Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview

duction; during the process of production of the commodity a new value must have been created.

This leads us to the question as to how the value of commodities arises.


CHAPTER III
VALUE IN USE AND EXCHANGE VALUE THE SOCIALLY NECESSARY LABOUR

(Extracted from vol. 1, ch. 1 & 2.)

A COMMODITY is primarily an external object, which by reason of its qualities satisfies some sort of human want. Every useful thing, such as iron, paper, etc., must be considered from a double point of view--according to quality, and according to quantity. Every such thing has numerous qualities, and can thus be useful in many ways. The usefulness of the thing implies that it is a value in use. But this usefulness is not, so to speak, something hanging indefinitely in the air. Conditioned by the physical qualities of the commodity, it cannot exist apart from the latter. The substance itself of the commodity--such as iron, wheat, diamond, etc.-- possesses therefore a value in use.

Exchange Value appears primarily as the quantitative relation in which values in use of one kind are exchanged against values in use of another kind. A definite quantity of one commodity is regularly exchanged for a specific quantity of another: that constitutes its exchange value--a relation which changes constantly according to time and locality. Thus does exchange value seem to be something accidental and purely relative, i. e. (as Condillac expressed it) it seems "to consist solely in the relation of the commodities to our wants." A value in exchange inherent in commodities appears thus an impossibility. Let us consider the question more closely.

A given commodity, let us say a ton of wheat, is exchanged for a specific amount of boot-blacking, silk, or gold, etc., in a word, for other commodities in varying proportions. Corn

-29-

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