An Art Hidden in the Forest of the Earth: Labor Between Economy and Culture

Dissertation, City University of New York (2003)

This dissertation deals with the concept of labor in its productive and creative form. I first analyze the difference between productive labor and living labor. Once this distinction is clearly formulated, the category of productive labor is dispensed with and the more fundamental, ontological, category of living labor is shown in its ability to return to itself and lay the ground for a new understanding of labor as creative activity. ;The dissertation is then an ontological critique of productive labor. Productive labor and its double, unproductive labor, are understood as categories of political economy and capital. Yet, from the ontological point of view labor is neither-productive-nor-unproductive . This is shown through a close reading of important texts by Karl Marx. ;The dissertation is divided into two parts and six chapters. Part One contains the introduction and two chapters on Marx. Its title is "Aspects of the Critique of Political Economy." Part Two is called "Toward an Ontology of Liberation." In chapter 4, on radicalizing the ontology of labor, the work of various philosophers and social theorists is considered. It is in this central chapter that an answer to the main question as to the difference between productive and living labor is suggested: productive labor is living labor institutionalized. Chapter 5 deals with themes in the philosophy of praxis, and chapter 6 deals with the esthetic dimension of labor. ;The esthetic dimension of labor, it is argued, is the same as labor's ontological power. The ontology of being delineated is, however, not an ontology in the traditional sense of the word: it is a poetic ontology and it is also a political or social ontology. Though the dissertation relies on concepts from John Duns Scotus's pure ontology, it is its transposition into the social sphere that constitutes this work's main thrust. Scotus's being here becomes labor
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