Re: [OPE-L] More about exploitation

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Jun 30 2007 - 01:49:20 EDT

>Hi Michael,
>Well... there's exploitation possible from the appropriation of
>surplus labour, surplus product, or surplus value, or generic
>profit. But surplus value or profit can be appropriated directly
>from production, or in economic exchange (circulation). In addition,
>other kinds of exploitation are possible in the circulation of
>commodities, money and capital, and in human relations generally.
>Exploitation is a big subject, and as I said being rather innocent I
>don't even pretend to know all the different possible modalities of
>The production of a surplus product need not imply exploitation
>necessarily. An independent producer can produce a surplus product,
>without necessarily exploiting anybody.
>Marx argues the general social precondition for capitalist private
>profits in bourgeois society is the existence and performance of
>surplus-labour (Mehrarbeit), the product of which can be
>appropriated in virtue of ownership title to capital assets. But
>that is not to say that profits cannot also arise in numerous other
>ways (I don't even pretend to know all of the different ways).
>The big problem with Marxism is, typically, that it tries to apply
>abstract categories directly to empirical reality, without studying
>the empirical data. The grandiose theoretical claims are many, the
>research pitiful in comparison. In reality, there is no
>neat-and-tidy accounting sum according to which total surplus value
>equals total profits, since surplus values are generated without
>translating into profits, and profits are realised without any
>relation to new surplus values produced. Anybody who understands
>anything about national accounts or economics knows this. And
>therefore the "transformation problem" has always seemed a trifle
>scholastic to me.
>Bourgeois economics extols the benefits of trade. Obviously, people
>don't trade unless they gain something from it (unless they are
>forced to trade, on unfavourable terms), but the gains might be very
>unequally and unfairly distributed, and therefore you can be
>exploited in trade. Labour-power can also sell above or below its
>value. All Marx then says is, whether the worker's wage be high or
>low, he's still exploited anyhow. Fine and good, but short of the
>red revolution, the worker aims to get a wage that at least reflects
>the value of his labour-power.
>To take a personal example: after a bout of depression, I took on a
>job that 150 or so other workers wanted, and I accepted pay scale 6.
>I wanted to work, rather than be on the dole, that's how I was
>brought up. But in terms of the work I really end up doing, I should
>be at least in pay scale 7, because that's the norm for that sort of
>work. Marx can say: whether you are in pay scale 6 or 7, it's wage
>slavery anyway, which is a valid point of view, but it is not a lot
>of use to me, insofar as I, as a worker, think I ought at least to
>be paid for the work I do. And there is an issue to resolve there. I
>think my union would agree with me on that point, we'll see (the
>fine points of the law are something else again).

On what are you basing your guess of what Marx would say? I think
it's obvious that you have Marx wrong.

>As regards workers exploiting workers, consider this "hypothetical
>case": an immigrant worker without a residence permit and a work
>permit, takes on work under a false name (a friend of his), and his
>wage gets deposited in his friend's account. For this "service" his
>friend (also a worker) keeps 40-60% of the earnings for himself, and
>pays out 40-60% of the earnings to the immigrant. The immigrant has
>no leg to stand on, since he's illegal as it is. His
>employer accepts his work, and says he's doing a good job, his
>"friend" takes part of the money, but basically he stays where he
>is, because he hasn't got much in the way of other options, and
>doesn't earn enough to get himself out of this trap. The bourgeois
>press of course loves this kind of story, because it shows workers
>exploiting workers. Real point is that you could be working like
>this for years, and nobody gives a damn except about the money, and
>you cannot even earn your work permit in this way.
>I have read plenty philosophical discourses about exploitation, but
>the reality of it is something else again, and you have to keep your
>wits about you, because you can get screwed in a jiffy.

So exploitation is not a reality?


>PS- I wrote a few wiki reference articles on the topic here:
>You are of course welcome to improve them.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Jul 02 2007 - 00:00:03 EDT