The Two Factors of the Commodity: Use Value and Value (Substance of Value, Magnitude of Value)

The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind.

Every useful thing, for example, iron, paper, etc., may be looked at from the two points of view of quality and quantity. Every useful thing is a whole composed of many properties; it can therefore be useful in various ways. The discovery of these ways and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history.


The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value.

It [the usefulness of a thing] is conditioned by the physical properties of the commodity, and has no existence apart from the latter.

This property of a commodity is independent of the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities.

The use-values of commodities provide the material for a special branch of knowledge, namely the commercial knowledge of commodities.

Exchange-value appears first of all as the quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use-value of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind. This relation changes constantly with time and place. Hence exchange-value that is inseparably connected with the commodity, inherent in it, seems a contradiction in terms. Let us consider the matter more closely.


the valid exchange-values of a particular commodity express something equal, and secondly, exchange-value cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the ‘form of appearance’, of a content distinguishable from it.

a common element of identical magnitude exists in two different things, in 1 quarter of corn and similarly in x cwt of iron. Both are therefore equal to a third thing, which in itself is neither the one nor the other. Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must therefore be reducible to this third thing.

the exchange values of commodities must be reduced to a common element, of which they represent a greater or a lesser quantity.

Within the exchange relation, one use-value is worth just as much as another, provided only that it is present in the appropriate quantity.