The misuse of 'exploitation'

Pete Bratsis aki at
Fri Nov 11 13:48:34 MST 1994

Justin seems intent to talk about exploitation in the 'technichal sense'
and insist that slaves, serfs, and women as domestic labour are exploited.
It seems to me that Lulu's post was very clear on the Marxist meaning of
exploitation, but aparently was not understood by everyone.  'Exploitation'
as used by Marx is a technical term refering to how surplus product is
extracted under capitalism.  While under feudalism etc. etc. there was
surplus product appropiated by a dominant class the relations their in
where very much different than under capitalism and do not constitute
exploitation in any sence of the Marxist use of the term.  Lulu correctly
pointed out that even under capitalism, only productive labour is exploited.
If one wants to adopt a definition of exploitation that is different, say -
Roemers theory of exploitation (where the productive/unproductive labour
distinction is no longer relevant) or some other definition of exploitation,
then, say so or, at least, go read some of the 'tedious' stuff - like
Marx himself - so these mistakes can be avoided.  Furthermore, I am puzzled by
the equation of domination to exploitation.  While exploitation is domination,
not all domination is exploitation.  Why insist that the domination of women
is an example of exploitation and not use some other, less loaded and more
applicable, term?  After all, Marxism can only go so far and using concepts
developed for a very much different purpose may not work so well when applied
to gender relations/gendered domination.  If we look to Weber, Mauss,
Bourdieu, etc. don't we find ways of examining domination that may be more
appropiated to the issues at hand?

Peter Bratsis
Grad. Center, CUNY


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