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What is exploitation?

Orbit v2

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[4] Except there's high levels of correspondence between the capitalists of today and the privileged of the past. Even the admirable William Gates is the scion of several generations of bankers and prominent lawyers.
Gates is such a poor example of the poor proletarian (IT) worker being exploited for subsisdence wage slavery though. Where Marx's original analysis breaks down is with intellectual capital and intellectual property generally. He didn't account for it at all (unsurprisingly). Donald Trump might be a better example of a traditional capitalist who hasn't created anything of note himself, but has done all right leveraging the capital he inherited. It would be a mistake in my opinion to attribute too much to Gates' background, beyond getting a comfortable upbringing and a good education.
 


silverharp

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Gates is such a poor example of the poor proletarian (IT) worker being exploited for subsisdence wage slavery though. Where Marx's original analysis breaks down is with intellectual capital and intellectual property generally. He didn't account for it at all (unsurprisingly). Donald Trump might be a better example of a traditional capitalist who hasn't created anything of note himself, but has done all right leveraging the capital he inherited. It would be a mistake in my opinion to attribute too much to Gates' background, beyond getting a comfortable upbringing and a good education.
for someone to have the flexibility to drop out of college to create his own company similar to Zuckerberg having better off parents facilitates that. No government or bank would have given them money. Its also why innovation happens in the West and not somewhere like Somalia
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Gates is such a poor example of the poor proletarian (IT) worker being exploited for subsisdence wage slavery though [1]. Where Marx's original analysis breaks down is with intellectual capital and intellectual property generally. He didn't account for it at all (unsurprisingly) [2]. Donald Trump might be a better example of a traditional capitalist who hasn't created anything of note himself, but has done all right leveraging the capital he inherited [3]. It would be a mistake in my opinion to attribute too much to Gates' background, beyond getting a comfortable upbringing and a good education [4].
[1] All operations — Microsoft and Apple not excluded — become baggy, with all sorts of flabbiness. Hence the Hacker's Dictionary definition of "lion food":
[IBM] n. Middle management or HQ staff (by extension, administrative drones in general). From an old joke about two lions who, escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their chances but agreed to meet after 2 months. When they finally meet, one is skinny and the other overweight. The thin one says "How did you manage? I ate a human just once and they turned out a small army to chase me — guns, nets, it was terrible. Since then I've been reduced to eating mice, insects, even grass." The fat one replies "Well, I hid near an IBM office and ate a manager a day. And nobody even noticed!"
[2] He did account for it. He was too good an economist to be unaware of the work of John Locke, the Law of Anne, and earlier advances in what, before modern lawyers got to work on the term, was called patent law (which actually goes back to classical times). See Marx on Private Property and Communism, especially #VI:
Social activity and social enjoyment exist by no means only in the form of some directly communal activity and directly communal enjoyment, although communal activity and communal enjoyment – i.e., activity and enjoyment which are manifested and affirmed in actual direct association with other men – will occur wherever such a direct expression of sociability stems from the true character of the activity’s content and is appropriate to the nature of the enjoyment.

But also when I am active scientifically, etc. – an activity which I can seldom perform in direct community with others – then my activity is social, because I perform it as a man. Not only is the material of my activity given to me as a social product (as is even the language in which the thinker is active): my own existence is social activity, and therefore that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the consciousness of myself as a social being.
[3] Absolutely. And much the same is true of those he is gathering around him for his Administration. I see there's already a tontine/lottery on when Trump will be forced to resign.

[4] Except Gates had the advantage of a very privileged "good education", at the Lakeside School. What was unique about that is the PTA (Cf: Marx on "communal activity" and "social product" above) financed the purchase of a computer terminal and time on a mainframe. Not many kids had that access in 1968-69.
 

gerhard dengler

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Exploitation is the direct opposite of what is known as being fair or fairness.
The practice of being fair, or fairness, would remedy exploitation.

A fair days work for a fair days pay is one lesson mentioned in at least two parts of the New Testament.
 

Orbit v2

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[1] All operations — Microsoft and Apple not excluded — become baggy, with all sorts of flabbiness. Hence the Hacker's Dictionary definition of "lion food":
Of course, what I meant was that Gates is a bad example of an exploiting capitalist employer. I've worked for companies like his my whole career. So, I know what they are like. They pay well :) They do come and go and IBM certainly isn't the behemoth that it used to be. Companies like Microsoft grew rich not because they had armies of exploited workers toiling over a hot forge with a hammer and tongs. Microsoft grew rich because its products are intellectual creations, and can be duplicated with zero work. It makes no difference to Microsoft's workforce whether they sell 1,000 copies of Office today or 1,000,000 and it just so happens that they were the first company to sell billions of copies of their products. Because Microsoft is (or was) so profitable and its workers so specialised and skilled, that leads to very good working conditions and pay.
[2] He did account for it. He was too good an economist to be unaware of the work of John Locke, the Law of Anne, and earlier advances in what, before modern lawyers got to work on the term, was called patent law (which actually goes back to classical times). See Marx on Private Property and Communism, especially #VI:
Patents are an early form of intellectual property yes, but software (as intellectual property) is much more than that. It is the actual product itself, rather than just an exclusive license to make something else.

I think Marx made the point that when capital is concentrated in few hands, those same people basically control production, because workers are reduced to mere wage slaves, never having the ability to accumulate wealth or further capital. Intellectual property and capital are different however. As said above, Gates' products were intellectual creations. He didn't have to build an enormous steel mill that required huge (monetary) capital investment. That changes the dynamics of what Marx was complaining about. Two students at Stanford university had a clever idea, that turned into a PhD research project and eventually became the second biggest company in the world. No huge injection of money capital was required for that to happen. Basically, anyone with a good idea and a laptop could potentially launch the next google, or facebook, or Stripe.
[3] Absolutely. And much the same is true of those he is gathering around him for his Administration. I see there's already a tontine/lottery on when Trump will be forced to resign.

[4] Except Gates had the advantage of a very privileged "good education", at the Lakeside School. What was unique about that is the PTA (Cf: Marx on "communal activity" and "social product" above) financed the purchase of a computer terminal and time on a mainframe. Not many kids had that access in 1968-69.
You're grossly over stating his background. How many other students from the same school did as well as him? Gates basically invented personal computer software as a business. He (more or less) alone saw the value that could be created out of it. When other people (like me) were treating "home computers" as a hobby, he was pursuing people and businesses that were using his software without paying for the privilege - ie the beginnings of treating software as intellectual property that could be licensed and mass produced at little cost.
 

Analyzer

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Being taxed to keep the rich rich even when they phuck up.

Whilst essential services are failing to provide for the working people.

Cue the bank bailout.
 

Gin Soaked

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I suppose Ludin's comment about minimum wage and Zero hours contracts are good examples. As would be many "Domestic servant" positions.

Anywhere where your station in life is controlled by your "employer" and not merely limited by your ability.

If I think I am worth more than I am paid, I need to go out and find that job, convince them, and then continue to perform to their expectations. That is not exploitative of my employer, as I am well clear of the minimum wage and can"downshift" and maintain a reasonable lifestyle, with decent leisure time and conditions that allow me to continue to seek work elsewhere.

Shift work, sh1tty hours, being "on call" without pay, and having to pay for my uniform or training are all symptoms of clear exploitation.
 

PeacefulViking

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As for labour market contracts, "exploitation" basically does not mean anything. Saying someone is "exploited" is just a way of saying that it would be nice if they made more money or had better working conditions, while also in some unspecified way laying the blame on the employer for not offering it. (As opposed to everybody else who is also not offering to employ the "exploited" person for better wages but apparently have no obligation to do so.)

Basically, most peoples moral intuitions are not adapted to capitalism. They are stuck in the model that has probably held for the majority of humanity's history, that your boss is akin to a tribal leader who is supposed to to lead for the benefit of all. And if you are unhappy about the conditions of his rule and it feels like he is more benefiting himself, it makes total sense to be unhappy.

The modern condition, where your boss is your boss because working for his company was the best/least bad of the options open to you, and he has no obligation to make sure his decisions benefit you has not really permeated society.
 

PeacefulViking

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I suppose agency and freedom of choice are central to it. It's much easier to feel (or be) exploited if you are backed into a corner and don't have any practical choice in a course of action. So, on one hand someone (like Joe Brolly) who voluntarily donates a kidney is not being exploited. But, if Donald Trump's nominee for head of the FDA gets his way, and allows a free market in organ donation, then someone desperate enough for money possibly would be, in many people's estimation.
These people would be wrong. If Trump legalized trade in organs it would be a major humanitarian benefit.
 

Dame_Enda

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There is no objective definition of "exploitation". In the sexual area, I believe that as long as both parties are over the age of consent, and are choosing to engage in sexual activity, that there is no exploitation as objectively defined and it shouldnt be illegal either. I consider most adult prostitution to be consensual but I consider forced prostitution to be exploitative. The question for me is about consent, and I find the attempts to argue that where there is poverty there cannot be consent to be a slippery slope especially in low paid work. FG should consider whether their corporate donors really want to be be told that the poor can't consent to a type of work. Because that is the logical conclusion of the claim some of them make (as do members of the other parties) that somehow economic factors make adult prostitution impossible for a sex worker to consent to.

I do consider job displacement by cheap labour and low pay by profitable companies to constitute exploitation. In many such situations, US multinationals do not permit union membership, which deprives workers of bargaining power.

I also consider that using children as political props e.g. getting them to appear in political advertising, to possibly verge on exploitation, as the children may not understand the message they are endorsing. But some older children are bright and might disagree, so I wouldnt necessarily outlaw it, unless it reached Soviet/Nazi proportions.
 

farnaby

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I see exploitation in virtue ethics terms - an exploitative person is one who habitually uses others for his/her own benefit with no regard for their welfare. We see this most clearly in cases of serial rape, for example. IMO it would be a good thing if such individuals could be clearly identified and aggressively countered.

Economic exploitation is generally different in that people who ordinarily would care for the welfare of others are incentivised to override this care, for example believing that reducing wages to reduce product cost ultimately results in the greatest good for the greatest number (the capitalist justification). This ultimately comes down to competitiveness vs cost of living.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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How many other students from the same school [The Lakeside School, Seattle] did as well as [Bill Gates]?
I don't know how to calculate "as well as", except in terms of $$$. Paul Allen was two years ahead of Gates; and he did pretty well. Several other Microsoft gurus were of around the same vintage: Ric Welland and Jabe Blumenthal come to mind with a wiki prompt. Anyone who remembers Windows before 3.1 (Ah! the 286s of yesteryear! They were why I was so attached to my Macintosh 512) might suggest the report card ought to read "Could do better", and even that needed a h-u-g-e contribution from Ogilvy & Mather.

My memory of academic systems built around MS-DOS and then early Windows is they were exemplars of alienation: one particularly painful experience involved network cables laid across a flat roof, so it rained — no net. They illustrated workplace exploitation in the amount of time and effort required. Meanwhile an SE/30 did the same effortlessly — especially when one could purloin a LaserWriter to sit on the floor next to one's desk.
 

PeacefulViking

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Consider the following typical situation, where exploitation is often alleged: a Western company starts a factory in a poor country and offers wages (and other working conditions) that are poor by Western standards.

Now there are at least two interesting things about this situation. One is that if the Western company had not started the factory the workers would have been worse off, yet nobody would be complaining that the company was not helping them. So it is not that people feel the company has some obligation in the abstract to help the workers in the poor country, any obligation it has is apparently only triggered by making a business deal with them in the first place. The cynic might say that this allows people who have done nothing for poor people to feel morally superior to people who at least are doing something, if only because of self-interest.

Another interesting thing is that people rarely bother to consider what profit the company is making, before alleging exploitation, they are only reacting to the poor conditions. Just because the company is paying less than in the Western world, it does not mean that they are making a large profit, especially considering the lower productivity often found in developing world.
 

McTell

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No
///
Another interesting thing is that people rarely bother to consider what profit the company is making, before alleging exploitation, they are only reacting to the poor conditions. Just because the company is paying less than in the Western world, it does not mean that they are making a large profit, especially considering the lower productivity often found in developing world.

Very true.

And being a culchie, I recall old folks saying how bad it was in the 1920s that a "crowd up in Dublin" were running the show; Dublin being no different from London to them.

If we were exploited by the brits then we were no less exploited by Dublin, and so many emigrated. The official state histories will say that the 1920s were a huge improvement, and they were for the middle class, but not for most people.

The EU nirvana of CAP payments in the 1970s were the turning point for us, but if you look hard enough we were buying Italian washing machines and german tractors, so we were still being "exploited" if we looked hard enough.

Most people know that it's all a trade-off, and some years will be better than others. Most people are poor and naturally resent the fact, and are sure that a big conspiracy is robbing them. Those with the money see the poor as people who were unlucky to be born into families that didn't value education and hard work.
 

caledhel

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Kleptoparasitocracy
 

McTell

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No
We all remember our first day working for The Man. Thrilled to have a job and be earning money, the first step on the ladder.

The Man, having set up his biz and keeping it afloat, sees you as an apprentice who must learn what not to do, so as to keep it afloat. So you don't get to make big strategic decisions and write all the cheques in week 1.

The apprentice will either become a rival to The Man, or most likely go on to something else. He has that choice. Nobody is telling him "you must stay in this job for life". So any exploitation is being done with the consent of the apprentice.

Knowing that the apprentice can leave any time, The Man won't give him all his money and biz secrets. Surprised?
 

edg

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Exploitation is taking something without giving an equal value back.
It's legal, but it's not fair.

There should be no losers in a commercial transaction. If there is, we find exploitation.

It's more of a legal rather a philosophical subject imo.
 

cunnyfunt

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We talk about workers being exploited by employers, about victims of sexual exploitation, about empires exploiting their colonies, or people exploiting the welfare system, for example, but it's not obvious (1) precisely what "exploitation" means and (2) when the law should permit exploitation, and when it should prohibit it.

Roughly, the basic idea behind the concept of exploitation seems to be that it's about taking advantage of someone else's vulnerability - whether it's because you have more information than they do, or are in a stronger position than they are for some other reason.

That might work as a very rough idea of what exploitation means, but it's not enough to tell us whether and when it's okay to exploit others -

At one end of the spectrum, a football player may take advantage of his opponent's weaknesses in order to score a goal, but that's not a problematic case of exploitation. At the other end, a dodgy builder may take advantage of an elderly customer in order to trick him into paying for unnecessary services, and that seems clearly wrong.

(You might think that consent makes the difference here, but there are probably cases where a person doesn't agree to be taken advantage of, yet where it still seems okay to do so, and cases where a person does consent to be taken advantage of but where it seems wrong to do so)

So - what is exploitation, and when is it wrong to exploit someone?
If I were to try reduce it to a description....I would define it as "moral greediness"
 

roc_

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The practice of being fair, or fairness, would remedy exploitation.

A fair days work for a fair days pay is one lesson mentioned in at least two parts of the New Testament.
I would disagree that many people today would regard at least one of those references as "fair" (though I would regard it so myself).

"... For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?..."
 


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