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

From: Nicola Taylor (nmtayl@YAHOO.COM.AU)
Date: Thu Apr 07 2005 - 11:15:25 EDT

Hi Andy,
I understood that you were talking about "creativity" as a uniquely human attribute and reason for privaleging human labour above the labour of animals.  I can't agree with you there.

However, on the crucial distinction between labour and labour power - as the central argument of Marx's thesis - we may well agree.


Andrew Brown <A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK> wrote:

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I agree with all of what you say. Did I say otherwise?

Many thanks


-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Nicola Taylor
Sent: 07 April 2005 14:51
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

Andy, Ian and comrades

as usual I find myself aligned with Jerry on this issue.  What is important in Marx is the fact that labourers sell their *labour power* on markets.  They do not sell themselves.  Moreover, the *labour power* paid for in the wage must be converted by capitalists into *labour* - a process that is by no means assured.

Where people, animals and machines are *owned* the capital-labour relation cannot exist, in the very real sense that the sale of labour power does not take place; in relations of slavery, for example, workers do not willing sell their labour but on the contrary are traded body and soul against their will.  The slave owner may, if he choses, work his slave to death just as he may work a donkey to death. (imo) Marx's key insight into the social relations of capital is that workers trade their labour-power freely.  i.e. the crucial distinction is not between humans, land, donkeys etc but between living *labour* and the *labour power* purchased for wages.



Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM wrote:

> 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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