The Validity of Karl Marx’s Critique of Classical Political Economy

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This paper examines the core elements of Marx’s Critique of Classical Political Society and identifies the validity of its theoretical underpinnings. Overview At the heart of Marx’s critique of classical political economy were three basic assumptions. First, capitalism was a commercial system grounded in productivity and transferring private property in a liberal market. Secondly, property was valued by reference to the extent of human work put into production. Thirdly, the classical political economy involves a capitalist state where competition and profits give way to exploitive behavior tensions between classes. What often occurs is too much production which leads to crises which in turn threaten the capitalist state. Thus historically, capitalism will prove to be inefficient and inequitable in terms of protecting the individual and social welfare.5 The recurring theme in Marx’s critique of classical political economy is Marx’s attention to David Ricardo’s theory of value. For Marx, classical political economy was flawed by virtue of its inconsistent logic and methodology and thus rendered it incapable of explaining and developing an efficient political economy.6 Essentially Marx was of the opinion that classical economics overvalued production and failed to appreciate the production throughout history has always shared similar elements. Classical political economists failed to distinguish between the common elements of production throughout history and the elements of production specific to capitalism. For the most part, production and labour in capitalist societies were the main sources of income and power of the dominant social class.7 Thus a prominent theme in Marx’s critique of classical political economy was his focus on value theory and the idea that capital conferred power on the elites as a result of its ability to deliver profits. Value Theory Marx identified four theoretical flaws in Ricardo’s value theory that form the bases of his critique of classical political economy. The four theoretical flaws were, the theory of wage labour. the theory of capital and exploitation. the theory of completion and the theory of rent.8 Each of Marx’s theoretical flaw sin value theory are analyzed below. Theory of Wage Labour Marx took the position that the value theory was flawed for its predisposition to place a value on property by reference to the labour value applied to production of the property or commodity. For Marx, this explanation was intrinsically flawed as it made no sense for the value of a specific commodity to rely on another commodity’s value. Classical political economy could not provide an adequate explanation for this theory of value. Marx specifically stated: Labour itself has exchange-value and different types of labour have different exchange-values. If one makes exchange-value the measure of exchange-value, one is caught up in a vicious circle, for the exchange-value used as a measure requires in turn a measure. This