Relative form

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The commodity which expresses its value in another commodity is said to be of the relative form.


Distinguishing example of the difference between the relative and the equivalent form:

  • "The statement "20 yards of linen are worth 1 coat" label two forms of value. The first form, the relative form of value, is the commodity that comes first in the statement (the 20 yards of linen in the example). The second form, the equivalent form of value, is the commodity that comes second in the statement (the 1 coat in the example)."

Further distinguishing characteristics:

  • "The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes – i.e., poles [Wertausdruck] of the same expression."
  • The tautology "20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen" expresses no value at all.


" In order to discover how the elementary expression of the value of a commodity lies hidden in the value relation of two commodities, we must, in the first place, consider the latter entirely apart from its quantitative aspect. The usual mode of procedure is generally the reverse, and in the value relation nothing is seen but the proportion between definite quantities of two different sorts of commodities that are considered equal to each other. It is apt to be forgotten that the magnitudes of different things can be compared quantitatively, only when those magnitudes are expressed in terms of the same unit. It is only as expressions of such a unit that they are of the same denomination, and therefore commensurable." [Karl Marx, Kapital, Chapter 1, Section 1-2]

See also