Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Andrew Brown (A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Apr 07 2005 - 09:33:42 EDT

Hi Jerry,

What tools do beluga whales creatively produce? Do they creatively
produce anything more sophisticated like machines? What range of machine
like things do they make? Did they discuss the meaning of life -- or
indeed the source of value -- with their US and USSR army friends? What
is the history of the development of the social relations of production
of the beluga whale?

Note that these questions are objective. (Well, they would be if I lived
underwater...) It would be quite wrong to deny animals or humans the
right to be studied objectively. Of course animals have many specific
talents that humans do not: think of the beaver or the spider or
whatever. But this is not always or in general a sign of *creative*
production. Nor do I deny that some animals *can* productively create.
Many of the more intelligent animals can indeed make and use simple
tools. But their creative production is fundamentally limited, relative
to labourers, they do not develop these tools, nor their needs and
wants, creatively and purposively transforming themselves and their
environment, to anywhere near the degree that humans do.

If you finally showed me a creature that did creatively produce to the
same extent as humanity then they would be a (non-human) labouring
creature, with social relations of production. Here again, I certainly
cannot be accused of *human* chauvinism.

I agree with you regarding robots!

Many thanks,


-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of
Sent: 07 April 2005 13:00
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

> The difference between labour / labour-power and machine
> input / machine-power (or animal activity / animal-power) is that
> labour is productively creative whereas machines are not, and
> animals are strictly limited in this regard (the creative -- as
> opposed to innate -- production of tools by animals is more
> or less rudimentary, where it occurs at all).


I think this underestimates the level of creativity that certain non-
human species are capable of.   You, obviously, have never
had an opportunity to observe a beluga whale in the wild.  The
military of several nations (including the US and the former USSR)
has long realized this and has used cetaceans for a number of
purposes, including sophisticated ('sonar'-equipped) security guards
at naval bases and for the placement of explosives on underwater
targets.  The (human chauvinist) position you advance, though, does
seem to be consistent with Marx's position.

> Ian, if robots one day became able to creatively produce
> to the extent of humans, then they would have become labourers,
> with social relations of production, and labour time would retain
> its relevance.

That wouldn't make the robots, or animals held in captivity which
are required to perform,  wage-workers.  The social relations of
production of *slavery* might, though, be extended to analyze these
cases.  After all, aren't the animals forcibly held in zoos enslaved?
Presumably, the intelligent robots would also have human 'overseers'
(programmers, maintainers) who could ensure compliance. (NB: the
above is in reference to the question of 'who' can be able to labour
and produce, not create value.]

In solidarity, Jerry

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