Exchange

Simmel writes about the concept of exchange. Marx also discusses this idea in his works, focusing specifically on the differences between use and exchange value. Simmel, however, claims that exchange gains value from the interaction; the sacrifice that is made. He argues that what you get out of an exchange should be more valuable to you than what you put in. He says that whatever we value most in the moment of the exchange is what we obtain, and therefore we can never make a mistake in that moment. It is possible to regret this action later, but that one interaction is what defines the value of an exchange.

This is a very individualistic view and explanation of exchange. It is significant though in a society such as ours, which is, in fact, individualistic. Our capitalistic society revolves around the question, “What’s in it for me?” In every decision we make, we consider the opportunity cost; what we are giving up in order to obtain something. We are often required to give up time or money in exchange for something. In the fast-paced and competitive environment we live in today, these commodities are extremely valuable.

As an example, we can look at a typical college student. College students tend to live in the moment, and therefore often encounter interactions where they make decisions of value based purely on the moment. On a Friday night, a specific student might decide to exchange a case of beer with another student in exchange for the promise of helping them with a project or homework. In that moment, they give the exchange value in deciding that the case of beer is more valuable, while the other individual decides that their receiving help is more valuable than that case. Even if the next morning, the person who received the beer regrets this decision because they realize they do not have time or have their own work to do, the value of the exchange still exists, as it was decided in that moment.

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