Full Marx Library series

We are part of the natural world and dependent on it, yet at the same time we dominate nature and shape it. Perhaps communism will reconcile the break, suggests the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY

ARE humans “natural?” The answer is, as so often, “yes” and “no.”

Notwithstanding the 38 per cent of adults in the US who still believe that humans were created 4,000 years ago — and Eve merely a spare rib — most people accept that humans have evolved over time from pre-human primates who in turn evolved from more primitive vertebrates who came, probably, from something allied to sea squirts and so on back to when and wherever life first began. 
Since earliest times humans have been aware of their biological nature – that we are conceived, live and die as do all other species.

And since Darwin, at least, we have been aware also that we are — or were once — part of the natural world, in relation both to our evolutionary origins and to the conditions of our survival today.

Yet we are in many ways different from other species. Some other species may use tools, grow food, construct shelters or clothe themselves for camouflage, defence or to attract mates. 
Some primates in particular appear to have the ability for conceptual thought, to think — to foresee in advance the likely consequences of their actions rather than to have those actions determined entirely by instinctive responses to environmental stimuli.

And ethologists and philosophers argue about whether beliefs, intentions and values are unique to humankind.

The MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY explains one of the most fundamental concepts of Marxism

LABOUR (work, the production of useful goods and services) is a characteristic of our species. And in all types of class society, exploited workers produce more use values than they consume themselves.

They are exploited because the difference — the “surplus” — is appropriated by the ruling class, whether slave-owners, feudal lords or capitalists.

In pre-capitalist societies exploitation is open and direct; the surplus is extracted by the compulsions of ownership (slaves) or feudal law (serfs).

But in capitalism, exploitation is hidden. All goods and services, including the capacity to work, become commodities sold in the market.

They therefore acquire an exchange value, determined by the amount of labour time that was necessary to produce them
Workers sell their capacity to work — what Marx called their “labour power” — to the capitalists who own the means of production without which no work can be done.

If they ‘freely” sell their labour power for wages that reflect its exchange value (its market price) how can they be exploited? 
Marx answered this question
using the concept of surplus value.

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