Economic Value: Intrinsic and Conventional

There is more than one sense in which a thing has economic value. The central meaning of value is something’s intrinsic usefulness to man found in its qualities or powers. So, clothing is intrinsically useful to man because it has certain powers to hold in warm and the fabric has an intrinsic durability to shield from weather.

However, there is another sort of value which I’ll call “conventional.” A suit for example, in addition to be intrinsically valuable for the reasons above is additionally valuable in virtue of a certain context. A suit in the modern business world also is useful to man as establishing a certain image of respectfulness, professionalism and social status. There is no power intrinsic to the suit that does this. It is a matter of the particular context in which the suit is used. A similar suit in a different culture or time would not have the same usefulness.

There is a certain subjective quality about this, because it is useful in so far as it is perceived to be a sign of respectfulness etc. In a different environment with a different perceptual framework, this would not be the case. However, fundamentally this is in the intrinsic qualities and powers of thing. A suit is perceived as a sign of these things in virtue of its quality and design and any other real qualities of the suit. It is however not he suit itself that makes it useful but proventating from this foundation in its real qualities it becomes a sign of these things within the particular framework that it is perceived in.

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4 Responses to Economic Value: Intrinsic and Conventional

  1. Zippy says:

    I would suggest (without pretending to approach an exhaustive account) another factor: contextual. Generators really are more valuable during a widespread power outage, etc — not because of convention and not because of the generator’s intrinsic powers, but because of the external objective situation.


  2. semioticanimal says:

    I had been thinking about this somewhat however from a different angle. It seems that value is proportionate to need or demand. A piece of bread is more valuable to a man who is starving than a well-fed man at lunchtime. The starving man has a more intense need for food than the other man and consequently the food is more valuable. In a blackout, the aggregate need increases and generators are consequently more valuable in virtue of the greater need.

    Intrinsic value considers the power of a thing to meet some need and its value is proportionate to its power to meet that need. However, your contextual value may be reversed. It is valuable precisely because the thing cannot meet the whole aggregate need that it is valuable, because it can at least meet some of the need. The value of the bread is proportioned to the need of the man, though in that case the power of the bread saves a life against perhaps mere enjoyment.


  3. Pingback: Attempt at an ontology of Value | Infinite Semiosis

  4. Pingback: Contextual Value | Infinite Semiosis

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