Equivalent form

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Things can be exchanged on the market because they are always related to a third thing, abstract human labour, which functions as the equivalent form of the commodity.

Distinguishing characteristics

Marx outlines four "peculiarities" (Eigentümlichkeiten) of the equivalent form, namely:

  • that "use-value becomes the form of manifestation, the phenomenal form of its opposite, value",
  • that "that concrete labour becomes the form under which its opposite, abstract human labour, manifests itself,"
  • that "the labour of private individuals takes the form of its opposite, labour directly social in its form", and


We have seen that commodity A (the linen), by expressing its value in the use value of a commodity differing in kind (the coat), at the same time impresses upon the latter a specific form of value, namely that of the equivalent. The commodity linen manifests its quality of having a value by the fact that the coat, without having assumed a value form different from its bodily form, is equated to the linen. The fact that the latter therefore has a value is expressed by saying that the coat is directly exchangeable with it. Therefore, when we say that a commodity is in the equivalent form, we express the fact that it is directly exchangeable with other commodities.

— Karl Marx, Capital Volume I, Chapter 1, Section 3

See also