Part I

Commodities and Money

We turn to Part I after having studied Part VIII because hopefully the latter material will provide a framework within which the abstract material of this first part will be easier to understand.

Parts I through VII (Chapters 1 - 25) constitute Marx's presentation of his theory of the antagonistic class relationships of capitalism. His organization of that presentation involves going from the most fundamental but also most abstract moments of his theory to more and more concrete ones (more concrete in the sense of having more determinations).

When we examined the structure of Part VIII we saw that the material is organized in such a manner as to highlight the creation of the classes as the central issue in primitive accumulation. The material is historical, illustrated with graphic descriptions of real moments and processes in history. When we examine the structure of Part I we find no such concreteness. We find instead an analysis of value and money mostly stripped of any such historical detail. The organization of the material is due to Marx deciding to take Hegel's Science of Logic as a model for his own presentation. In that work Hegel-the-philosopher begins with the most abstract thing he can think of (being) and works his way towards a theory of the very concrete cosmos. Marx-the-social analyst begins with the "commodity," that he calls the most elementary form of wealth in capitalism, analyses it, and argues that its most essential ingredient is abstract human labor that he calls the "substance of value." This becomes the real point of departure for his presentation of his theory. The rest of Chapter One elaborates an analysis not only of the "substance" of value, but also of its "measure" and its "form," ending with the "money form" of value.