Value and exchange value

glevy at glevy at
Sat Aug 5 17:52:00 MDT 1995

Chris B. wrote:

> I generally like Jerry's recent formulations becaus although I cannot judge
> whether they summarise Marx's criticisms of his critics, I think
> Jerry's emphasis on the qualitative use-value aspect of marxian economics
> points the bridge to cultural, social and psychological connections.
The subject of Marx's theory of value can not be condensed meaningfully into
a few sentences or definitions. Chris B. shows above that he did not
really comprehend the meaning of a previous post of mine on value and
exchange value.  Let's try again:

Commodities have a use value and a value. It *appears* that they have
a use value and an exchange value (although some writers do not also see
the use value side of the commodity).

*Value* has both a quantitative dimension and a qualitative dimension.

*Exchange value*, is the quantitative *form* or *appearance* of value.
It is understood as the quantitative proportion in which use values of
one type exchange against the use values of another type.

*Value itself*, as distinct from the value-form (exchange value),
is an expression of the social character of commodity production (and
thus *primarily* concerns the qualitative dimension).
Ricardo, according to Marx, understood value as exchange value, and,
consequently, didn't see the way in which  capitalist social relations
express themselves under through commodity production.

Use value, as well, has a social character. Any product of human labor
must have a use value for it to have value. If a product does not have a
use value, then it becomes worthless from a social standpoint. What gives
a product use value?  This can only be understood with reference to
social needs (historically understood).

So both value *and* use value have a qualitative/social character.

Since the two-fold character of a commodity (use value and *value*) is a
dialectical relationship it can not be understood in formal terms with a
definition or in *merely* quantitative terms.


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