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"Fundamentals of Marx: The Commodity" by The Marxist Project

A commodity is a good that is bought and sold, or exchanged in a market.

Distinguishing characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics of commodities include:

  • It has value, which represents a quantity of human labour. Because it has value, implies that people try to economise its use.
  • A commodity also has a use-value, an exchange-value and a price. It has a use value because, by its intrinsic characteristics, it can satisfy some human need or want, physical or ideal. By nature, this is a social use-value (i.e. the object is useful not just to the producer but has a use for others generally).
  • It has an exchange-value, meaning that a commodity can be traded for other commodities, and thus give its owner the benefit of others' labour (the labour done to produce the purchased commodity).
  • Price is then the monetary expression of exchange-value (but exchange value could also be expressed as a direct trading ratio between two commodities without using money, and goods could be priced using different valuations or criteria)
  • Commodities are products of labour made for sale, rather than for direct use.


“[A] commodity, that is, a use-value which has a certain exchange-value.” [Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, 1:399]

"A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties" [Karl Marx, Das Kapital]

See also