Ibn Khaldun’s Labor Theory of Value and the Question of Race

Revisiting the “Nondebates of the 1970s” through The Muqaddimah


  • Şahan Savaş Karataşli University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Derek Clark University of North Carolina, Greensboro




Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, Capitalism, Labor Theory of Value, Race, Racism, Origins of Capitalism


In the first volume of Capital, Marx argued that the labor theory of value could only be discovered in capitalist societies. Building on Marx’s premise, this article examines Ibn Khaldun’s (1377) The Muqaddimah, which presents one of the first labor theories of value in world history. After explaining different elements of Ibn Khaldun’s labor theory of value, the article revisits what Giovanni Arrighi referred to as the “nondebates of the 1970s” and proposes that North Africa was already incorporated into an Italian centered capitalist world-economy in the fourteenth century. Since a key element of Marx’s argument was the impossibility of the emergence of abstract labor in societies (e.g. ancient Greece) which do not have the idea of equality of human beings and human labor, in the latter part, the article analyzes Ibn Khaldun’s theory of race and human equality. We show that Ibn Khaldun, through his comparative and historical observations, acknowledged the equality of all humans and the constructed nature of race, influenced by geography, history, and political economy. The world-historical analysis and theoretical interventions of the article helps us rethink capitalism and racism as two major pillars of modernity.

Author Biography

Şahan Savaş Karataşli, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Assistant Professor


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How to Cite

Karataşli, Şahan S., & Clark, D. (2024). Ibn Khaldun’s Labor Theory of Value and the Question of Race: Revisiting the “Nondebates of the 1970s” through The Muqaddimah . Journal of World-Systems Research, 30(1), 302–338. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2024.1195