The misuse of 'exploitation'

Pete Bratsis aki at
Sat Nov 12 01:29:46 MST 1994

Justin, I apologize if my last message was a bit too antagonistic.

While I agree that we can find quotes within Marx that are not uniform
in his use of the term 'exploitation', there is a reception history of
Marx and a more or less consistent use of key concepts such as 'class',
'exploitation', etc.  I do not see how the quotes you give, however,
support the case that Marx thinks that slaves and serfs where exploited.
It does show that he thinks that there is surpluss production produced
in feudal as well as capitalist societies, that labour as a commodity
is unique in that you cannot seperated labour power form the person who
'ownes' it etc.  But, in your quote the term exploitation is absent.
If Marx's theory of exploitation is equally aplicable
to feudal as well as capitalit society - show me where Marx computes
the rate of exploitation of serfs?  Is it possible to determine the
rate of exploitation for anyone but producive labour under capitalism?
I maintain that exploitation is a technical term (in its dominant
use in the reception history of Marx) and refers only to the
capitalist form of appropiating surpluss production.

I do not care if you want to use the term 'exploitation' in a way not
consistent with the way I understand its Marxist meaning to be.  But,
say so and identify what you mean by it so we can avoid misunderstanding.

Furthermore, your debate with Tom is not a true debate.  Tom
is relying on an expressive totality and trying to show that the essence
of modern society is the class antagonism of the prol. & capital which is
expressed and present in every instance of modern soc. (including the
family, gender relations, etc.).  You take the same basic postion by
arguing that the same logic of this prol. - cap. relation is present in
every instance of society (at least when it comes to gender).  As such,
even in your version, both accounts posit a SINGLE essence to modern
societyin your version there is not a class as well gendered kinds
of domination since the logic of the domination of gender is the SAME as
the logic of class domination.  This is why I suggested going beyond
Marxism in trying to understand the specifics of gendered domination.
Class reductionism is not avoided by means of recoqnizing the importance of
things like gender and race - it also means granting them a logic that is
particular and that is 'beyond' the logic of class domination.

Its almost 4:00 in the morning, so I will cut this message short - but
am more than willing to elaborate more after your responce.

Peter Bratsis
Grad. Center, CUNY


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