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Exploitation, inequality, and power


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  • Veneziani, Roberto


The concept of exploitation is central in social and political theory, but there is no precise, widely accepted definition. This paper analyses John Roemer’s seminal theory, which construes exploitation as a distributive injustice arising from asset inequalities, with no reference to notions of power or dominance. First, an intertemporal generalisation of Roemer’s static economies is set up and several doubts are raised on the claim that exploitation can be reduced to a kind of resource egalitarianism. Then, Roemer’s philosophical arguments that exploitation should be defined as a merely distributive concept are also questioned and it is argued that a notion of power, or dominance, is an essential part of the definition of exploitation. Finally, Roemer’s path-breaking methodological claim that standard general equilibrium models can provide robust microfoundations to exploitation and classes is critically analysed.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 30288.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:30288

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Keywords: Exploitation; inequality; power;

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  1. Alan Carling, 1997. "Analytical and Essential Marxism," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, Political Studies Association, vol. 45(4), pages 768-783, 09.
  2. Naoki Yoshihara, 1998. "Wealth, Exploitation and Labor Discipline in the Contemporary Capitalist Economy," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 23-61, 02.
  3. Veneziani, Roberto, 2007. "Exploitation and time," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 189-207, January.
  4. Duncan K. Foley, 1989. "Roemer On Marx On Exploitation," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(2), pages 187-199, 07.
  5. John E. Roemer & Roberto Veneziani, 2001. "What We Owe Our Children, They Their Children,..," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University 1326, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Roemer, John, 1992. "What Walrasian Marxism Can and Cannot Do," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 149-156, April.
  7. Skillman, Gilbert L., 1995. "Ne Hic Saltaveris: The Marxian Theory of Exploitation After Roemer," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 309-331, October.
  8. Veneziani, Roberto, 2006. "A future for (analytical) Marxism?," MPRA Paper 30864, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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Cited by:
  1. Yoshihara, Naoki & Veneziani, Roberto, 2013. "The Measurement of Labour Content: A General Approach," Discussion Paper Series, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University 587, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  2. Carlo V. Fiorio & Simon Mohun & Roberto Veneziani, 2013. "Social Democracy and Distributive Conflict in the UK, 1950-2010," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics 2013-06, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  3. Veneziani, Roberto & Yoshihara, Naoki, 2013. "Unequal Exchange, Assets, and Power: Recent Developments in Exploitation Theory," Discussion Paper Series, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University 594, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  4. Naoki Yoshihara & Roberto Veneziani, 2009. "Exploitation as the Unequal Exchange of Labour: An Axiomatic Approach," Working Papers, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Economics and Finance 655, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Economics and Finance.


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