Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

“Value in Exchange”: Pufendorf’s Moral Quantities in Smith’s Quantities of Labour

Bee Michele , Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais-UFMG
Sternick Ivan, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

This paper aims to show that the “quantities of labor” on which Smith bases his theory of the real measure of exchange value are not objective quantities that can be established prior to the exchange, but that their value is determined by the proportion established in exchange. Contrary to what is often stated, this means that these quantities of labor are neither physical inputs “embodied” in commodities, nor given prices, nor an absolute “disutility”, but that they come close to what Samuel Pufendorf called “moral quantities”. This means they are prices established through common evaluation and agreement in exchange, taking into account different aspects associated with each labor and work. It is here claimed that the estimation of Smith’s wage-differentials should also be understood in this sense. The non-arbitrary character of this conception of value in exchange is explained through Smith’s understanding that, under conditions of equality and liberty, people are capable of and willing to evaluate each other’s labor impartially, since they usually desire to obtain the deserved esteem of others.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Adam Smith, Samuel Pufendorf, Quantities of Labor, Value, Exchange

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