Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Nov 20 2006 - 11:06:25 EST

>  >

Paul wrote:

>Well we are on strong grounds when we say that only humans on this
>planet have advance to the point of industrial civilisation. If it were
>just a question of cultures, well, it is now pretty clear that apes and
>whales have cultures. If it were just a question of using tools we now
>now several species of animals can do this. It it were question of using
>tools for hunting, then we know that the spiders have long preceed us.
>Even agriculture, salvery and animal husbandry are practiced by some species
>or social insects. It is only in the most recent phases of civilisation
>those dependent on written culture that we seem to have unique

Marks  dismisses the description of social insect slavery as only
analogical in the strict biological sense. He also questions whether
non human animals have culture (in the sense understood by
anthropologists). Here is part of the excerpt I sent in the last post.

>  > A third kind of non-genetic adaptation, also
>>  widely shared with other animal species, is
>>  behavioral adaptation.  Many animals -
>>  especially mammals - learn what to eat, how to
>>  hunt, how to hide from predators, how to act
>>  around other members of their social group, and
>>  even how to use tools to accomplish specific
>>  tasks.  The key element here is the transmission
>>  of information. (Ethologists sometimes refer to
>>  this as "cultural," but that reflects a different use
>>  of the term than in anthropology.)
>>  Obviously humans also learn things, and use
>>  objects to help them survive.  But in humans, as
>>  we noted in the last Essay, these objects take on
>>  an evolutionary trajectory of their own.  They
>>  comprise an extra-somatic (external to the body)
>>  adaptation and super-organic mode of evolution.
>>  There is certainly nothing mystical about this:
>>  after all, you use things, but how many of those
>>  things have you actually made yourself?  Mostly
>>  they were made by others, independently of your
>>  organic existence, and quite possibly before you
>>  were even born.  You read English, but you
>>  didn't invent it; you were born into it.
>>  To the extent that people invent new things
>>  or coin new words, those are minor
>>  perturbations, roughly analogous to mutations;
>>  cultures change through the large-scale social
>>  process of adoption, which is often difficult to
>>  predict.  Cellular phones and the internet, now
>>  impossible to imagine being without, were
>>  almost inconceivable a generation ago; so was an
>>  alliance with Russia in a global and domestic
>>  war against an enemy called terrorism.
>>  The point is that human culture is not merely
>>  a response to environmental problems, but
>>  comprises a complex environment in and of
>>  itself, which necessarily entails its own set of
>>  responses.  And those responses come partly
>>  from you as an individual - learning how to act
>>  appropriately in your own time and place - but
>>  also from us as a social collectivity.  I have
>>  "written" this book, for example, only in the very
>>  narrow sense of having composed it; but I didn't
>>  chop down the trees, make the pulp, press and
>>  cut the paper, blend the ink, cast and set the type,
>>  print it and bind it!  Clearly, even the most basic
>>  things we take for granted are formed and exist
>>  within a complex network of economic, political,
>>  and social forces; and are well beyond the
>>  capabilities of any individual person.
>>  This is what anthropologists mean by
>>  culture.  It is not the learned behaviors
>>  themselves, but the invisible matrix of social
>>  relations, meanings, technologies, and histories
>>  within which those behaviors are embedded, as
>>  well as their visible products.  That is the
>>  difference between a beaver dam and Hoover
>>  Dam; and it is presently the most powerful force
>>  in our own adaptation and survival, without
>  > precedent in the history of life.

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