ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Labouring Nature, Labour in Nature

Intertwinings and Intersectionalities


[The authors thank Ashish Kothari for useful suggestions.]

“Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power,” writes Karl Marx (1875; emphasis as in original) in the Critique of the Gotha Programme. In Capital (Volume 1) he writes, “Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the labourer” (Marx 1887).

Human labouring requires the use of and/or extraction from ecosystems, across scales, from local to global. Labour is central to the metabolism between human and non-human nature and has been examined from the geological to molecular scales. Concepts such as the metabolic rift (Foster 1999; Clark and Foster 2009) and the anthropocene (Crutzen 2002; Steffan et al 2007) alert us to the impact of the collective human practice on transforming the media for subsequent human practice, often visible only in the longue durée. At the same time, human perception of the environment (Ingold 2000; Anupama Ramakrishnan (p 45) in this issue), and subjectivities towards nature (Vasan 2018; also, see Dunu Roy’s (p 59) article in this issue) are dependent on material engagement such as work, dwelling, practice, etc, all implicating labour.

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Updated On : 14th Sep, 2019
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