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.”10 In early twentieth-century America, for example, half of all immigrant women in American cities—at a time when immigrants were the majority in large cities—took in paying boarders, an activity that included all manner of cleaning, cooking, and emotional labor.Indeed, even in mid-sized industrial towns—such as Muncie, Indiana—about half of all working-class families cultivated small vegetable gardens as late as the 1920s.11There is a temptation to acknowledge this reality of abstract social labor as co-produced through capitalization and appropriation, and at the same time to deny that Marx recognized the problem.12 And if it were entirely a matter of whether Marx was right—or wrong—it would hardly be worth quibbling about.We would do well to attend to how Marx constructed the argument about the reproduction of labor-power.For Marx consistently moves from general abstractions, such as production or population or exchange in general, towards successively more specific, or determinate, abstractions.13 In an illuminating passage, Marx offers both a general and a determinate abstraction of labor, moving from the former to the latter:As useful activity directed to the appropriation of natural factors in one form or another, labour is a natural condition of human existence, a condition of material interchange between man and nature, quite independent of the form of society.On the other hand, the labour which posits exchange-value [commodified labor-power] is a specific social form of labour.14In Capital, we find Marx consistently moving from a “pure” model of capital accumulation towards more determinate abstractions.The argument in “The Working Day” offers an implicit theory of capitalism’s tendency towards the underproduction of labor-power and the non-market mechanisms for attenuating this contradiction.This is especially evident in his treatment of the reproduction of labor-power.Marx’s initial abstraction of labor-power’s value as defined by the value of commodities is subsequently modified by a new, historically determinate abstraction in which the zone of appropriation is central.15 Here, “latent” layers of the reserve army of labor are crucial.16 Having “seized the vital forces of the people at their very roots … the degeneration of the industrial population is retarded only by the constant absorption of primitive and natural [‘physically uncorrupted’ human] elements from the countryside,”17 a movement later examined in Marx’s famous discussion of primitive accumulation.Quoting Cairnes with approval, Marx observes that if labor-power can besupplied from foreign preserves … the duration of [the worker’s] life becomes a matter of less moment than its productiveness while it lasts.It is accordingly a maxim of slave management, in slave importing countries, that the most effective economy is that which takes out of the human chattel in the shortest space of time the utmost of exertion that it is capable of putting forth.18To which Marx adds: “Mutato nomine te fabula narratur [The name is changed but the tale is told of you!].For slave trade, read labor-market, for Kentucky and Virginia [in the slave trade], Ireland and the agricultural districts of England, Scotland, and Wales, for Africa, Germany.19 For labor-power, read nature.Marx makes the connection directly:Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour-power.What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in a working day.It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power, in the same way as a greedy farmer snatches more produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility.20In the same way … Here is an insightful dialectical statement about how the capital relation unfolds through the oikeios.As we saw in Chapter Three, the “interdependent process of social metabolism” turns on a singular—but historically differentiated—metabolism of human and extra-human natures.Here we can illuminate the symbolic violence of the Cartesian binary, obscuring the connective tissues between the “shortening of the life” of the worker, and the “robbery” of the soil.It is difficult to see these connective tissues in most Green Thought.Wake up any environmentalist in the middle of the night and ask: “Where do we see exhaustion and depletion?” The answer is ready-made: in flora and fauna, in soils and resources.But what happens if we invert that answer, and begin from the standpoint of the worker’s exhaustion, and the exhaustion of work-systems? Such an inversion need not be anthropocentric; through it, we may illuminate the unifying relations exhausting human and extra-human natures in the capitalist world-ecology.If the exhaustion of the worker is paramount, we must ask a crucial question: Who is the worker? Not just the wage-worker, to be sure, but all life-activity that “works” within capitalism’s value-relations.As we have seen, some of this work is formal, but much of it is not.A small share of it occurs within factories, offices, and stores, but most of it does not.We may revisit our two major forms of exhaustion—“maxed out” and “wiped out”—first encountered in Chapter Five.Most typical is the former: a given working population becomes maxed out when it can no longer deliver a rising stream of work/energy into—or in support of—the circuit of capital.The American working class today is not exhausted in the sense of imminent physical breakdown; it is exhausted in its capacity to deliver a rising volume of unpaid work to capital [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]