A Comparison of the Economic Theories of Adam Smith and Karl Marx

2203 WordsFeb 18, 20189 Pages
There is perhaps not a more famous ongoing dialectic argument in the field of political economy than the one between Adam Smith and Karl Marx in regards to capitalism. The two thinkers, although coming to radically different conclusions about the outcomes of the capitalist system for all parties involved, agree on a surprising number of ideas such as labor being the source of commodities’ value, as well as the fact that the division of labor increases productivity. However, their different conceptions of what determines the price of a commodity, the driving force behind and the effects of the division of labor, and the purpose of the capitalist system have widespread implications that cause their holistic arguments to diverge considerably. Marx’s analysis of capitalism begins with an investigation of the commodity because the wealth of capitalist nations is essentially “an immense collection of commodities” (Chapter 1). Marx differentiates between the use-value and the exchange-value of any given commodity. The use-value of a commodity refers to its qualitative ability to satisfy a human need, while its exchange-value is the “quantitative relation… in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind” (Chapter 1). Therefore, exchange-value is not an intrinsic quality of a commodity; it is only discovered in comparing a fixed quantity of commodity A to a fixed quantity B. Since differing quantities of these two commodities appear to have the same value,
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