Rationality and social labor in marx

Elias L. Khalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Textual exegesis is used to show that Marx's concept of social labor is transhistorical, referring to a collective activity of humans as a species. The collective nature of labor is suspended in capitalist production because of the anarchic character of market relations. But the suspension is skin deep: The sociality of labor asserts itself in a mediated manner through the alienated empowerment of goods with value. This is commodity fetishism, which vanishes when relations of production become actually collective—matching the transhistorical essence of labor. Marx's concept of social labor is adjudged inadequate. Jt amounts to asserting that the actions of agents could be ex ante calculated according to a global rationality. In this respect, Marx's concept of social labor is reminiscent of the equally deficient notion of perfect competition in mainstream neoclassical economics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-265
Number of pages27
JournalCritical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990

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