Thoughts & Questions on Capital Chapters 1 & 2

I have completed my reading of the first two chapters in Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume I.  I thought I would take a moment or two to put down some of my reflections, share some quotes of interest, and, of course, put forward a couple of questions that I generated from my reading of these first two chapters.

Chapter 1:  The Commodity

In Section 1, The Two Factors of the Commodity:  Use-Value and Value, I found it quite interesting the duality of values a commodity could have, it can either have a use or exchange value.  I found this concept to be fascinating.

I think I also found some possible mention of globalism in this section as well.  A rather interesting quote on page 129 got me to think that:

The total labour-power of society, which is manifested in the values of the world of commodities, counts here as one homogeneous mass of human labour-power, although composed of innumerable individual units of labour-power.”

Page 129 was chalk full of good information that I took from this first section.  Such as what goes into the production of a commodity.  Here’s another quote from the same page:

Socially necessary labour-time is the labour-time required to produce any use value under the conditions of production normal for a given society and with the average degree of skill and intensity of labour prevalent in that society.

That quote got me to thinking about the definition of the value of a commodity.  Could that be defined as the “socially necessary labour time?”  Here’s the final quote from page 129:

What exclusively determines the magnitude of the value of any article is therefore the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour-time socially necessary for its production.

That led me to ask two questions, to which I may or may not get answer to:

  1. What is socially necessary?
  2. How and who makes the determination of what is socially necessary?

In Section 2, The Dual Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities, I discovered how important natural resources are in the labour-value of a commodity.  I also discovered how important the value of labour is into the use and/or exchange value of a particular commodity.  Here’s an interesting quote I discovered from this section from page 133:

Labour, then, as the creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself.

In Section 3, The Value Form or Exchange Value, I began to see the foundations of the argument for the money form.  Interesting quote from page 139:

That is, we have to show the origin of this money-form, we have to trace the development of the expression of value contained in the value-relation of commodities from its simplest, almost imperceptible outline to the dazzling money-form.  When this has been done, the mystery of money will immediately disappear.

What’s interesting about this concept is how I felt it rolled into the barter and/or exchange value of commodities.  How these exchange values can become a “universal equivalent” of money.  I also found it fascinating that money commodities are an output of an established trading system for these commodities.

In the last section of the chapter, The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret, I discovered the social relationship between commodities  once labour has been completed for a finished commodity.  This concept was fascinating to me as I never thought of a commodity from this perspective before.  My last quote from the chapter comes from page 169:

There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and the human race.  So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands.  I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.

I felt this quote was important because it seemed as if the values of those commodities were unknown until they actually made it to the exchange market and the value was set.  It also seems like a similar concept to the invisible hand, but I suppose I could be mistaken.

Chapter 2:  The Process of Exchange

I found the second chapter to be much shorter and not as complex as the first.  This chapter got me to think about how individuals ultimately have property ownership of the commodities which they possess and/or make with their own labour.  This chapter also seemed to describe the “perfect” form of an exchange market.  It seemed to lay the foundation for the next chapter on money, as commodities could only be valued according to a monetary amount instead of being bartered for different items.  It seemed to be a “universal” equivalent.

In summary, I found these two chapters to be very fascinating and I learned quite a bit from them.  I hope to find the following chapters to be just as insightful.


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

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