Das Kapital – Chapter 1; Sections 1 & 2

Section 1 – The Two Factors of the Commodity: Use-value and Value (substance of value, magnitude of value)

*Quality and Quantity *

a. use-value. every thing we create has a use-value, it is useful to us. whether it is something we eat, drink, wear, play with, sit on, makes us happy, everything we create has a use-value. This use-value is determined by the physical qualities of the object. And they are only realized when we use them, put their use-value to use: “Use-values are only realized in use or in consumption. They constitute the material content of wealth, whatever its social form may be. In the form of society, to be considered here they are also the material bearers of.. exchange value.”

b. exchange-value. when we exchange things we are determining the value of one in relation to another. at this point of reading we are keeping it simplified and talking about exchanging one object for another. (in section 3 we will expand to explain the more current state of exchange which is facilitated through money. let’s pretend for now that the most simple form of this exchange is one object directly for another.) When exchanging we are considering the objects in a quantitative sense. It is of course also about the usefulness of the object because without that why would we be exchanging to begin with. But the actual exchange itself is a quantity of one object, regardless of the use-values, exchanging for a quantity of another object, also regardless of its use-value. It is “the quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind.”

Because of this, because the quantity is not related to the physical qualities of the objects, the use-value of the objects, “exchange-value cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the form of appearance, of a content distinguishable from it.”

c. labor. This also means the labor it takes to create these objects is also reduced to the shared quality of it being human labor. It does not consider it concrete, or useful labor.

Section 2 – The Dual Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities

*Concrete and Abstract*

a. The dual character of labor:

i. concrete, useful labor. this is the quality of labor, the kind of labor. The social division of labor creates it so we create different kinds of useful things which can then in turn confront each other. But first, concrete labor. This is the specifics of the work we do. It creates specific commodities. A tailor makes coats. The concrete labor is tailoring, the useful object they create is the coat. “Men made coats for thousands of years, under the compulsion of the need for clothing, without a single man ever becoming a tailor.”

ii. abstract, human labor. this is what we discussed earlier. When we exchange quantities of commodities we are not looking at them as quantities of use-values, but quantities of commodities. These abstract commodities are made with abstract human labor. It doesn’t matter the kind of labor, the quality of it. All that matters when we are exchanging is the quantity of labor that went into creating the object.

b. This leads us to SNLT – socially necessary labor time. This is labor averaged. It takes, on average, 2 hours to make a coat. Then we say it takes, on average, 1 hour to make 10 yards of linen. If we were to exchange the linen and the coat we would, to make an even exchange, use the average labor time (SNLT) to determine the quantity in which we will make the exchange.

The coat contains 2 hours of labor time in it. The linen 1 hour for 10 yards. This means we would not exchange them in this way. We would exchange the 2 hours of labor time in the coat for the same amount of labor time in the linen. To have the same amount we would double the amount of linen to also have 2 hours. This would lead to this exchange: 20 yrds linen=1 coat.

c. Changes to labor time. If one coat maker can make coats in half the time, 1 hour, due to changes in technique for example, they could make more profit than all other coat makers. But once all the other coat makers get wind of this, they will too use this new technique. The total value of coats will fall to half. Now 2 coats would equal what 1 coat used to.

Now as we increase production, we are increasing material wealth. This means we are increasing the wealth we have in material goods, in useful objects being made. The same amount of value is created regardless of whether we make more or less. It is just each object contains more of less of it. So, in our coats, the equation started off as:

2 hours of tailoring (1 coat) = 2 hours of weaving (20 yards of linen).

Now that we can make 2 times as many coats in the same amount of time, 2 hours, our equation is as follows:

2 hours of tailoring (2 coats) = 2 hours of weaving (20 yards of linen).

Coats can’t get you as much linen as before, but it is because the amount of value contained in one is less, not because there was a decrease in labor time in general. The equation still holds true with respect to labor time.


So here I am sitting in a cafe near my job. It’s a “Mexican Cantina” called No Mas, ironically. They play terrible spanish pop over and over. I can’t get this shit out of my head after leaving. It’s right on the corner of a street called Stonewall which is also ironic to me.

I dread coming everytime I come here, and I do it often right before work to get some coffee and get online before selling my labor down the street at another restaurant that is bullshit from the floor up. My restaurant is known for it’s history in the Civil Rights era. It was one of the first black clubs at nights, and many of the civil rights leaders used to meet up there to eat and talk. Now they hang pictures from black history ranging from MLK to Obama, the owners laughing it up with the Mayor of Atlanta, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, and others. The people who come are black middle class church goers usually. Full of themselves and full of shit, they treat us like crap and then don’t tip. They expect fine dining, glasses and plates sit on the table when they walk up; high ceilings with ugly red chandeliers hanging, hip music like funk or soul playing, a full bar, and us running around in all black here to grant your every wish.

So here I am at No Mas, watching the sky get full of color from the sunset, drinking my Cafe de Olla and typing on the keys. This whole area is called Castleberry Hill. It was some kind of warehouse district before turning into lofts and cute boutiques and restaurants with overpriced, average tasting food and bars. It’s close enough to downtown but you don’t have to deal with as many homeless people here. The old warehouses were turned into lofts and condos. Near the train tracks there’s a park for dogs.

I can’t help but get disgusted by this place. Atlanta is in the midst of a whole city renewal. Out with the old and in with the new.. money that is. All the affordable housing is gone and the poor black folks are being pushed further and further out of the city. There is a new “beltline” being built which will connect the city with parks and walking and biking paths. How nice! Only problem is it is built on the land of poor black folks. Either they were pushed off the land it would be built on, and if that didn’t get em the prices of housing raise all along this beltline. So in the ads and videos of all the nice white people smiling and having a good time with their families and friends, they fail to show the families who have been kicked to the curb by society – literally.

While I work here I live in an area of town where going out and flyering to defend people’s homes and apartments means people telling you all the horror stories of their landlords, or someone they know. The city is in a state of crisis. The people are the only possibility for change.