[OPE-L] Rate of exploitation [was 'the "unequal exchange" controversy']

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Fri Dec 30 2005 - 18:15:06 EST

Hi Jurriaan,

You say that you are not in a position now to discuss topics at
length. OK. I think the section entitled 'Criticism' in your
wikipedia entry for 'Rate of exploitation' might lead to some good
topics for discussion in the New Year: we could discuss which of
these criticisms are legitimate and which aren't and how both types
can be answered. I have reproduced that section below.  Do others
on the list have any particular issues that are related to the
following that you would _especially_ like to see us discuss?

In solidarity, Jerry

PS:  [This isn't directed at you, Jurriaan, but is a comment in
general about wikipedia from an instructional perspective.]
I have noticed in recent semesters that if you assign research papers
then students will almost always cite wikipedia entries.  Has wikipedia
become transformed from a valuable online resourse to, despite their
best intentions, a one-stop-answer-all-questions-authority?  Does it
enhance student research or has it become a substitute for more thorough
research and finding scholarly sources. How do others on the list deal
with this issue?  I tell students that they can use encyclopedia entries
(so long as they are properly cited) but that they do not qualify as
required scholarly sources.


Several important criticisms have been made of Marx's concept from
different sides:

  o. The ambiguity of the concept - does it have a purely objective,
economic significance in terms of the yield of labour utilisation, or
does it rather have a moral-political significance?
  o. All factors of production can add value to products, invalidating
Marx's law of value and his claim that workers are exploited.
  o. None of the five measures that Marx cites express anything directly
about the intensity of labor-exploitation, which can increase or
decrease without being reflected in his ratios. Exploitation in the
workplace might involve much more than Marx envisaged (see also
  o. Marx disregards the fact, that workers may be doubly exploited, not
just at the point of production, but at the point of their consumption;
when they spend their wages on goods and services, they are "taxed"
again by the profit and tax component added to the value of the goods
and services they buy (this point is not theoretically developed in most
Marxist literature, although it can give rise to consumer resistance and
consumer boycotts). This importantly affects our understanding of the
economic value of labour power.
  o. Marx theoretically largely disregards state intermediation which can
strongly influence the magnitude of both wages and profits earnt, in
many different ways.
  o. Marx equates wage costs with labour costs, but labour costs may
involve much more than wages (taxes, social security levies, employer
contributions to schemes benefiting employees, bribes and all sorts)
(see also Compensation of employees).
  o. Marx disregards the unpaid labor of (mainly) women in the household,
and associated voluntary labor necessary and indispensable for the
reproduction of labour power. Market relations depend to a large degree
on non-market relations.
 o. Viewing the labor process in terms of exploitation is not conducive
to anything, since it disregards the constructive role of employers in
developing production. If they are just viewed as exploiters, this
distracts from the problem of how else you could organise production
with better forms of association.
 o. Marx largely disregards that employers of labor might be exploited
by each other, or that workers might be exploited by each other (this is
obviously not completely true, but Marx's main focus was certainly on
the capital-labor relationship).
The overall result of these criticisms is that many people believe Marx's
whole notion of exploitation was either too narrowly defined or else too

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rate_of_exploitation"

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Jan 02 2006 - 00:00:03 EST