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Cover of Review of Political Economy

Review of Political Economy

Volume 26, Issue 3, Jul 2014
Pages 408-425

  • DOI: 10.1080/09538259.2014.923592
  • Print ISSN: 0953-8259
  • Online ISSN: 1465-3982

A Reassessment of Marx's Thought on Labour Exchange

Konan University


This article reassesses Marx's thought on labour exchange and illuminates its worth. In the Grundrisse and subsequent pre-Capital writings, Marx presented arguments that attached importance to worker subjectivity towards labour performance based on the distinction between labour capacity and labour. This afforded insights into the peculiarities of labour exchange that preclude market determination of wages and other working conditions and necessitate the intervention of class struggle and other socio-political factors in their settlement. The significance of Marx's perspective is further elucidated when compared with the classical tradition and the position of neoclassical economics. Although his emphasis on worker autonomy receded in Capital, his earlier arguments on labour exchange, it is posited, remain highly relevant to understanding industrial relations in today's capitalist economy.