Labour Theory of Value
OK, Kevin of Mutualist blog has this to say in comments below:
I would argue that labor is unique as a source of value because of its disutility to the laborer; that's why labor-power is the one thing that, in a true free market, whose value would NOT be determined by production cost. The determination of labor-power's value by the cost of reproducing it, in the present system, reflects state-enforced unequal exchange.Now - I can heartily agree the value of labour - i.e. of work done - is the labour time invested in it. I can further happily agree that one basis for this is the disutility to the worker of performing the labour.
The question arises though - does this vary according to the nature of the work, or is it in fact a generalised disutility common to all workers. Is it a scalar or binary matter. If the latter, then Marx is right, we cannot discern the value of a type of labour performed through the market value of the goods.
Let's try a thought experiment, a LTV myth. Imagine:
A village - small - an homogenous populaton where everyone shares a common set of core skills and everyone can basically do everyone elses job.Now, if this model holds, then people would consider the disulity but in a general way - the specific pleasantness of the task not withstanding, if they needed to they could do it themselves. I'd suggest labour time would resolve down to an equal general equivilent between economic actors.
Thus, everyone could do the work, but for a variety of reasons they don't - they specialise. Some might be good at certain tasks. Some might not like certain tasks. Some might have a favoured location. It might be heriditory tradition. When they exchange, though, they know they could have made the product themselves. They know roughly how long it would have taken them; and how long it is generally taken to perform that task. They can then exchange goods to what they consider to be an equal value - if only after haggling.
Disutility would be binary rather than scalar factor in the determination.