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What did Karl Marx mean by 'exploitation' in a capitalist economic system?

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Introduction

What did Karl Marx mean by 'exploitation' in a capitalist economic system? Give contemporary examples of 'exploitation' and assess why it has not (yet) brought about the demise of capitalism? Exploitation can be defined as to make use of someone, by playing on some venerability or weakness, for personal accomplishment. In terms of exploitation within a capitalist system, Marx explored the control and authority within this structure, and the relationship between those with the power towards those who were made to follow orders. In order to examine whether exploitation exists presently within the current system, the system of capitalism and exploitation have to be examined thoroughly. By doing so, it will be clear whether Marx's idea of the eventually collapse of capitalism, can be justified. Capitalism was defined by Marx as a system where the fundamental principle is to increase exchange value of commodities, in order to gain profit. The main factors behind capitalism involve free enterprise and freedom to produce. Goods are produced in order to be exchanged for commodities, and their exchange value is measured in the form of money. Capitalists own the means of production, and the workers sell their labour to them. Marx believed that the tendency and the result of the capitalist mode of production are steadily to increase the productivity of labour. Hence it also increases the mass of the means of production converted into products by the use of the same quantity of additional labour. This additional labour is then distributed progressively over a greater mass of products, thus reducing the price of each individual commodity and commodity prices in general. It follows from this that, with the development of capitalist production and the resultant reduction in prices, there must be an increase in the quantity of goods, in the number of articles that must be sold. ...read more.

Middle

These companies can provide some small amounts of money, and the struggling nations have little power to reject such offers, due to such situations where any amount of money and investment is an advantage. Sports shoe companies such as Nike have come under much widespread criticism that the manufacturing of their product involves much exploitation. Companies such as Nike do not actually produce the shoes, they simply design them, and they market them. But the manufacturing is contracted out to suppliers, usually Korean, Taiwanese or Hong Kong companies located in cheap labour countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand or China. Investigations by various organisations of these factories in Asia making sports shoes has revealed a common pattern of working conditions which leaves much to be desired. The overworking and underpaying of workers, neglect of health and safety, physical abuse of workers and the persecution of those involved in organising workers are common features in all of these plants. While conditions in the sports shoe industry are by no means the worst to be found in Asia, they do nevertheless involve widespread exploitation of workers and abuse of their basic rights. Because of their commercial power, the brand name merchandising companies have great influence over the suppliers and are in a good position to do something positive about these labour conditions. In the face of negative publicity over these conditions and consumer pressure, several companies, including Reebok and Nike, have already taken steps in this direction, by establishing codes of practice on labour standards, which they expect their suppliers to adhere to. Unfortunately these codes are not as strong as they should be, and the monitoring of compliance is not adequate. (Ballinger & Olsson, 1997) Other recent examples of contemporary exploitation are clothing manufacturing companies. Recently, major U.S. ...read more.

Conclusion

One of the other most significant changes, which the past one hundred and fifty years have brought about, is that the new society can be seen in its embryonic form before our eyes. Marx could only speculate about how free associations of workers could build a world in which people live cooperatively free from the domination of their own products. Voluntary association is actually on the increase, not decline. At the same time, within capitalist enterprises, rather than being directed like puppets, workers are being obliged, in the interests of capital, to organise their own labour. In conclusion therefore, the world has not seen a proletariat revolution, like that described by Karl Marx. There have been occasions where small-scale Marxist revolutions have taken place but not to the global extent that Marx described. Often Marx's analysis is criticised. The major criticisms centre on the changing structure of western society that has eliminated the proletariat (Dahrendorf, 1969). Other arguments include the belief that citizenship has given workers less need to partake in a revolution and that Marx underestimated what it would take to organise the proletariat into a single organised group. It may be that Marx's predictions were wrong in timing rather than in substance. Perhaps a catastrophic collapse of capitalism lies somewhere in the future. Yet if it were as sinister and inflexible an order as it seemed to Marx at the time, it could scarcely have yielded all the benefits that have been extracted from it during the past century. However, Marx's analysis is highly regarded by many scholars, even if they do not agree with his every word. Some people have even suggested that, in modern times, Marx's work is still valid, most notably applied to the underclass in western societies and the poverty stricken workers from developing countries, where exploitation is still very much in existence, due to the growth of capitalism. ...read more.

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