designate as Marxian or Marxist, include Colorado State University, New School for Social Research, School of Oriental and African Studies, Universiteit Maastricht, University of Bremen, University of California, Riverside, University of Leeds, University of Maine, University of Manchester, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Missouri–Kansas City, University of Sheffield, University of Utah, and York University (Toronto).
Much of the critique of classical Marxian economics came from Marxian economists that revised Marx's original theory, or by the Austrian school of economics. V. K. Dmitriev, writing in 1898, Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, writing in 1906–07, and subsequent critics claimed that Marx's value theory and law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall are internally inconsistent. In other words, the critics allege that Marx drew conclusions that actually do not follow from his theoretical premises. Once these alleged errors are corrected, his conclusion that aggregate price and profit are determined by, and equal to, aggregate value and surplus value no longer holds true. This result calls into question his theory that the exploitation of workers is the sole source of profit.
Whether the rate of profit in capitalism has, as Marx predicted, tended to fall is a subject of debate. N. Okishio, in 1961, devised a theorem (Okishio's theorem) showing that if capitalists pursue cost-cutting techniques and if the real wage does not rise, the rate of profit must rise.
The inconsistency allegations have been a prominent feature of Marxian economics and the debate surrounding it since the 1970s.
Among the critics pointing out internal inconsistencies are former and current Marxian and/or Sraffian economists, such as Paul Sweezy, Nobuo Okishio, Ian Steedman, John Roemer, Gary Mongiovi, and David Laibman, who propose that the field be grounded in their correct versions of Marxian economics instead of in Marx's critique of political economy in the original form in which he presented and developed it in Capital.
Proponents of the Temporal Single System Interpretation (TSSI) of Marx's value theory claim that the supposed inconsistencies are actually the result of misinterpretation; they argue that when Marx's theory is understood as "temporal" and "single-system," the alleged internal inconsistencies disappear. In a recent survey of the debate, a proponent of the TSSI concludes that "the proofs of inconsistency are no longer defended; the entire case against Marx has been reduced to the interpretive issue."
Marxist economics was assessed as lacking relevance in 1988 by Robert M. Solow, who criticized the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics for over-sampling articles on Marxist themes, giving a "false impression of the state of play" in the economics profession. Solow stated that "Marx was an important and influential thinker, and Marxism has been a doctrine with intellectual and practical influence. The fact is, however, that most serious English-speaking economists regard Marxist economics as an irrelevant dead end."
"Economists working in the Marxian-Sraffian tradition represent a small minority of modern economists, and that their writings have virtually no impact upon the professional work of most economists in major English-language universities", according to George Stigler.
The terms Neo-Marxian, Post-Marxian, and Radical Political Economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic thought in the 1970s and 1980s.
In industrial economics, the Neo-Marxian approach stresses the monopolistic rather than the competitive nature of capitalism. This approach is associated with Michal Kalecki, Josef Steindl, Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy.
Marxian theory (singular) gave way to Marxian theories (plural).
"Marx did make a number of errors in elaborating his theory of value and the profit rate .... [H]is would-be Temporal Single System defenders ... camouflage Marx’s errors." "Marx’s value analysis does indeed contain errors." (abstract)
Accumulation by dispossession is a concept presented by the Marxist geographer David Harvey, which defines the neoliberal capitalist policies in many western nations, from the 1970s and to the present day, as resulting in a centralization of wealth and power in the hands of a few by dispossessing the public and private entities of their wealth or land. These neoliberal policies are guided mainly by four practices: privatization, financialization, management and manipulation of crises, and state redistributions.An Essay on Marxian Economics
An Essay on Marxian Economics is a 1942 book about Karl Marx by the economist Joan Robinson. The first work by a major British economist to show interest in Marx since the 19th century, it has received both praise and criticism from commentators.Exchange value
In political economy and especially Marxian economics, exchange value (German: Tauschwert) refers to one of four major attributes of a commodity, i.e., an item or service produced for, and sold on the market. The other three aspects are use value, economic value, and price. Thus, a commodity has:
a value (note the link is to a non-Marxian definition of value);
a use value (or utility);
an exchange value;
a price (it could be an actual selling price or an imputed ideal price).These four concepts have a very long history in human thought, from Aristotle to David Ricardo, becoming ever more clearly distinguished as the development of commercial trade progressed but have largely disappeared as four distinct concepts in modern economics. This entry focuses on Marx's summation of the results of economic thought about exchange-value.Finance capitalism
Finance capitalism or financial capitalism is the subordination of processes of production to the accumulation of money profits in a financial system.Financial capitalism is thus a form of capitalism where the intermediation of saving to investment becomes a dominant function in the economy, with wider implications for the political process and social evolution. Since the late 20th century, in a process sometimes called financialization, it has become the predominant force in the global economy, whether in neoliberal or other form.Immiseration thesis
In Marxist theory and Marxian economics, the immiseration thesis (also referred to as emiseration thesis) is derived from Karl Marx's analysis of economic development in capitalism, implying that the nature of capitalist production stabilizes real wages, reducing wage growth relative to total value creation in the economy, leading to worsening alienation in the workplace.
The immiseration thesis is related to Marx's analysis of the rising organic composition of capital and reduced demand for labor relative to capital equipment as technology develops.Labor-time calculation
Labor-time calculation is a method of economic calculation that uses labor time as the basic unit of accounting and valuation. This method of calculation was advocated by the economists Otto Bauer, Helene Bauer and Otto Leichter as an alternative to calculation in kind for a socialist economy. Otto Leichter criticized in-kind calculation on the basis that rational accounting required a general unit for comparing costs of heterogeneous goods.
The basis for labor-time calculation is found in Karl Marx's analysis of value in capitalism. However, Marx was vehemently opposed to any proposal for using labor-time as the basis for socialist calculation because his concept of socially necessary labor time was a conceptual framework for understanding and analyzing value in capitalism. In Marx's view socialism would operate according to its own economic "laws of motion" distinct from those of capitalism.Marxian
Marxian is a term generally used to refer to things related to Karl Marx other than Marxism. It can refer to:
Marxist philosophyMeans of labor
Means of labor is a concept in Marxist political economy that refers to "all those things with the aid of which man acts upon the subject of his labor, and transforms it." (Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., 1957) Means of labor include tools and machinery (the "instruments of production"), as well as buildings and land used for production purposes and infrastructure like roads and communications networks and so forth. Labor, Itself defines "work, especially hard physical work."
The means of labor are one of three basic factors of the production process (Marx, 1967, p 174), along with human labor, and the subject of labor (the material worked on).
In some formulations, the means of labor and human labor (including the activity itself, as well as the skills and knowledge brought to the production process) comprise the productive forces of society (e.g., Sheptulin, 1978), other formulations define productive forces more narrowly as the union of instruments of production and the workers who wield them (e.g., Institute of Economics, 1957).Means of production
In economics and sociology, the means of production (also called capital goods) are physical and non-financial inputs used in the production of economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services. In the terminology of classical economics, the means of production are the "factors of production" minus financial and human capital.
The social means of production are capital goods and assets that require organized collective labor effort, as opposed to individual effort, to operate on. The ownership and organization of the social means of production is a key factor in categorizing and defining different types of economic systems.
The means of production includes two broad categories of objects: instruments of labor (tools, factories, infrastructure, etc.) and subjects of labor (natural resources and raw materials). People operate on the subjects of labor using the instruments of labor to create a product; or stated another way, labor acting on the means of production creates a good. In an agrarian society the principal means of production is the soil and the shovel. In an industrial society the means of production become social means of production and include factories and mines. In a knowledge economy, computers and networks are means of production. In a broad sense, the "means of production" also includes the "means of distribution" such as stores, the internet and railroads (Infrastructural capital).Neo-Marxian economics
The terms neo-Marxian, post-Marxian and radical political economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic theory in the 1970s and 1980s that stems from the Marxian economic thought. Many of the leading figures were associated with the leftist Monthly Review School.Neo-Ricardianism
The neo-Ricardian school is an economic school
that derives from the close reading and interpretation of David Ricardo by Piero Sraffa, and from Sraffa's critique of neo-classical economics as presented in his The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, and further developed by the neo-Ricardians in the course of the Cambridge capital controversy. It particularly disputes neo-classical theory of income distribution.
Prominent neo-Ricardians are usually held to include Pierangelo Garegnani, Krishna Bharadwaj, Luigi Pasinetti, Joan Robinson, John Eatwell, Fernando Vianello, Murray Milgate, Ian Steedman, Heinz D. Kurz, Neri Salvadori, Bertram Schefold, Fabio Petri, Massimo Pivetti, Franklin Serrano, Fabio Ravagnani, Roberto Ciccone, Sergio Parrinello, Alessandro Roncaglia, Maurice Dobb, Gilbert Abraham-Frois, Theodore Mariolis and Giorgio Gilibert.
The school partially overlaps with post-Keynesian and neo-Marxian economics.Overaccumulation
Overaccumulation is one of the potential causes of the crisis of capital accumulation. A crisis of capital occurs due to what Karl Marx refers to as the internal contradictions inherent in the capitalist system which result in the reconfiguration of production. The contradiction in this situation is realized because of the condition of capitalism that requires the accumulation of capital through the continual reinvestment of surplus value.
Accumulation can reach a point where the reinvestment of capital no longer produces returns. When a market becomes flooded with capital, a massive devaluation occurs. This over-accumulation is a condition that occurs when surpluses of devalued capital and labor exist side by side with seemingly no way to bring them together. The inability to procure adequate value stems from a lack of demand.
The term "overaccumulation" is also used in a neoclassical context.Primitive accumulation of capital
In Marxian economics and preceding theories, the problem of primitive accumulation (also called previous accumulation, original accumulation) of capital concerns the origin of capital, and therefore of how class distinctions between possessors and non-possessors came to be.
Adam Smith's account of primitive-original accumulation depicted a peaceful process, in which some workers laboured more diligently than others and gradually built up wealth, eventually leaving the less diligent workers to accept living wages for their labour. Karl Marx rejected this explanation as "childishness," instead stating that, in the words of David Harvey, primitive accumulation "entailed taking land, say, enclosing it, and expelling a resident population to create a landless proletariat, and then releasing the land into the privatised mainstream of capital accumulation". This would be accomplished through violence, war, enslavement, and colonialism.Rate of exploitation
In Marxian economics, the rate of exploitation is the ratio of the total amount of unpaid labor done (surplus-value) to the total amount of wages paid (the value of labour power). The rate of exploitation is often also called the rate of surplus-value.Rate of profit
In economics and finance, the profit rate is the relative profitability of an investment project, a capitalist enterprise or a whole capitalist economy. It is similar to the concept of rate of return on investment.Schools of economic thought
In the history of economic thought, a school of economic thought is a group of economic thinkers who share or shared a common perspective on the way economies work. While economists do not always fit into particular schools, particularly in modern times, classifying economists into schools of thought is common. Economic thought may be roughly divided into three phases: premodern (Greco-Roman, Indian, Persian, Islamic, and Imperial Chinese), early modern (mercantilist, physiocrats) and modern (beginning with Adam Smith and classical economics in the late 18th century). Systematic economic theory has been developed mainly since the beginning of what is termed the modern era.
Currently, the great majority of economists follow an approach referred to as mainstream economics (sometimes called 'orthodox economics'). Within the mainstream in the United States, distinctions can be made between the Saltwater school (associated with Cornell, Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale), and the more laissez-faire ideas of the Freshwater school (represented by the Chicago school of economics, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Rochester and the University of Minnesota). Both of these schools of thought are associated with the neoclassical synthesis.
Some influential approaches of the past, such as the historical school of economics and institutional economics, have become defunct or have declined in influence, and are now considered heterodox approaches. Other longstanding heterodox schools of economic thought include Austrian economics and Marxian economics. Some more recent developments in economic thought such as feminist economics and ecological economics adapt and critique mainstream approaches with an emphasis on particular issues rather than developing as independent schools.Surplus
Surplus may refer to:
Economic surplus, one of various supplementary values
Excess supply, a situation in which the quantity of a good or service supplied is more than the quantity demanded, and the price is above the equilibrium level determined by supply and demand
Government budget surplus
Military surplus, obsolete or obsolescent military goods usually offered for sale
Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers, a documentary film
Surplus value, surplus labour, surplus product in Marxian economics
"The Surplus", a 2008 episode of The OfficeUse value
Use value (German: Gebrauchswert) or value in use is a concept in classical political economy and Marxian economics. It refers to the tangible features of a commodity (a tradeable object) which can satisfy some human requirement, want or need, or which serves a useful purpose. In Karl Marx's critique of political economy, any product has a labor-value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an exchange value, most often expressed as a money-price.Marx acknowledges that commodities being traded also have a general utility, implied by the fact that people want them, but he argues that this by itself tells us nothing about the specific character of the economy in which they are produced and sold.Wage labour
Wage labour (also wage labor in American English) is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer, where the worker sells their labour power under a formal or informal employment contract. These transactions usually occur in a labour market where wages or salaries are market-determined.
In exchange for the money paid as wages (usual for short-term work-contracts) or salaries (in permanent employment contracts), the work product generally becomes the undifferentiated property of the employer, except for special cases such as the vesting of intellectual property patents in the United States where patent rights are usually vested in the employee personally responsible for the invention. A wage labourer is a person whose primary means of income is from the selling of their labour in this way.
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