Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

J.-J.-L. Graslin’s "Dissertation de Saint-Pétersbourg" (1768): Division of labor unrelated to the labor theory of value

Yamamoto Eiko, Waseda University

Graslin (1727-1790), an adversary of Physiocracy, discussed the benefits of the division of labor applying the system of land ownership by cultivators themselves in his Dissertation (1768). The purpose of this study is to show that Graslin’s idea of the division of labor does not lead the posterior classical labor theory of value. Graslin assumed that each cultivator would spend 1/4 of his own time to make farm tools in self-sufficiency. If one of them specializes in manufacturing farm tools and three cultivators supply 1/4 of each fruit for the manufacturer, the cultivators’ exemption from the manufacture of their own farm tools enables to increase their farm production from 3/4 to 4/4. For the same reason, the manufacturer, who is exempt from cultivation which needs 3/4 of his total labor in self-sufficiency, can increase his production of tools from 1/4 to 4/4. This assumption, which takes into account working time, may seem to lead to the classical labor theory of value, as Faccarello (2008) maintained, because there is a tendency to be thought that the cultivators and the manufacturer exchanged 1/4 of each product. However, Graslin focused only on the transition of working time in division of labor, and he did not link division of labor with market value at all in Dissertation. Moreover, if Graslin’s argument is properly understood, it turns out that the labor theory of value does not match with his logic. The reason is that, after division of labor, the manufacturer exchanges his tool, which spends 1/3 of his working time, with farm product, which spends 1/4 of the cultivator’s working time. Graslin’s above assumption only depicted the case where each desire was satisfied by division of labor. As to market value, he regarded it to be determined by the subjective theory of value based on desire and scarcity as indicated in his Essai Analytique (1767). Accordingly, Graslin’s suggestion of the transition in division of labor in Dissertation should not be considered in the framework of the labor theory of value.


Keywords: Graslin, exchange, ‘division of labor’, ‘labor value’

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