Marxian economics constitutes both a continuation of and a sharp break with classical English political economy (Adam Smith and David Ricardo). The labor theory of value, according to which commodities tend to exchange in proportion to their respective embodied socially necessary labor times, is common to both schools. But Marx, unlike the classics, was primarily interested not in quantitative exchange ratios but in the real social relations which underlie and are masked by these market phenomena. Here, as in all his theoretical work, Marx was concerned to penetrate beneath the surface appearance of things and lay bare for analysis the hidden essence. It was in this respect that he broke with his predecessors and made some of his most original and profound contributions to social science.
This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website, where most recent articles are published in full.