[OPE-L:2653] Re: (Q) work and labor

Michael Williams (100417.2625@compuserve.com)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 12:40:27 -0700 (PDT)

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Iwao asks:
whether Engels's comment on words
"work" and "labor" which appears at the end of the second
paragraph of Chapter 1 is right or not?

Michael W.
1. It is right that there is this verbal distinction in English.
2. It is a useful distinction, if for no other reason than that it invites us to
distinguish between the trans-historical species necessity of creating what are
recognised as useful objects ('work'), on the one hand, and the specifically
capitalist form which that process takes - (wage) labour, on the other.
Of course form and content are inter-dependent: the fact that it appears only as
one pole (use-value) of the commodity, along with value (the product of labour)
means that the usefulness of an object takes on a distorted and alienated form
in the bourgeois epoch. (There is an excellent book by Einer(?) Haugen: The
Promise of the Commodity, which elaborates this thesis.)
My recent discussion with Paul C. about whether 'labour' is an epochally
specific category is also germane.
What do you think Paul?

Comradely greetings,

Michael W.