The Creation of Value by Living Labour: a Normative and Empirical Study, by Cheng Enfu, Wang Guijin and  Zhu Kui, edited by Alan Freeman and Sun Yexiao

This contains the prepublication text of a major work by Professor Chen Enfu and his colleagues, which I was asked to edit for publication by Canut Press. The text required considerable work both because it had been translated by a non-native English speaker, and because the terminology needed to be aligned with common Anglophone usage.

The work was of considerable importance. First, the book introduces the long tradition of Chinese scholarship in Marx’s Value theory to Western readers.

Secondly, the book contains a major empirical analysis of the development of China’s creative industries; it does so as a conscious intervention into debates, within China, on the appropriate way to reward capitalists in a Socialist society. It sets out a simple but far-reaching principle – that capitalist owners should be rewarded in proportion to the value added by their labour, not their capital. The sophistication of this argument rests in the fact that the Chinese scholars recognise that capitalist owners may, and frequently do, contribute value to production by virtue of their specialist management and other skills.

There is therefore a case to reward them for this special value contribution. The question is then ‘what is the magnitude of the additonal value created by this ‘complex‘ labour, in excess of that created by ordinary labour. This opens the way to an invaluable discussion of how to value, quantitatively, the contribution of what I have elsewhere termed ‘high-end labour‘ – notably creative labour, but also managerial and scientific labour. It sets out a value-theoretic basis for its judgements at some length, providing an effective illustration of the practical power of value theory in reaching such far-reaching decisions.

The book appeared in two volumes, the first dealing mainly with the role of these complex types of labour, and the second addressing the debates in Western Marxism. This post contains the first of the volumes.

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