Section 2 is “The two-fold character of the labour embodied in commodities”
Page 41: “At first sight a commodity presented itself to us a complex of two things–use-value and exchange-value. Later on, we saw also that labour, too, possesses the same two-fold nature: for, so far as it finds expression in value, it does not possess the same characteristics that belong to it as a creator of use-values.”
In other words, when we abstracted use-value from the commodity, we were left with exchange-value; to put this in practical terms, when we ignore the particular things a commodity can be used for, we are left with the fact that it can be exchanged for other commodities. In the same way, human labor can be divided: if we ignore the particular sort of labor (machine-tool operating, baking, &c), we are left with human labor in the abstract. On the one hand, it produces a particular sort of thing; on the other hand it produces value.
“Let us take two commodities such as a coat and 10 yards of linen, and let the former be double the value of the latter, so that, if 10 yards of linen=W, the coat=2W.”
Take a moment to get used to this coat and the linen, because we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them.
“The coat is a use-value that satisfies a particular want. Its existence is the result of a special sort of productive activity, the nature of which is determined by its aim, mode of operation, subject, means, and result. The labour, whose utility is thus represented by the value in use of its product, or which manifests itself by making its product a use-value, we call useful labour. In this connection we consider only its useful effect.”
So far as I can tell (I’m liable to be missing something), Marx is simply establishing here that useful labor (as opposed to wasted labor) of a particular kind is what produces particular use-values. Remember that by use-value we mean the properties of a commodity that make it satisfy a particular human want–it’s shape, size, weight, composition, function, &c. A particular sort of labor produces use-values, human labor in the abstract produces value. These things, of course, happen at the same time.
“As the coat and the linen are two qualitatively different use-values, so also are the two forms of labour that produce them, tailoring and weaving. Were these two objects not qualitatively different, not produced respectively by labour of different quality, they could not stand to each other in the relation of commodities. Coats are not exchanged for coats, one use-value is not exchanged for another of the same kind.”
Right. Okay. The key here is “stand in relation to each other as commodities.” What does that mean? It means they can be exchanged, I think. If the same sort of labor produced them, they would be the same commodity, which means they couldn’t be exchanged (or exchanging them would be meaningless). So exchange takes place between the products of different sorts of labor. For the nitpickers out there, yes, of course I might exchange my heavy winter-coat for a snazzy lighter one, but those are different sorts of coats, which means different sorts of labor were expended on them; that we might refer to both forms of labor as “tailoring” or even “coat making” only shows that, for most practical purposes, those of us not in the coat-making industry ignore the subtle distinctions in how coats are made, because, for most purposes, that doesn’t interest us. Marx could as easily have used 1 Type A coat = 2 Type B coat, but it would have introduced confusion for no gain in understanding, which is something we leave to the post-structuralists.
Page 42: “To all the different varieties of values in use there correspond as many different kinds of useful labour, classified according to the order, genus, species, and variety to which they belong in the social division of labour. This division of labour is a necessary condition for the production of commodities, but it does not follow, conversely, that the production of commodities is a necessary condition for the division of labour. In the primitive Indian community there is social division of labour, without production of commodities. Or, to take an example nearer home, in every factory the labour is divided according to a system, but the division is not brought about by the operatives mutually exchanging their individual products. Only such products can become commodities with regard to each other, as result from different kinds of labour, each kind being carried on independently and for the account of private individuals.”
I believe that, for our purposes in this case, a corporation counts as a private individual. What we’re doing here, then, is being clear on just what we mean by commodities, and pointing out that division of labor is vital to their production. It is interesting to contrast this with Adam Smith, who began his work with division of labor, and, I think, took commodity production as a given. Marx’s point about the factory is that there is division of labor there: different parts to a greater whole are produced, or a single part is worked over by different people doing different things, or some combination: but they are not producing different commodities. Until we actually have an object that satisfies a human want and can be exchanged at the market, we have not produced a commodity. In practical terms, the guy who puts together the front passenger door for the 2010 Prius is not producing a different commodity from the guy who attaches that door to the Prius’s frame.