Marxian Economics

06.06.2015 |

Episode #4 of the course “Brief History of Economic Thought”


The writings of philosopher and socio-political critic Karl Marx have had a vast impact on the theories of classical economics. Marx’s theories analyzed both politics and economics, seeing the intricate ties between the two; however, modern understanding does not necessarily see them as linked. The term “Marxian economics” refers to the foundational thinking of Karl Marx himself, but also of a number of critics who have responded to and expanded on Marx’s theories. Many contemporary Marxist economists are not promoters of Marx’s radical socialist theory, and a Marxist politician need not be aligned with Marxian economics.

In the mid-19th century, industrialization and increased global trade were causing new tensions in the understandings of production. Karl Marx penned essays that critiqued and responded to classical economics theorists, commenting in greater detail on the impact of economics on the laborer. He integrated population growth into an understanding of wages and its connection to the costs of labor and of living. Marx looked at labor value, describing how the worker’s wages did not amount to the full value of the item produced. He recognized that a working day was not the sum value of a person’s life—the worker essentially gets to “pocket” the value of the rest time. Marx also described how the worker had nothing valuable to show, no final product to own as a direct result of the labor.

Marxian economics evaluates products in terms of their use-value and their exchange-value; their directly usable value, and the value of the item compared to other items. In an age of digital and information production rather than industrial production of physical items, Marxian economics has reapplied its concepts to adapt to digital workspaces and products. Contemporary Marxian economics is interested in the value of the worker in topics such as collaborative licensing (like creative commons), intellectual copyright, and open-source multi-media platforms.


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