Studying Karl Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective, Chapter 1, Section 2: The Two-Fold Character of the Labor Embodied in Commodities.

February 28, 2010
(audio source: Libravox via Internet Archive)

Coats are not exchangeable…

Beginning section 2, Marx employs, with scant explanation, the new concept of the relative commodity.  I don’t recall from the previous chapter any concise definition of the term commodity, but the definition is not too difficult to extrapolate: A commodity is a useful item produced trough human labor for the purpose of being exchanged.  If I made a coat for the purpose of exchanging it for something I wanted more, I suppose Marx would consider that to be an “commodity in the absolute”, although he has not (yet) used that term.  But suppose that I hated the sound of trumpets so much that I would never under any circumstances exchange one of my coats for any number of trumpets.  Because my coat was not produced for the purpose of being exchanged with trumpets, my coat would not be a commodity relative to trumpets, although it would remain a commodity for other purposes.  Under this framework, Marx derives the following rule about like commodities:

A flash of sober reflection reveals the difficulty with such a general pronouncement.   Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Karl Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective, Chapter 1, Section 1: The Two Factors of a Commodity: Use Value and Value

February 27, 2010
(audio source: Libravox via Internet Archive)

A given commodity, e.g., a quarter of wheat is exchanged for x blacking, ...

Marx begins Capital by describing what I would call a commodity’s “trinity of value“.  The trinity consists of use value, exchange value, and value.  These are all terms of art that are to be used with precision.  Use value, in my interpretation, is most analogous what I would call “value”¹.  It is largely subjective and impossible to quantify.  An item’s exchange value, in my interpretation, is analogous to what we would today call fair market value, or market price, and is measurable in terms of what one might expect to receive for the item if one intended to exchange on the market.  Ironically, the term value has no analogy among my previously-held notions of “value”.  To Marx, value arises out of the “socially-necessary labor time” required to produce a commodity.  To me, the amount of labor necessary to produce a commodity is irrelevant to the commodity’s “value”.  Quite to the contrary, a potential item’s latent, pre-existing “value”, i.e demand, is usually what induces the labor necessary to make the item in the first place.  Labor is the effect of “value”, not its cause.  Nonetheless, to facilitate the proper interpretation of the term value as Marx will inevitably continue to use it, I will assign to the term value the definition that Marx has assigned it, however useless I find the concept to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective: Introduction

February 25, 2010

I’m starting a new series of posts in response to Marx’s Capital. I have not read the work previously, so I will be writing as I learn. Because I’m not much into reading, I will study Marx’s Capital primarily via Librivox audio podcast (rss), but I will refer to the Google Books version of the text when necessary.  To assist with understanding, I will be viewing David Harvey’s video lecture series (rss) on the book as I listen.  Here is the introductory lecture:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As usual, it looks like I’ve come to the first class unprepared.  After an hour of general history, Harvey launches into Marx’s theory of value before I’d “read” and considered Chapter 1 of Capital.  I’ll save most of my critique for Marx himself, but here is my an initial reaction to Harvey’s lecture: Read the rest of this entry »