In the exchange of commodities Marx examines the different rotations, appearances, of the commodity in its relative and equivalent forms of the expression of value. For exchange to expand, to dominate, to determine production, an equivalent for all commodities must be established. Just as human labor in general, in abstract, in its distilled, estranged existence as labor time is projected into the commodity as value, value is projected out of the commodity into the abstract, general, featureless, existence of money. Estrangement is now complete. Accumulation begins.
From here, Marx takes us to his essay on the fetishism of commodities in which Marx explores how and why it is the form of labor, the organization of production in capitalism that expresses human relations as the relations between things, and endows those relations between things with power over the relations of human beings. Direct production for direct need has disappeared. Production and need are associated only indirectly, mediated by the market, by exchanged. Value appears as an independent force, even a rational one, commanding equivalence, ensuring equity with a wave of its invisible hand.
As concise as Marx’s essay is, the essay itself is condensed in one sentence in the second footnote Marx provides: “When, therefore, Galiani says: Value is a relation between persons—‘La Ricchezza e una ragione tra due persone,’—he ought to have added: a relation between persons expressed as a relation between things.”
Having established the relative and equivalent forms of value from the exchange of commodities; the money form from the relative and equivalent forms of value in the process, the circuits of exchange; fetishism, form supreme, from the value expressed as money over human beings, Marx now returns to examine exchange— not simply to reiterate the different forms, or moments of the commodity as value, but rather as expressing historical moments, measures and manifestations of commerce. The transformation of exchange from barter or simple trade into commerce is the “record” of the transformation of a useful surplus article into a commodity.
The commodity as a specific product, a useful article, and organized as value, then manifests the conditions of its production, i.e. labor as a specifically useful article that is organized as value.
S. Artesian November 21, 2010
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