- May 2019
For more on the distinction between productive and final consumption see Harvey's lecture 5 on Capital Vol.1
We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.
Here Marx seems to suggest labor, or the "labour-process" as an ontological category.
For Marx it seems, the Labour Process is something that animates the organic metabolism between man and the rest of nature, but that is also always occurring in some form as the interactions between living and none living matter (spiders, bees, etc).
The difference in human labour, he suggests, is the role that purposive thought and mental activity play in planning and directing these labor processes into guided collective action--out of which meaning/consciousness/culture emerges.
Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature
The end of this formulation translates from the german, "Stoffwechsel [metabolism] mit der Natur".
Contemporary ecological Marxists, such as John Bellamy Foster, cite this passage in support of claims that Marx's economic writings understood human relations to the environment in terms of what he called the ‘metabolism’ (Stoffwechsel) between nature and society.
Thus, scholars such as Foster argue that Marx’s ideas offer an historical explanation for the ecological impact of capitalism on a planetary scale.
Locating this metabolic relationship in capitalist practices of resource extraction, food production and waste, the consequences of capitalist production's intervention in the "material re-actions between himself and Nature" produce what has been variously characterized as metabolic rift or metabolic shift