Commodity. Product of the work destined to satisfy some human need and that is made for sale, not for own consumption. The products of labor become commodities only when the social division of labor appears and when certain forms of ownership exist over the means of production and the fruits of labor. Consequently, merchandise is a historical category.


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  • 1 Two factors of merchandise
    • 1 Definition
    • 2 The use value
    • 3 The exchange value
    • 4 Instance of value
  • 2 Individual and socially necessary work
    • 1 The socially normal conditions of production
    • 2 Labor productivity and magnitude of value
  • 3 The double character of the materialized work in the merchandise
    • 1 Concrete work
    • 2 Abstract work
    • 3 Simple work and complex work
  • 4 General equivalent
  • 5 Export of merchandise under capitalism
  • 6 Sources
  • 7 External links

Two factors of merchandise

The capitalism is the highest and most complex form of commodity production. In capitalist production, all the products of labor are created for change, they are commodities. Mercantile production becomes the universal form of production. Despite their profound differences, simple commodity production and capitalist commodity production are of the same type: they are based on the social division of labor, on private property, and on the production of goods for the market.

The exchange of goods constitutes the simplest economic relationship, which arises historically before the capitalist relations of production and serves as the necessary basis for its development. In order to know capitalism, it is essential to first study the simplest form of commercial relations, the exchange of the products of labor as commodities. Referring to this relationship, Lenin expressed: “The beginning is the simplest, most common, immediate ‘Being’ of the masses: the singular commodity …”


Merchandise is understood as the product of labor that is not produced for personal consumption, but for exchange through sale and purchase. If the merchandise is examined in the form that appears in the market, two qualities can be indicated in it. On the one hand, merchandise is a useful thing, capable of satisfying this or that human need. This property of the merchandise is called use value. On the other hand, the merchandise has the quality of being exchanged for other merchandise, and also in certain proportion. This property of the merchandise is called exchange value.

The use value

As use values, goods can satisfy different human needs. Some types of useful objects serve to satisfy the needs of production, such as machines, tools, raw materials, etc. and others satisfy the personal needs of people, whether of a material or spiritual nature.

Use values ​​form the material content of wealth throughout society. Without its constant production, society cannot exist. Some use values ​​are provided in a finished way by nature such as air, water, etc. But the fundamental mass of use values ​​is the result of production.

The use value is not always merchandise. For it to become a commodity it must be produced in order to satisfy the needs not of the producer himself, but of other members of society, it must be a value for social use. But not all value for social use is merchandise. If the dependent peasant produced wheat and gave it as tribute to the landowner, he created the use value not for himself but for others, that is, he created the social use value. However, it was not merchandise because it was given to others for free. For the object to be merchandise, it must pass from one person to another through change in certain proportions. That is, the object as a commodity must not only be a value for social use, but also an exchange value.

In the conditions of mercantile production, the use value becomes a material carrier of a special social property, of the exchange value.

Exchange value

The exchange value of the merchandise is identified as a quantitative correlation in which the use values ​​of one class are exchanged for the use values ​​of another class. The exchange values ​​according to which some goods are exchanged for others are not always constant. They are exchanged, and that seems at first glance that the exchange value of the merchandise is somewhat casual.

Instance of value

Work is what all goods have in common and what makes them comparable. All merchandise is the product of labor. By equating products to each other, what people actually do is to equate the labor contained in these commodities. The work materialized in the goods forms the value and determines the proportions in which they are exchanged. By changing the amount of work invested in the production of one or another commodity, its value also changes and, respectively, the proportions in which one commodity is exchanged for another. Therefore, the basis of the exchange value of the goods is the value, determined by the amount of work invested in the production of the goods. Exchange value is the way to manifest value.

The only creator of value is work. Whatever the natural qualities of one or another commodity, its value depends solely on the amount of work materialized in it. In Marx’s expression , the value of the commodity does not contain an atom of substance from nature. Materialized labor in commodities is the substance of value. Therefore the magnitude of the value of the commodity is determined by the amount of work invested that is necessary for its production. the measure of work and, therefore, the measure of value is the time of work.

Individual and socially necessary work

The socially normal conditions of production

Two different use values ​​are changed because an equal amount of working time is required for their production. But it is also known that two producers of the same merchandise, invest different times in the production with the particularity that the difference in the magnitude of labor investment can be very great, since the merchandise producers use different work instruments, they have different degrees of mastery and work with different tension. The amount of labor invested in the production of the commodity by the producer is called individual labor.

The measure of individual labor is called individual labor time, which is also the measure of the individual value of the commodity. However, the exchange value is not determined by the individual value of the merchandise, but by its social value.

The magnitude of the value of the commodity is not determined by the investment of individual labor, but by the socially necessary labor, which is measured by the socially necessary labor time, that is, by the labor time required to create value. of any use in the socially normal conditions of production and with the average level of skill and intensity of work prevailing in society.

Socially normal conditions of production, which determine the magnitude of the value of goods, are understood to be those in which the fundamental mass of goods of the given type is produced.

Thanks to the changes that take place in the conditions of production, the socially necessary working time is not always kept the same. As socially necessary labor time changes, the magnitude of value also changes.

Labor productivity and magnitude of value

Changes in the magnitude of socially necessary labor time and in the value of goods are determined by changes in labor productivity. The magnitude of the value of the goods changes in inverse relation to the variations experienced by the productivity of labor: as the productivity of labor increases, the value decreases.

In reality, the increase in the value of goods is possible due to the decrease in labor productivity, and its reduction thanks to the increase in labor productivity. However, the rise and not the reduction in the productivity of labor is typical, and therefore the decrease and not the rise in the value of goods.

The increase in the productivity of labor expresses the development of the productive forces, the use of modern technology, the application of science to production, the improvement of the organization of work, the elevation of the mastery of workers and the increase in the average social intensity of work. The very system of production relations in the mercantile economy stimulates the growth of labor productivity.

The double character of materialized work in merchandise

Man always invested labor in the production of one or another utility object. But work did not always provide the quality of value to objects. In the forms of natural economy that preceded capitalism, the products of labor, being use values, were not intended for change, and therefore did not appear as commodity values.

The property of labor to create value is not a natural property, but a social one. This quality is originated by a special type of production relations and has a historical, transitory character, that is, it arises in certain social conditions of production and is extinguished when these conditions disappear.

The foundation of this thesis is found in Marx’s doctrine on the double character of work in the commercial economy. The principle that work is the common thing that makes goods comparable is completely true. In reality, goods are different use values, the work that creates them is also heterogeneous, different. Consequently, work as creator of use values ​​cannot be the common thing that makes goods comparable.

Concrete work

The work that creates use values ​​was called by Marx concrete work. Its peculiarity is that it is invested in a certain convenient way and its result is one or another useful object. The form of investment of the work depends on the use value that is produced.

In the mercantile economy, work has specific features. It is the work of the independent producer of goods and manifests itself as private work. Because the specific work of each producer constitutes a link in the system of the social division of labor, it is social. However it appears directly as private work. Formally, all private producers are autonomous and independent from each other. Each producer carries out the production process at will: he himself chooses the sphere of production, determines its volume, the place and time of the production, etc. At the same time the producers of private goods are related to each other by the system of social division of labor. Each of them does not produce the goods for himself, but for society. Due to specialization, some producers of merchandise need the products of the work of others, and without interchange with them, they cannot carry out the production process. Consequently, the work of each producer of merchandise is social in nature. There is a profound contradiction between the social and private nature of work, it is the fundamental contradiction of mercantile production. Formally, every producer of merchandise can create any use value he wishes, and in any quantity. But in reality it must produce only the use values ​​that society needs, those that have social use value, and in the amount that society requires. Consequently, the work of each producer of merchandise is social in nature. There is a profound contradiction between the social and private nature of work, it is the fundamental contradiction of mercantile production. Formally, every producer of merchandise can create any use value he wishes, and in any quantity. But in reality it must produce only the use values ​​that society needs, those that have social use value, and in the amount that society requires. Consequently, the work of each producer of merchandise is social in nature. There is a profound contradiction between the social and private nature of work, it is the fundamental contradiction of mercantile production. Formally, every producer of merchandise can create any use value he wishes, and in any quantity. But in reality it must produce only the use values ​​that society needs, those that have social use value, and in the amount that society requires.

The specific work of the producer of goods is clearly manifested as private work. The social nature of work, its uniformity, its ability to be equated, as well as its ability to create value, exist hiddenly. This aspect of work, which creates the commodity, acquires its expression through the category of abstract work.

Abstract work

Unlike concrete work, which has qualitative heterogeneity, abstract work is characterized as qualitatively homogeneous work. The work that creates the value of a commodity has the same qualities as the work that creates the value of other commodities. The work of the blacksmith and the baker is qualitatively different in its concrete form but from the physiological point of view they have the same basis, the application of the muscles, the nerves, the brain. Only the amount of labor contained in the various goods is different. Equating different commodities actually reduces the labor contained in them to a single common basis, to labor in general, to abstractly general human labor, to the investment of man’s labor power. In the process of change a real abstraction of the specific particularities that each of the types of concrete work possesses operates. Abstract work represents the specific social form of work, of work in commodity production.

Marx was the first to discover the double character of the work that produces merchandise. This brought about a revolution in the theory of value.

By discovering the specific social nature of work that creates value, Marx laid the foundations for the scientific theory of value and for the analysis of the main relationships of the capitalist mode of production.

Simple work and complex work

The specific types of work are characterized not only by the diversity of the procedures, instruments and results of the work, but generally by the difference in the necessary preparation of the workers.

Some types of concrete work, called unskilled, can be performed by all members of society fit for work who have the usual education and cultural level for the given historical epoch; Other types of work called qualified, require special prior preparation.

Work that requires special preparation, skilled work, differs from unskilled work that does not require special preparation, such as complex work from simple work.

Complex work actually becomes simple work multiplied, raised to a power.

The value of the goods is measured by the amount of labor time, from simple labor investment. Therefore, at equal work time intervals, more complex work will always create more value than simple work.

In the process of reducing the various types of work to single abstract work, reduction of complex work to simple work is accomplished.

The process of reducing complex work to simple work is carried out in the process of changing goods spontaneously, independent of the will of the people. If the proportions of the exchange of goods do not correspond to the degree of complexity of the work invested in their production, the redistribution of labor by the spheres of production will begin.

General equivalent

Merchandise that expresses the value of all other merchandise and for which all are exchanged. In the process of exchanging the different commodities for the general equivalent, the value of the latter appears under the general aspect of value. The emergence of such an equivalent implies a fairly high level of development of commodity production and the existence of regular exchange. One that was permanently in high demand in the market separated spontaneously from the world of merchandise. This caused the direct exchange or barter of merchandise for merchandise to be displaced by mercantile circulation, with which the commercial operation is carried out through an intermediary: the general equivalent.

The change began to divide into two interrelated acts: first the producer exchanged his merchandise for the general equivalent and then he exchanged the merchandise — equivalent for the one he needed. In the different towns and depending on the conditions of production and exchange, various goods appeared: as general equivalent: livestock , cereals , fur , metals, etc. As commodity production and international trade developed, precious metals, gold, and silver began to be taken as the general equivalent., which were converted into money. Finally, gold came to play the role of general equivalent in all commercial operations.

Merchandise exports under capitalism

Form of economic links between countries conditioned by the international capitalist division of labor . The objective need for the export of goods is determined by the development of the social division of labor and by the formation of the world capitalist economy.

Under capitalism, the peculiarity of merchandise exports is that their volume is colossally expanded, and merchandise exports become one of the means to achieve the objective of capitalist production: to obtain surplus value . During pre-monopoly capitalism, the international division of labor depended to a great extent on the influence of the economic-geographical conditions of production, so that the costs of production of certain goods resulted in some countries lower than in others; This is why the export of such merchandise was profitable. At the same time, the bourgeoisie He widely used the export of merchandise to plunder directly, through non-equivalent exchange, the peoples of other countries that were in pre-capitalist stages of development. Under imperialism, when the international division of labor is based on the dominant relations of some countries with a highly developed industry over the other countries of the capitalist world, the export of merchandise serves to maintain and consolidate these relations, to make the bourgeoisie imperialist make high monopoly profits. Monopolies use their dominant position on the world capitalist market to export goods (especially industrial items) at high monopoly prices and to import others (especially raw materials) at low monopoly prices. The export of merchandise, inextricably linked – under imperialism – to non-equivalent exchange, constitutes one of the important factors that makes capitalist exploitation international.


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