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Capitalist use and communist use

Sometimes people take the distinction between use value and exchange value as a moral distinction: use value is natural and good, and then capitalism came along and ruined things by inventing exchange value. This is wrong – use value and exchange value are a dialectical pair, and they both only came into existence with the development of capitalism.

Obviously, people used things before capitalism, but the idea of use value, that is, of usefulness in general, rather than some specific usefulness, was, before capitalism, an entirely mental abstraction. It’s only when usefulness in general comes to underpin generalised exchangeability (i.e., exchange value) that it acquires a practical reality.

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