In defence of exploitation

Economics and Philosophy 11 (2):275--307 (1995)
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Roemer's attempt to undermine the normative reasons that Marxists have thought exploitation important (domination, alienation, and inequality) is vitiated by several crucial errors. First, Roemer ignores the dimension of freedom which is Marx's main concern and replaces it with an interest in justice, which Marx rejected. This leads him to misconstrue the nature of exploitation as Marx understands it. Second, his procedure for disconnecting these evils from exploitation, or denying their importance, involves the methodological assumption that exploitation must strictly imply these evils. He thus fails to see that exploitation may 'cause' domination, alienation, and inequality; this assumption and the focus on justice also lead him to overlook the sort of alienation that is most important to Marx and the way exploitation, as Marx understands it, does imply coercion. Roemer's alternative conception of exploitation thus fails to capture basic Marxist normative and explanatory concerns. But Roemer's insistence on the importance of justice and the need for an articulated alternative to capitalism are a necessary supplement to a Marxist account.

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Justin Schwartz
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (PhD)


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