A Short Critique of Marx

Marx’s definition of value is ridiculous.

All the work in the world will not add value to something that no one needs or wants. In classical liberal economic theory that is best delineated in Principles of Economics by Carl Menger, publish in 1871.  Menger states, in short: Finished goods acquire their value because of their ability to satisfy first people’s needs and then their wants. People may eat an apple grown by a farmer, which satisfies their need for food. But some people at sometimes will also want a fancy dessert, therefore a cook will “add value” to the apple by making it into a fancy apple tart.  But the value of the apple tart is only equal to that which someone is willing to pay to fulfill that want.  The cook may take a day to make a tart, but the value is no more that what it would take for a better cook who took less than an hour produce an equally tasty dessert.  The extra time and labor add nothing to the value of the dessert. Please note that Principles of Economics was published after the first Volume of “Das Kapital” but before the posthumous publishing of the 3rd volume.  So in just a 3 short years, the scientific theory of economics had already advanced beyond Marx’s tortured critique of Value. Source: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Menger.html

Karl Marx’s writings have become so influential; (I had one professor at the University of Missouri that called him “the horizon of all philosophy that followed”) that sometimes it is difficult to recall that Marx himself had philosophical antecedents, primarily Hegel. For Hegel the thesis-antithesis-synthesis paradigm is the basic idea structure and is a continuous never ending cycle. For Marx the thesis-antithesis-synthesis arises from economic and material conditions and does reach a conclusion.

For example in the Middle Ages the Feudal Lords where the “thesis”, in that they held total economic, political and military power, where as the serfs were the antithesis, holding no such power and the synthesis was the rise of urban centers of trade and commerce. The cities’ leadership, that is to say the burghers or bourgeois became the new starting point or new thesis. The urban elite antitheses were the trade guilds with the new synthesis being enterprise capitalism. With enterprise capitalism as the new thesis, the antitheses were the workers or proletariat, with the new synthesis being classless communism, which would end the cycle, or “end history”.

There no problem with the dialectic when it comes to ideas. The combining, or synthesis, of ideas is considered one of the higher order mental skills according to Bloom’s taxonomy. But in the material world, the dialectic paradigm is much more problematical.

Two points will illustrate the above point:

One, the first communist revolution took place in the most backward, non-industrialized country in Europe, Russia. According to Marx, the first revolution should have taken place in Great Britain, since it was the most advanced state, the one closest to achieving the so called synthesis.

Two, the revolution was avoided by taking ideas from Marxism, such as Trade Unionism and grafting it on to enterprise capitalism.   Creating a climate where workers shared in the “surplus” created by their work, thru better wages, better working conditions and even profit sharing!

Neither of which were predicted by Marxist theory.


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