Foreword by Zoltan Zigedy
Paul Cockshott’s “How Physics Is Validating The Labor Theory Of Value” is an important article. He and his colleagues represent an independent and rigorous strain of Western Marxism that takes two aspects of the Marxist tradition quite seriously:
1. They insist that Marxist ideas must measure up to the most rigorous scientific scrutiny in order to earn the claim of “scientific socialism.” Every student of Marxism knows the careful and thorough studies Marx and Engels made of the most advanced finding of their times in economics, the life sciences, and anthropology. Quite obviously, they did not accept those findings uncritically, but sought to weave them into a theory of social change that would stand the test of empirical inquiry and offer some predictive force.
Paul, similarly, applies rigorously both contemporary formal sciences and physical sciences to questions and formulations that have remained fundamental to the Marxist project. In an earlier article, he offered a powerful defense of socialist economic planning constructed around a rigorous restatement of the thoughts of the great Soviet economist, Kantorovich.
2. Cockshott demonstrates both a respect and deep study of both the literature and history of the Marxist tradition. In addition, he shows the rare understanding of how the history of ideas, like the history of all struggles, unfolds. Too many Western academic “friends of Marxism” fail to place their ideas into the context of the “vulgar” world outside of their class rooms. They find no need to connect collegial debates to the immediacies of the conflicts occupying the lives of real, historical actors.
Paul has offered us below a popular summary of evidence from the mathematical and physical sciences in defense of the labor theory of value, the basis for Marx’s theory of exploitation. The best explanation of these concepts that I have ever heard came from a retired coal miner teaching a course on Marxist basics. To my mind, any theory of value would have to account for his understanding of capitalist production to even qualify as a candidate for scientific status, just as physics must account for a falling apple.
Nonetheless, the labor theory of value has been subjected to withering attack from the time of economist Bohm-Bawerk to today’s "Analytical Marxists.” Where others have commendably sought to theoretically meet the objections to Marx’s theory as they appear, Cockshott confronts critics with the results of statistical mechanics, specifically a demonstration that the laws of thermodynamics applied to a capitalist economy generate the actual behavior predicted from assuming a labor theory of value!