Use Value in 1861-63.

From what I know the following passage is the most extensive of Marx’s comments on use value. What I find interesting is the perspective from which he discusses use value. Instead of using it as a basis for how human need is appropriated, suppressed or displaced by capital as you often see, Marx approaches the question of use value from the perspective of capital’s valorization. From this vantage use value is a question of use to capital and how material uses are implicated in the determination of economic categories:

“[XVII-1022] LABOUR PROCESS AND VALORISATION PROCESS: USE VALUE AND EXCHANGE VALUE

It was shown originally†121 that the distinction between the labour process and the valorisation process was of decisive importance, because there rested upon it the distinction between constant and variable capital, and the whole of the theory of capital (surplus value, profit, etc.). But there are, as will appear, yet more very important relations relevant to this distinction. We see, firstly, with fixed capital, that it enters into the labour process completely, but into the valorisation process only partially — to the extent that it is used up, as WEAR AND TEAR. This is one of the main factors working towards the cheapening of commodities through the employment of machinery; thus TO A CERTAIN DEGREE towards the increase of relative surplus value. At the same time, however, it is a cause of the decline in the rate of profit. But, apart from fixed capital, all those productive forces which cost nothing, i.e. those which derive from the division of labour, cooperation, machinery (in so far as this costs nothing, as is for example the case with the motive forces of water, wind, etc., and also with the ADVANTAGES which proceed from the SOCIAL ARRANGEMENT of the workshop) as well as forces of nature whose application does not give rise to any costs — or at least to the degree to which their application does not give rise to any costs — enter into the labour process without entering into the valorisation process. It is apparent here, secondly, and once again, how use value, which originally appears to us only as the material substratum of the economic relations, itself intervenes to determine the economic category.

We saw this first with money, where the nature of the substratum which serves as its vehicle, the use value of the commodity which functions as money, is itself determined by the economic function.

Secondly: the whole relation of wages to capital rests on the fact that labour capacity as exchange value is determined by the labour time required to produce it; but because its use value itself consists in labour, its exchange value is paid for, and it nevertheless returns in the exchange with capital more exchange value than it receives.

3) Fixed capital — hence this particular economic form — is to a large extent dependent on use value. The duration of the depreciation of the machine, i.e. TO WHAT DEGREE it enters into the price of the commodity during a given period of turnover, and how long the component of capital represented by it circulates, depends on the use value, i.e. on the greater or lesser durability of the machine, etc. The turnover time of the total capital therefore depends on this; and CHANGES in the ratio between the organic components of the capital are also considerably affected by this.

4) The whole distinction between the labour process and the valorisation process — hence also the increase in the productivity of labour while labour time remains the same — the whole of the development of the productive forces — concerns use value, not exchange value. But it changes and modifies the economic relations and exchange value relations themselves. MECW 33 145-7

 

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About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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