Exploitation, Solidarity, and Dignity

Journal of Social Philosophy 50 (4):465-494 (2019)
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This paper offers a normative exploration of what exploitation is and of what is wrong with it. The focus is on the critical assessment of the exploitation of workers in capitalist societies. Such exploitation is wrongful when it involves a contra-solidaristic use of power to benefit oneself at the expense of others. Wrongful exploitation consists in using your greater power, and sometimes even in making other less powerful than you, in order to get them to benefit you more than they ought to. This account of exploitation is appealing because it simultaneously captures three morally significant dimensions of exploitation—its material and social background, the relational (interpersonal and systemic) attitudes it enacts, and the final distributive results it generates. Exploitation is indeed a multidimensional social process. The flipside of the proposed critical characterization of this process is a positive ideal of solidaristic empowerment in the allocation and use of economic power, which the paper articulates in terms of the socialist Abilities/Needs Principle (“from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”). The Abilities/Needs Principle is grounded in human dignity.
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