Needs and desire, continued

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Jan 28 10:55:03 MST 2000

>>> Carrol Cox <cbcox at> 01/27/00 07:33PM >>>


Charles Brown wrote:

> When people find their basic "needs" fulfilled
> - and these themselves are very plastic - do they want less or more?
> &&&&&&&
> CB: First on the plasticity of needs: the idea of "need" is to refer
something that is relatively unplastic. It is a necessity, it is a limit

within which we must live such as enough food not to starve. "Want" or
"desire" is intended to refer to those things which are 'plastic".
is intended to refer to more rigid requirements.

Charles, you're being sucked in and led where you do not need, and ought

desire, to go. "Needs," "necessities," whatever form part of the
the value of labor power, and the term is thus implicitly at the very
Marx's entire critique of political economy -- and Marx quite sensibly
let himself be drawn into any endless haggling over definition. There
says at one point in *Capital* (Vol. 1) a "moral or historical" element
value of labor power, and it is defined by the stuggle between capital
labor --


CB: My reference to "needs" here draws especially on  _The German Ideology_.

Actually, Marx's discussion of this issue in _Capital_ is on the very first page, and
it is in terms of "wants"not "needs".  "A commodity is, in the first place, an object
outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or
another. Th nature of such wants, whether , for instance, they spring from the stomach
or form fancy, makes no difference."

The distinction between springing from the stomach or fancy is the one I was getting
at. But this difference makes no difference from the standpoint of commodities and

But we are discussing socialism/communism, when commodities will no longer be the form
of use-values. The value of labor power discussion in _Capital_  is confined to
capitalism, so the issues on this thread extrapolate beyond the framework of the
discussion in _Capital_


we are back again, then, to what are perhaps the single two
important propositions in Marx: His quotation from Faust (Im Anfang war
die That) and his answer to the reporter's question, What Is?: Struggle.

(Marx does note that it is in fact impossible to say what the minimum
biological necessities for survival are. Attempting to define that would
a mug's game, and serious people should not concern themselves with


CB: See _The German Ideology_. It is not impossible to make a good approximate
statement of minimum , average biological necessities for survival. That proposition
is postmodernist, anti-essentialist error. That notion would completely undermine
Marxist materialism, which focuses on material production as the basis of an objective
science of society PRECISELY BECAUSE production is where physical and biological
necessities or needs are met.

The concept of needs of the biological necessity type is a root of Marxist

More information about the Marxism mailing list