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K. Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy

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arising from its theoretical principles. In this way at least English socialists turned Ricardo's formula of
exchange-value against political economy. The feat of declaring not only that the basic principle of the
old society was to be the principle of the new society, but also that he was the inventor of the formula
used by Ricardo to summarise the final result of English classical economics, was reserved to M.
Proudhon. It has been shown that the utopian interpretation of Ricardo's formula was already completely
forgotten in England, when M. Proudhon "discovered" it on the other side of the Channel. (Cf. the
section on la valeur constituée, in my Misere de la philosophie..., Paris, 1847.a) [See Karl Marx, The
Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, 1962, pp. 43-49 -- Ed.]
Table of Contents
Marxist Writers Archive
Historical Notes on the Analysis of Commodities 
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Karl Marx's
Part II
Gladstone, speaking in a parliamentary debate on Sir Robert Peel's Bank Act of 1844 and 1845, observed
that even love has not turned more men into fools than has meditation upon the nature of money. He
spoke of Britons to Britons. The Dutch, on the other hand, who in spite of Petty's doubts possessed a
divine sense for money speculation from time immemorial, have never lost their senses in speculation
about money.
The principal difficulty in the analysis of money is surmounted as soon as it is understood that the
commodity is the origin of money. After that it is only a question of clearly comprehending the specific
form peculiar to it. This is not so easy because all bourgeois relations appear to be gilded, i.e., they
appear to be money relations, and the money form, therefore, seems to possess an infinitely varied
content, which is quite alien to this form.
During the following analysis it is important to keep in mind that we are only concerned with those forms
of money which arise directly from the exchange of commodities, but not with forms of money, such as
credit money, which belong to a higher stage of production. For the sake of simplicity gold is assumed
throughout to be the money commodity.
The first phase of circulation is, as it were, a theoretical phase preparatory to real circulation.
Commodities, which exist as use-values, must first of all assume a form in which they appear to one
another nominally as exchange-values, as definite quantities of materialised universal labour-time. The
first necessary move in this process is, as we have seen, that the commodities set apart a specific
commodity, say, gold, which becomes the direct reification of universal labour-time or the universal
equivalent. Let us return for a moment to the form in which gold is converted into money by
1 ton of iron =2 ounces of gold
1 quarter of wheat =1 ounce of gold
1 hundredweight of
Mocha coffee =1/4 ounce of gold
1 hundredweight of
potash =1/2 ounce of gold
1 ton of Brazil-timber =1 1/2 ounces of gold
Y commodities =X ounces of gold
In this series of equations iron, wheat, coffee, potash, etc., appear to one another as materialisation of
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uniform labour, that is labour materialised in gold, in which all distinctive features of the concrete labour
represented in the different use-values are entirely obliterated. They are as values identical, i.e.,
materialisations of the same labour or the same materialisation of labour -- gold. Since they are uniform
materialisations of the same labour, they differ only in one way, quantitatively: in other words they
represent different magnitudes of value, because their use-values contain unequal amounts of
labour-time. These individual commodities can be compared with one another as embodiments of
universal labour-time, since they have been compared with universal labour-time in the shape of the
excluded commodity, i.e., gold. The same dynamic relation, as a result of which commodities become
exchange-values for one another, causes the labour-time contained in gold to represent universal
labour-time, a given amount of which is expressed in different quantities of iron, wheat, coffee, etc., in
short in the use-values of all commodities, or it may be displayed directly in the infinite series of
commodity equivalents. Since the exchange-value of all commodities is expressed in gold, the
exchange-value of gold is directly expressed in all commodities. Because the commodities themselves
assume the form of exchange-value for one another, they turn gold into the universal equivalent or into
Gold becomes the measure of value because the exchange-value of all commodities is measured in gold,
is expressed in the relation of a definite quantity of gold and a definite quantity of commodity containing
equal amounts of labour-time. To begin with, gold becomes the universal equivalent, or money, only
because it thus functions as the measure of value and as such its own value is measured directly in all
commodity equivalents. The exchange-value of all commodities, on the other hand, is now expressed in
gold. One has to distinguish a qualitative and a quantitative aspect in this expression. The
exchange-value of the commodity exists as the embodiment of equal uniform labour-time, the value of
the commodity is thus fully expressed, for to the extent that commodities are equated with gold they are
equated with one another. Their golden equivalent reflects the universal character of the labour-time
contained in them on the one hand, and its quantity on the other hand. The exchange-value of
commodities thus expressed in the form of universal equivalence and simultaneously as the degree of this
equivalence in terms of a specific commodity, that is a single equation in which commodities are
compared with a specific commodity, constitutes price. Price is the converted form in which the
exchange-value of commodities appears within the circulation process.
Thus as a result of the same process through which the values of commodities are expressed in gold
prices, gold is transformed into the measure of value and thence into money. If the values of all
commodities were measured in silver or wheat or copper, and accordingly expressed in terms of silver,
wheat or copper prices, then silver, wheat or copper would become the measure of value and
consequently universal equivalents. Commodities as exchange-values must be antecedent to circulation
in order to appear as prices in circulation. Gold becomes the measure of value only because the
exchange-value of all commodities is estimated in terms of gold. The universality of this dynamic
relation, from which alone springs the capacity of gold to act as a measure, presupposes however that
every single commodity is measured in terms of gold in accordance with the labour-time contained in
both, so that the real measure of commodity and gold is labour itself, that is commodity and gold are as
exchange-values equated by direct exchange. How this equating is carried through in practice cannot be
discussed in the context of simple circulation. It is evident, however, that in countries where gold and
silver are produced a definite amount of labour-time is directly incorporated in a definite quantity of gold
and silver, whereas countries which produce no gold and silver arrive at the same result in a roundabout
way, by direct or indirect exchange of their home products, i.e., of a definite portion of their average
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national labour, for a definite quantity of labour-time embodied in the gold and silver of countries that
possess mines. Gold must be in principle a variable value, if it is to serve as a measure of value, because
only as reification