International Association of London

The technical form of economic transactions produces a realm of values that is more or less completely detached from the subjective-personal substructure. Although the individual buys because he values and wants to consume an object, his demand is expressed effectively only by an object in exchange. Thus the subjective process, in which differentiation and the growing tension between function and content create the object as a ‘value’, changes to an objective, supra-personal relationship between objects. The individuals who are incited by their wants and valuations to make now this, now that exchange are conscious only of establishing value relationships, the content of which forms part of the objects. The quantity of one object corresponds in value with a given quantity of another object, and this proportion exists as something objectively appropriate and law- determined—from which it commences and in which it terminates—in just the same way as we conceive the objective values of the moral and other spheres. The phenomenon of a completely developed economy, at least, would appear in this light. Here the objects circulate according to norms and measures that are fixed at any one moment, through which they confront the individual as an objective realm. The individual may or may not participate in this realm, but if he wants to participate he can do so only as a representative or executor of these determinants which lie outside himself. The economy tends toward a stage of development—never completely unreal and never completely realized—in which the values of objects are determined by an automatic mechanism, regardless of how much subjective feeling has been incorporated as a pre-condition or as content in this mechanism. The value of an object acquires such visibility and tangibility as it possesses through the fact that one object is offered for another. This reciprocal balancing, through which each economic object expresses its value in another object, removes both objects from the sphere of merely subjective significance. The relativity of valuation signifies its objectification. The basic relationship to man, in whose emotional life all the processes of valuation admittedly take place, is here presupposed; it has been absorbed, so to speak, by the objects, and thus equipped they enter the arena of mutual balancing, which is not the result of their economic value but its representative or content The fact of economic exchange, therefore, frees the objects from their bondage to the mere subjectivity of the subjects and allows them to determine themselves reciprocally, by investing the economic function in them. The object acquires its practical value not only by being in demand itself but through the demand for another object. Value is determined not by the relation to the demanding subject, but by the fact that this relation depends on the cost of a sacrifice which, for the other party, appears as a value to be enjoyed while the object itself appears as a sacrifice. Thus objects balance each other and value appears in a very specific way as an objective, inherent quality. While bargaining over the object is going on— in other words, while the sacrifice that it represents is being determined— its significance for both parties seems to be something external to them, as if each individual experienced the object only in relation to himself. Later on we shall see that an isolated economy also imposes the same necessity of sacrifice for the acquisition of the object, since it confronts economic man with the demands of nature; so that in this case, too, the same relationship endows the object with the same objectively conditioned significance even though there is only one participant in the exchange. The desire and sentiment of the subject is the driving force in the background, but it could not by itself bring about the value-form, which is the result of balancing objects against each other. The economy transmits all valuations through the form of exchange, creating an intermediate realm between the desires that are the source of all human activity and the satisfaction of needs in which they culminate. The specific characteristic of the economy as a particular form of behaviour and communication consists not only in exchanging values but in the exchange of values. Of course, the significance that objects attain in exchange is not wholly independent of their directly subjective significance which originally determines the relationship. The two are inseparably related, as are form and content.

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