Creative Industries, Value Theory and Michael Heinrich’s New Reading of Marx

  • Frederick H. Pitts Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK
Keywords: Marx, value, theory of value, law of value, productive and unproductive labour, cultural and creative industries, creative labour, advertising, design, branding


This article utilises the new reading of Marx found in the work of Michael Heinrich to analyse the creative industries. It considers the role played in the production of value by the labour that takes place in the sphere of circulation. The specific focus is on creative industries such as graphic design, advertising and branding. It applies Heinrich's conceptualisation of 'social validation' to these sectors. This suggests that valorisation depends upon goods and services attaining commodity status by selling for money. Value is subject to this validation. The capitalist use of advertising, graphic design and branding guarantees the possibility of this validation. Using Heinrich, it reevaluates claims made about the creative industries and cognate fields in three main respects. First, it exposes as inadequate certain Marxist understandings of productive and unproductive labour and the place of circulation activities within this distinction. Second, it refutes autonomist Marxist claims as to the immeasurability of immaterial labour and the redundancy of the law of value. Third, it suggests that creative industries possess a significant role in a capitalist economy blighted by a necessity towards the overproduction of commodities.

Author Biography

Frederick H. Pitts, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK

Frederick H. (Harry) Pitts is an ESRC-funded PhD candidate with the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, UK. His PhD research is informed by a critical engagement with Marxian value theory, and uses qualitative methods to investigate work and work-time in the cultural and creative industries, with a specific focus on the struggle to measure, quantify and value creative labour. He has an profile at, and blogs at