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Value is composed of use-value and exchange-value, and is identical to the "socially necessary labour time".

Distinguishing characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics of value include:

  • Since value includes both use-values and exchange-values, it is neither purely subjectively nor purely objectively determined. Both components must be present if there is to be value.
  • Only in economic systems which produce and exchange commodities (i.e., most notably capitalism, but also pre-capitalist economies, and also under early socialism), is there such a thing as the political-economic category of value.
  • Accordingly, it is a relationship which is determined by the average amount of labour time required to produce each good. In other words, the amount of value in a commodity is determined by the "socially necessary labour time" incorporated into it.
  • A thing can be a use-value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour.


“Marx, taking Ricardo’s investigations as his starting-point, says: The value of commodities is determined by the socially necessary general human labor embodied in them, and this in turn is measured by its duration.” [Engels, Anti-Dühring, Part II, Ch. V] (MECW 25:178)

“A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialized in it.” [Marx, Capital, vol. I, chapter I] (International, p. 38; Penguin, p. 129.)

“Value exists only in articles of utility, in objects.... If therefore an article loses its utility, it also loses its value.” [Marx, Capital, vol. I, chapter VIII] (International, p. 202; Penguin, p. 310.)

See also