From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia

Labour is the process of producing the means to satisfy individual or collective needs and sustain human life.[1] It is the product of labor power.

Living vs Dead Labor

Marx noted that labor is embodied in tools and machines. But these devices cannot produce use-values on their own, hence they are dead labor. To bring this labor to life, dead labor requires a laborer, a living person to use their labor-power with or on. Consider current AI-generated art. Without living human inputs, these AI tools do not function and thus cannot produce any use-values, any art, on their own.

This is analogous to constant capital versus variable capital.

See Also


  1. “[...] The first premise of all human existence and, therefore, of all history, [is that humans] must be in a position to live in order to be able to "make history". But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. And indeed this is an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which today, as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life.” Karl Marx (1845). The German ideology.