This subsection is called, “Elementary or Accidental form of Value”
Page 48: “x commodity A=y commodity B, or
x commodity A is worth y commodity B, or
20 yards of linen= 1 coat, or
20 yards of linen is worth 1 coat.”
Subsection 1: The two poles of the expression of value: Relative form and Equivalent form
“The whole mystery of the form of value lies hidden in this elementary form. It’s analysis, therefore, is our real difficulty.”
Intuitively, this makes sense. That is, if we say 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, we’re saying 20 yards of linen can be exchanged for one coat. It makes sense that we can get from there to money.
“Here two kinds of commodities (in our example the linen and the coat), evidently play two different parts. The linen expresses its value in the coat; the coat serves as the material in which that value is expressed. The former plays an active, the latter a passive part.”
Right. By saying 20 years of linen = 1 coat, then we are defining the linen in terms of the coat, or, we’re saying, “How much coat is needed to express the value of 20 yards of linen.”
“The value of the linen is represented as relative value, or appears in relative form. The coat officiates as equivalent, or appears in equivalent form.”
The value of the linen is relative to the coat.
“The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes–i.e., poles of the same expression. They are allotted respectively to the two different commodities brought into relation by that expression.”
Mutually dependent opposites, like positive and negative poles of a magnet.
“It is not possible to express the value of linen in linen. 20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen is no expression of value. On the contrary, such an equation merely says that 20 yards of linen or nothing else than 20 yards of linen, a definite quantity of the use-value linen. The value of the linen can therefore be expressed only relatively–i.e., in some other commodity. The relative form of the value of the linen pre-supposes, therefore, the presence of some other commodity–here the coat–under the form of equivalent. On the other hand, the commodity that figures as the equivalent cannot at the same time assume the relative form. That second commodity is not the one whose value is expressed. Its function is merely to serve as the material in which the value of the first commodity is expressed.”
In order to express the value of a commodity, another commodity is required.
Page 49: “No doubt, the expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat . . .implies the opposite relation: 1 coat = 20 yards of linen…But in that case I must reverse the equation, in order to express the value of the coat relatively; and, so soon as I do that, the linen becomes the equivalent instead of the coat…whether, then, a commodity assumes the relative form, or the opposite equivalent form, depends entirely upon its accidental position in the expression of value–that is, upon whether it is the commodity whose value is being expressed, or the commodity in which value is being expressed.”
Okay, yeah, I think I got that. It caused me to do some serious thinking about the equal sign, which actually contains a lot more implied complexities than I’d ever realized. But it does make sense.