Thursday, May 26, 2011

Capital Volume 1 Chapter 1 Notes

This is part 1 of a series in which I'll be summarizing the framework of Marx's Capital, Volume 1. For this series I am using the translation by Ben Fowkes, © 1990 & published by Penguin Classics.

All numbered and lettered lists are as they appear in the literature; further organization is my own doing. Occasionally, notes appear outside of the section they are sourced from in the book. This was done to improve the organization and flow of the notes.

I. The Two Factors of the Commodity: Use Value and Value (Substance of value; Magnitude of Value)

-There are two kinds of value applicable to commodities:
Use-value (substance: subjectively represents usability to consumer, represents wealth)
Depository for exchange value
Exchange Value (magnitude: realized by way of market exchange)
Since magnitude of value is our subject, ‘value’ and ‘magnitude of value’ are often used interchangeably.
-…and two creative factors for value:
Labor Value (prerequisite, subsumed into commodity, creates commodity value)
A value or quantity of labor is the common denominator among commodities
Resources (See Section II)

-The LTV views labor as homogeneous or aggregated labor-hours. Complex or skilled labor counts as “intensified” or “multiplied” simple labor.
-Labor is an expenditure of human labor power with the aim of creating value; this value is manifested as use-value or a commodity which possesses labor value and provides exchange value.

The dual Character of the Labor Embodied in Commodities

-Different kinds of labor (such as tailoring and weaving) beget different products; this disparity is necessary in order for commodities to confront each other in the market.
-Homogeneous labor is subsumed into commodities which confront each other in the heterogeneous market of commodities
-Labor exists as a restructuring of the material world to create value: for this reason, resources are just as much creators of value as is nature:
“The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labor. If we take away the useful labor expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labor is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labor. As William Petty puts it, labor is its father and the earth its mother.”
-For instance:
10yd of linen = W, coat = 2W
In this example, 20yd of linen – and therefore the labor congealed therein – are worth the same value, and therefore the same labor-value, as 1 coat. Tailoring and weaving are both expenditures of human labor power.
-Labor counts qualitatively for use-value, and quantitatively for value.
III. The Value Form, or Exchange-Value

-The value of commodities is only objective insofar as they confront each other socially.
-Commodities have a common value form: the money form. Marx sets out to trace the genesis of the money-form.
-The simplest value relation is that of one commodity to another of a different kind. This relation between the values of two commodities supplies us with this, the simplest expression of the value of a single commodity.

A. Elementary or Accidental Form of Value

x commodity A = y commodity B (or x commodity A is worth y commodity B)
20 yards of linen = 1 coat

1. The two poles of the expression of value: the relative form of value and the equivalent form
-The linen expresses its value in the coat; the linen is active, the latter passive.
-The linen is expressed as relative value; the coat, in the equivalent form.
-Different objects must be used since 20yd linen = 20yd linen only expresses a quantity of linen, not a magnitude of value.
(i.) The content of the relative form of value
-Only the value of the linen is expressed in the above.
-By making them equivalent, we equate the common value – that is labor – embodied within. This is manifested insofar as commodities are exchanged as equivalencies in the market, and this in turn reduces the different commodities to their labor-value.
-Human labor power creates value, but is not itself value. It only becomes value when embodied in the form of an object.
-Human labor is expended, accumulated in the commodity, and therefore the commodity is a depository of value

(ii) The quantitative determinacy of the relative form of value

-Changes in industry, particularly technology, reduce the labor time – and hence value – of commodities for whom the efficiency of the production process has increased.
-20yd linen = 1 coat implies that the two commodities have the same quantity of labor of the same intensity
I. If the labor time necessary for the production of linen doubles, the value of the linen will double, or 20yd linen = 2 coats. If it halved, 20yd linen = ½ coat.
II. If the value of the coat doubles: 20yd linen = ½ coat. If the coat shrinks by half: 20yd linen = 2 coats.
-the same changes occur due to different causes; in every case, we are still measuring the value of 20 yard of linen.
III. Insofar as the values of the coat and the linen rise or fall at the same (percentile) rate, the value 20yd linen = 1 coat remains constant.
IV. I, II and III can therefore explain any combination of rises or falls in relative labor-cost and therefore value

(iii) The equivalent form

-expressed as use-value
-the magnitude of their own value is not expressed
-“…in the expression of value of the linen, the coat represents a supra-natural property: their value, which is something purely social”
-3 peculiarities:
1: The natural (use-value) form appears as its opposite, value (for instance, as the iron weights on a scale)
2: Concrete labor appears as its opposite, abstract labor.
3: Private labor takes the form of social labor.
-Aristotle’s value form
5 beds = 1 home is indistinguishable from 5 beds = a certain amount of money
-“There can be no exchange without equality and no equality without commensurability”
-He could not conceive of an appropriate value taken up on each side of the model
-The simple form of value is insufficient in that it “must undergo a series of metamorphoses” before it ripens into the price form.

B. The total or expanded form of value

Z commodity A = commodity B or = v commodity C or = w commodity D or = x commodity E or = etc.

C. The General form of value

-In this case, linen serves as the universal equivalent. In this case, each commodity is expressed as universally exchangeable with linen, and equates each commodity with each other as value.
-This becomes the money form when no other commodity fills the role of universal equivalent

D. The Money Form

-“all the different kinds of private labor … are continually being reduced to the quantitative proportions in which society requires them. The reason for this reduction is that in the midst of the accidental and ever-fluctuating exchange relations between the products, the labor time socially necessary to produce them asserts itself as a regulatory law of nature.” P.168
-The price-form merely conceals the social character of private labor.
-By nature of their own ‘self-regulation,’ commodities ‘possess’ their own ‘power,’ that is to say that by-laws of the market of commodities determine the value held by humans – rather than humans asserting the value of different commodities. (commodity fetishism)

Note: I attempted to keep quotes and notes in order, even if their appearance in the text appeared to be inconsistent with the subject in their section title. For these notes, I'm using the Penguin Classics translation by Ben Fowkes published in 1990.

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