- Feb 2020
The coat is a use value that satisfies a particular want
Marx: "Yesterday I pawned a coat dating back to my Liverpool days in order to buy writing paper" (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 38 [1852-55]: 221).
On the significance of Marx's coat, see Peter Stallybrass, “Marx’s Coat,” in Border Fetishisms: Material Objects in Unstable Spaces, ed. Patricia Spyer (New York: Routledge, 1998): 183–207. [PDF].
Section 1. The Two Factors of a Commodity, Use-Value and Value
Marx's analysis of a capitalist system begins by postulating that it's fundamentally composed of units called commodities.
In the capitalist system commodities have two features.
1. They are produced
2. They are produced by capitalists
Capitalists produce commodities by employing workers to produce them.
In this section, Marx begins his analysis of the first feature of the capitalist system (viz. that it is commodity producing). Workers and capitalists will not appear in Marx's analysis for several more chapters.
A commodity, such as iron, corn, or a diamond, is therefore, so far as it is a material thing, a use value, something useful
What commodities are thought to be useful for or not is irrelevant to Marx at this very early stage of his analysis, even from a moral point of view. Diamonds satisfy a need in some societies at specific times and places the same as corn or iron.
- Moral Judgement
- Chapter One
- Use Value
- Exchange Value
- Peter Stallybrass
- Commodity Fetishism