When Marx talks with me... Commodities...


All the characters and incidents in this writing are imaginary, resemblance to any person dead or alive is purely coincidental. The writer doesn’t intend to outrage, insult, wound or hurt any idea or the ideological sentiments, beliefs or feelings of any person(s) or class or community.

Marx: Ohh what was that?

It’s a disclaimer. It’s required.

Marx: Ohh. You are living in a state. That’s why. In a stateless system, it won’t be required.

Maybe. Maybe not. Okay, I don’t want to get into that debate. Today I want to discuss the first chapter of Capital – Commodities.

Marx: Okay. Tell me what is the problem?

I want more discussion on the use value. You said, “Use values become a reality only by use or consumption”. According to you, use value is different than exchange value. At one point you said, “As use values, commodities are, above all, of different qualities, but as exchange values, they are merely different quantities, and consequently do not contain an atom of use value”. But what about internet or data or in broader context virtual commodity (I here am not talking about cryptocurrency. We will talk about that when we discuss chapter three – Money). If I consider the internet as a commodity, then is there any use value? If there is then how can we define that?

Marx: Vivek, the first thing I am also aware of Net Neutrality. There is a debate whether internet is commodity or utility. Okay I don’t want to discuss that point here. But let me clear the important terms in a simple language. For example, you write love letter or poem for someone on a paper. You have provided a value and wrote one love poem or love letter. Now that letter has a use value for you because you have read it already. But it doesn’t have any exchange value. If you sell it or give it to the girl and girl replies you positively then only that letter will get an exchange value. Therefore exchange value and use value are different.
Now if you just randomly write anything on paper and throw that paper without reading the content, then it has a use value as you have contributed something but as no one has consumed, it failed to become a reality. Therefore use values become a reality only by use or consumption. Therefore use values become a reality only by use or consumption.

Okay but what about virtual commodities? Do they have any use value?

Marx: See, the value of a commodity varies directly as the quantity and inversely as the productiveness of the labor incorporated in it. See if one has a value then it must be developed by the labor. Yes, a thing can be a use value without having value. It means it is useful to the human being but the usefulness is not due to the labor. For example, sunlight or air or any natural resources. They are useful but labor is not behind that usefulness. Therefore there is a use value but there is no any value as labor has not contributed anything. So let me correct your question. You should ask me the question – do virtual commodities have any “value’? Because they have use value as you all are consuming it. They are useful to you. Now talking about “value’. Yes, they have a value as labor is used to produce these commodities. There are means of production – Hardware, softer, the infrastructure required for the network. Without labor, it is not possible to produce virtual commodities. The production of means themselves has the value as labor has worked. Now one might say that robots might be used to produce the virtual commodity. But Vivek, you should understand one thing. The labor who are working to produce the virtual commodities are not traditional labor i.e. they are not organized or they not working in a group. They are working individual. And when labor works under such condition then the capitalist system can grab every possible labor surplus. But when robots are used to produce then it is just impossible to generate the surplus. It is very obvious. And therefore for the capitalist system, labor is preferred over the robot as labor generates the highest labor surplus than the robot. Therefore such commodities have values and use values and exchange values as they are sold in a market….


To be continued... 

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