History of the Concept of Value Book uri icon


  • In this historical review we distinguish between two broad categories of value theories, objective and subjective, which focus respectively on the conditions of production and on the preferences of consumers. The objective approach to value theory is discussed with respect to classical political economy and the labour theory of value and the Sraffian revival of classical value theory in the twentieth century. The subjective approach to value theory is discussed with reference to neoclassical economics, with emphasis on marginal utility and equilibrium; marginal productivity and the distribution of product; and enhancements to utility analysis developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We conclude with a very brief and speculative reflection on the challenge of the digital age for value theory. The paper has been prepared as an entry for the forthcoming second edition of the International Encylopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences (Elsevier).

publication date

  • 2014