What is a need, a want, a luxury? This chapter establishes ‘need’ as a social, biological, scientific and political category in need of a history. Chemist Antoine Lavoisier articulated a fundamental dilemma of the modern social order: workers, by virtue of their bodily expenditure, need to consume more fuel than the leisured classes. Yet the rich enjoy an abundance that they do not physically need. Lavoisier, writing in the thick of the French Revolution, articulated a disjunction between wealth, wages and needs, the social order and natural order. His dilemma sets out the central problematic of this book. The chapter further introduces the notion of quantum life, whose opposite is not death but non-productivity. ‘Vital minimum’, ‘minimum existence’ and the ‘living wage’ expressed a social necessity - the need to reproduce labor - in the language of life.
University Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .