Commodity (Marxism)

In classical political economy and especially Karl Marx's critique of political economy, a commodity is any good or service ("products" or "activities")[1] produced by human labour[2] and offered as a product for general sale on the market.[3] Some other priced goods are also treated as commodities, e.g. human labor-power, works of art and natural resources, even though they may not be produced specifically for the market, or be non-reproducible goods.

Marx's analysis of the commodity is intended to help solve the problem of what establishes the economic value of goods, using the labor theory of value. This problem was extensively debated by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Rodbertus-Jagetzow, among others. Value and price are not equivalent terms in economics, and theorising the specific relationship of value to market price has been a challenge for both liberal and Marxist economists.[citation needed]

Characteristics of commodity

Man really attains the state of complete humanity when he produces, without being forced by physical need to sell himself as a commodity.

In Marx's theory, a commodity is something that is bought and sold, or exchanged in a market.[5]

  • It has value, which represents a quantity of human labor.[6] Because it has value, implies that people try to economise its use. A commodity also has a use value[7] and an exchange value[8].
  • It has a use value because, by its intrinsic characteristics, it can satisfy some human need or want, physical or ideal.[9] By nature this is a social use value, i.e. the object is useful not just to the producer but has a use for others generally.[10]
  • It has an exchange value, meaning that a commodity can be traded for other commodities, and thus give its owner the benefit of others' labor (the labor done to produce the purchased commodity).[11]

Price is then the monetary expression of exchange-value, but exchange value could also be expressed as a direct trading ratio between two commodities without using money, and goods could be priced using different valuations or criteria.[12]

According to the labor theory of value, product-values in an open market are regulated by the average socially necessary labour time required to produce them, and price relativities of products are ultimately governed by the law of value.[13]

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