Life, Labor, and Value. Recreating Affective Food Ecologies Through Interspecies Cooperation

As our most complex and intimate relationship with wider environments, food and agriculture provide important opportunities for exploring affective ecologies. Here I re-visit some of the ways that Modern constructs of humans as radically different from environments and of value as a function of exchange work to produce agricultural systems that are ever less affective and more problematic. In an effort to construct value in a way more applicable to the whole of our biosphere, and not only to humans, I take up an explicitly non-Modern Heraclitean perspective which conceives of all life as essentially relational. I then extend Marx’s anthropocentric work to argue that all life labors to organize stocks and flows in environments which it finds useful and thus valuable. As co-adaptation illustrates, often produces value by finding usefulness in the by-products of other lives. Thus, we may understand ecological relationships as guided by the creation of abundance rather than the imposition of scarcity. From the Marxist tradition I then enlist the concepts of cooperation, which produces value synergistically, and exploitation which destroys the ability to create value, to suggest a basis for the evaluation of socio-natural trajectories, for creating more and less affective food ecologies.