Invisible Leviathan

Marx's Law of Value in the Twilight of Capitalism


In this updated and expanded edition of Invisible Leviathan, Murray E.G. Smith critically explores and makes significant contributions to the debate surrounding Karl Marx’s ‘capitalist law of value’ and its corollary, the law of the falling rate of profit. A powerful case is presented that capitalism has exhausted its potential to contribute to human progress. Humanity confronts a fateful choice: to allow this obsolescent system – which necessarily measures ‘wealth’ in terms of ‘abstract social labour’ and money profit – to destroy human civilisation; or to make the leap toward a global, egalitarian-socialist society in which the satisfaction of human need is the starting-point and the all-round development of each and every human individual the goal of the socio-economic life process.

First printed in 1994 as Invisible Leviathan: The Marxist Critique of Market Despotism Beyond Postmodernism by University of Toronto Press. This second and revised edition includes a new Foreword by Michael Roberts, and a Preface to the Second Edition.
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Biographical Note

Murray E.G. Smith is Professor of Sociology at Brock University, Canada. His previous books include Culture of Prejudice (University of Toronto Press, 2007), Global Capitalism in Crisis (Fernwood, 2010), and Marxist Phoenix (Canadian Scholars Press, 2014).

Table of contents

Foreword Preface to the Second Edition Preface to the First Edition (Excerpts) Copyright Acknowledgements Figures, Charts and Tables
1 Invisible Leviathan: Marx’s Law of Value in the Twilight of Capitalism  1  Reflections on Wealth, Human Development and the ‘Triumph’ of Capitalism  2  The Triple Crisis of the Twenty-First Century  3  The Necessity of Marx’s Value Theory in the Twilight of Capitalism
2 The Value Abstraction and the Dialectic of Social Development  1  The Value Abstraction in Pre-capitalist History: Cognitive Faculties as Forces of Production  2  Cohen, Sayer and Söhn-Rethel on Historical Materialism  3  Value Relations and Social Progress  4  An Unresolved Issue
3 Science, Ideology and ‘Economic Value’  1  The Labour Theory of Value in Classical Political Economy  2  The Economics Profession Repudiates the Labour Theory of Value  3  Labour Value: From ‘Ricardian Socialism’ to Marx  4  Marginalism versus Marx  5  Science, Ideology and the Theory of Value
4 Marx’s Capital and the Early Critiques  1  Elements of Marx’s Theory of Value  2  Value, Capital, and Exploitation  3  Value, Capitalist Competition, and the General Rate of Profit  4  Traditional Criticisms and Orthodox Responses  5  The Controversy Surrounding the ‘Transformation Problem’
5 Currents within the Value Controversy  1  The Second Phase of the Value Controversy  2  The Neo-Ricardian Challenge  3  Neo-Orthodoxy and the Rediscovery of the Value-Form  4  Fundamentalist Value Theory  5  Trends in the Value Controversy since the 1990s
6 An Assessment of the Value Controversy  1  Preliminary Thoughts on the Road Just Travelled  2  Some Philosophical and Methodological Considerations  3  Theoretical Considerations  4  Value Theory and Programme
7 Value, Economy and Crisis  1  Capitalist Development and Its Cyclical Crises  2  The Falling Rate of Profit and the Dimensions of Capitalist Crisis  3  Tendencies Counteracting the Fall in the Rate of Profit  4  Theoretical Arguments Surrounding the Law of the Falling Rate of Profit  5  Dimensions of Capitalist Crisis  6  Crises of Valorisation and Crises of Realisation  7  The Historical-Structural Crisis of Capitalism
8 Socially Necessary Unproductive Labour, Valorisation and Crisis  1  Marx and the Problem of Unproductive Labour  2  SNUL and Marx’s Value Categories  3  Constant Capital and Capital Fetishism  4  Theoretical Advantages of Treating SNUL as Constant Capital
9 Imperialism, Unequal Development and the Law of Value  1  Unequal Capitalist Development on a World Scale  2  Emmanuel’s Theory of Unequal Exchange  3  Critiques of Emmanuel  4  Shaikh’s Critique of Emmanuel and the Ricardian Theory of Trade
10 ‘Testing Marx’ in the Twilight of Capitalism: Marxian Value Categories, National Income Accounts and the Crisis of Valorisation  1  Part I: The Profitability Crisis of the 1970s and 1980s: Contradictory Testimonies of Empirical Marxian Research  2  Part II: The LTRPF and the Rise of ‘Fictitious Capital’: The Case of the US Economy, 1950–2013  3  Profitability Trends in the US Economy: Some Recent Findings and Debates  4  Appendix 1: Data Sources and Methods for Smith (1991b) Study of Canadian Economy, 1947–80  5  Appendix 2: Data Sources and Methods Used in Smith-Taylor (1996) Study of the Canadian Economy, 1947–91  6  Appendix 3: Data Sources and Methods Used in Smith-Butovsky (2018) Study of the US Economy, 1950–2013
11 Beyond the Law of Value: Class Struggle and Socialist Transformation  1  The Working Class, Value, and Anti-Capitalist Struggle  2  Value Theory and Socialist Construction
Bibliography Index


Scholars and activists interested in Marx’s critique of capitalism, his theories of labour-value and crisis, and the historical limits of the ‘capitalist law of value’.


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