Dinesh Wadiwel talk

The Institute of Geography invites you to a talk ‘Animals as Labourers? Marx, Work and Nonhumans’ by Dr. Dinesh Wadiwel, University of Sydney

Date and time: Friday, 3rd February 2017; 1.00 pm – 2.30 pm

Venue: G10 Drummond Library, Institute of Geography, Drummond Street

Abstract: The recent ‘political turn’ in animal rights theory has also opened up possibilities for conceptualising animals as a social justice issue within the context of social and political institutions. This paper explores the potential of using theory from Karl Marx to think about animal labour under capitalism. In Capital Marx draws a fundamental distinction between constant capital and variable capital (comprising the so called “organic composition of capital”). In this account, it is the latter category of capital that is reflective of human labour, and only variable capital is capable of producing surplus. Against this view a range of scholars – such as Ted Benton, Jason Hribal, Kendra Coulter, Alasdair Cochrane, and Barbara Noske – have proposed animals as labouring subjects. In addition, a range of other recent scholars – such as Melinda Cooper and Jason Moore – have provided new grounds for rethinking Marxist thinking on labour, and moving this discussion beyond the human. This paper seeks to extend on this work. Drawing on Marx, I will argue in a technical sense that animals labour as variable capital to both produce surplus and simultaneously to reproduce themselves as constant capital to be exchanged at the next phase of a value chain. I will examine live animal transport as a way to demonstrate this dynamic. I will further argue that this perspective offers some novel ways to consider the exploitation of animals, and offers animal advocates some different ways to argue for change.

Dr. Dinesh Wadiwel is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. His research interests include violence, race, disability rights and critical animal studies. He is author of the monograph The War against Animals (Brill, 2015).

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