[OPE-L:1244] nature and production in Volume II

ECUSER (ECBURKE@scifac.indstate.edu)
Tue, 27 Feb 1996 12:24:12 -0800

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I agree with Jerry that Volume II of CAPITAL is important for showing
how the role of nature in use value production need not be downgraded
in Marx's value-based approach to capitalism. A key chapter here is
Chapter 13 in Volume II. Marx "deal[s] here . . . with
interruptions independent of the length of the labour-process,
brought about by the very nature of the product and its fabrication,
during which the subject of labour is for a longer or shorter time
subjected to natural processes, must undergo physical, chemical and
physiological changes, during which the labour-process is entirely or
partially suspended" (International Publisher's 1977 edition, p.238).
Marx goes on to detail a number of important examples in which labor
time is interrupted by nature-constrained production processes, in
terms of the effects of these kinds of activities on the turnover of
(fixed and circulating) capital. This analysis (which initially
appeared in a less developed form in the GRUNDRISSE) is important
because it shows that Marx (and the value-based approach) was (is)
able to incorporate what Ted Benton has termed `eco-regulatory'
production processes in which the labor process and the production
process are not the same due to the necessary role of natural forms
and processes which constrain the forms and processes of human-social
labor. There are also many passages, incidentally, where Marx
indicates that such eco-regulatory processes will still be important
under socialism and how post-capitalist society will have to deal
with such processes in a more rational way than under capitalism.
All of this contradicts Benton's critique (see his 1989 article in
NEW LEFT REVIEW) according to which Marx's theoretical categories in
CAPITAL are incapable of handling eco-regulatory processes.

To me Marx's non-identification of labor and production (a non-
identification maintained from the beginning of Volume I of CAPITAL
onward) is an absolutely crucial point in the building of a real
ecological Marxism -- precisely because it is in and through this non-
identification that Marx is able to posit the ongoing role of nature
in capitalist production which is in turn crucial for understanding
how capital and value relations lead to environmental destruction.

Paul B.