The Semiotics of Labor

To express interest in this panel, please use the comments feature on this page and/or contact Ken McGill: mcgillk1[at]

I'm interested in creating a panel that will look more closely at the semiotics of labor, especially the semiotics of labor as economic value. I've recently published a semiotic account of commodity transactions (J Ling Anth 23(1): 1-20), and am currently in the process of extending this project. Specifically, I am concerned with providing a semiotic account of Marx's labor theory of value. From my point of view, economic value is indeed an embodiment of labor, but only one that can be traced out in qualitative terms, specifically by examining the indexical relations between signs established in commodity transactions (see the paper mentioned above) through a set of complex mediations. I have also been working under the hypothesis that a semiotic account of the labor theory of value would de facto provide us with a semiotic account of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which was the key concern in Marx's later work.

My proposed paper would have limited ambitions. I hope to lay out some of the prerequisites to a semiotic account of value under capitalism. Some of my initial fieldwork on saleswomen and salesmen will likely also be featured. Of course a formal paper proposal would formulate my specific intentions.  For now, I would be interested in exploring a panel with anyone broadly interested in semiotics, political economy or Marxist theory.