A snippet of an exchange with Brendan Cooney on Kapitalism101 on abstract labor

by Jehu

Beginning Here

Jehu: “This post is weak. Labor power is abstract labor, i.e., labor in the abstract. The potential for labor in all of its concrete forms. You don’t mention labor power even once in the entire post. I am not sure how you managed that.”

Brendan Cooney: “Where in Kapital does Marx equate labor power and abstract labor as the same concept? Please provide citation.”
Jehu:Sorry for the delay. I did not realize you had responded. Marx equates labour power with abstract labour directly in chapter one of Capital:

“Along with the useful qualities of the products themselves, we put out of sight both the useful character of the various kinds of labour embodied in them, and the concrete forms of that labour; there is nothing left but what is common to them all; all are reduced to one and the same sort of labour, human labour in the abstract.

“Let us now consider the residue of each of these products; it consists of the same unsubstantial reality in each, a mere congelation of homogeneous human labour, of labour power expended without regard to the mode of its expenditure. All that these things now tell us is, that human labour power has been expended in their production, that human labour is embodied in them. When looked at as crystals of this social substance, common to them all, they are – Values.”

“The idea that abstract homogenous human labour is somehow mysterious in Marx’s labor theory of value is one of the greatest frauds in post-war history foisted on undergraduates by the value-form school professors. It is hilarious. You guys and gals tickle the hell out of me.”


The deliberate mystification of the category abstract labor is one of the hallmarks of the value-form school. Creating ambiguity about this term is important because without injecting this ambiguity into the category the value-form school is unable to claim value arises from exchange rather than production as Marx insisted.