- Feb 2020
Exchange value appears as the property of a commodity that is exchangeable for other commodities. It also presupposes societies who produce commodities and exchange them. While all societies have things with use values, exchange value is relative to a specific time and place.
Additionally, exchanging commodities must also presupposes a way to determine proportionality between different commodities, so that they can be exchanged in the first place.
Exchange therefore requires some other measure that stands above the two commodities meant to be exchanged. If there were no ways in which iron and corn were found similar to a society, for example, then we would not exchange them and they would have no exchange value.
Marx will contend that what each commodity must contain crystalized within it is value (formally) and that the substance of value is labor (viz. the common factor of both iron and corn is labor). Marx will call this kind of labor abstract labor.
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.