[OPE-L:3974] Re: Critiquing exploitation and nature

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 06:30:40 -0800 (PST)

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Ian wrote in [OPE-L:3970]:

> Neoclassicals would say that in a general equilibrium model, price equals
> payments to factor shares. (The rate of profit is thus zero) They would say
> that it is arbitrary to point out that other factors are paid in addition
> to labour. They could easily cite the claims (which can be translated from
> neo-ricardian models in which they were formulated) made by Wolff (a
> philosopher) but also Brody (an economist) that steel, wheat, etc are just
> as exploited as labour. That is, Morishima's fundamental theorm can be
> extended to show that the rate of profit is positive iff the corn, steel,
> etc rate of "exploitation" is positive. (The translation would be that
> other factors can be paid a positive amount if and only if the price of the
> good exceeds the price paid for the selected factor (labour, steel, corn,
> etc)

Steel is a product of labour. Yet, can we say then that the source of all
wealth is labor?

Marx explicitly denied this in the _Critique of a Gotha Programme_ when he

"It is not true to say that labour is the source of all wealth.
Nature is just as much the source of use-values (and it is
surely of such values that wealth consists!) as labour, which
itself is merely the expression of a natural force, the force
of man's labour."

And in _Capital_ he wrote:

"Work is the father of wealth, but nature is its mother." (both
quotes cited in Alain Lipietz _Green Hopes: The Future of
Political Ecology_, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995, p. 9).

Putting aside the question of gender-bias in the above quotes (also noted
by Lipietz), can't we say that since labour and nature are the source of
all wealth, then there can be "exploitation" of nature by humans? Beyond
this simple theoretical point, what is the particular form of exploitation
of nature by capital and what consequences has this for labor (and, more
generally, our species)?

In solidarity, Jerry