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Value: Exchange and Use Value

  • By: Matthias Zick Varul
  • In: Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
  • Edited by: Dale Southerton
  • Subject:Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture

For Karl Marx, the value of a commodity consists of two contradictory aspects: use value and exchange value. Use value refers to a product's utility in satisfying needs and wants as afforded by its material properties. Exchange value is the “quantitative relation, as the proportion in which values in use of one sort are exchanged for those of another sort” (Marx 1996, 46); that is, it is based on a product's use value for others, social use value. Both derive from the expenditure of labor power—use value from the qualitative aspect of work as transforming useless matter into useful objects; exchange value from the purely quantitative, commensurable side of work: “abstract labor.” Exchanged products as use values are qualitatively different, but as exchange values they ...

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