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The social construction of value: value theories and John Locke's framework of qualities


  • Wilfred Dolfsma


Value theory is central to economics. Whenever new economic theories appear on stage, their theory of value is different. I classify value theories along Locke's lines of primary and secondary qualities. When value is thought to inhere in objects, value is a primary quality. The marginalists perceive value as given to objects by autonomous individuals independent of their environment (much like monads) with given preferences. Value here is a secondary quality. Both are unsatisfactory; value is a social construct. The question arises why social value theory, which Clark and Anderson worked on around the turn of the nineteenth century, did not take root.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilfred Dolfsma, 1997. "The social construction of value: value theories and John Locke's framework of qualities," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 400-416.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:4:y:1997:i:3:p:400-416
    DOI: 10.1080/10427719700000059

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