Solar Energy – Theory of Shit #2

Marx and Engels excrement archive. Here in 1882 Engels is talking calories, but the issue of waste matter comes up in the context of thinking food and sustenance and the reproduction of labour power. But what shines out most here is Engels anticipating Bataille’s thing about the sun and squandering of resources. Enviromentalistas take note.

Engels letter to Marx. 19 December 1882 411 (Collected Works Vol 46)

But this is by no means to imply that physical labour is economic  labour. The economic labour performed by 10,000 cal in no way consists in the reproduction,  complete or partial, of these same 10,000 cal in any form whatever. On the contrary, they are for the most part lost in the increased heat given off by the body, etc., and such useful residue as remains lies in the fertilising property of excretions. The economic labour performed by an individual through the expenditure of these 10,000 cal consists rather in the stabilisation over a longer or shorter period of the fresh  cal he absorbs from the radiation of the sun, and this is the only connection the latter have, so far as labour is concerned, with the first 10,000 cal.


the working individual IS not only a stabiliser of present but also, and to a far greater extent, a squanderer of past, solar heat. As to what we have done in the way of squandering our reserves of energy, our coal, ore, forests, etc., .you are better informed than I am. From this point of view, hunting and fishing may also be seen not as stabilisers of fresh solar heat but as exhausters and even incipient squanderers

My previous Theory of Shit post on the bit from Volume III of Capital where Marx has a little section discussing the utilisation of ‘waste’ (Abfällen) in the production process, was here.

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