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Structural Exploitation

Matt Zwolinski

University of San Diego

December 15, 2011

Social Philosophy and Policy, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2012

It is commonly claimed that workers in sweatshops are wrongfully exploited by their employers. The economist’s standard response to this claim is to point out that sweatshops provide their workers with tremendous benefits, more than most workers elsewhere in the economy receive and more than most of those who complain about sweatshop exploitation provide. Perhaps, though, the wrongfulness of sweatshop exploitation is to be found not in the discrete interaction between a sweatshop and its employees, but in the unjust political and economic institutions against which that interaction takes place. This paper tries to assess what role, if any, consideration of background injustice should play in the correct understanding of exploitation. Its answer, in brief, is that it should play fairly little. Structural injustice matters, of course, but it does not typically matter for determining whether a sweatshop is acting exploitatively, and it does not typically matter in a way that grounds any kind of special moral responsibility or fault on the part of sweatshops or the MNEs (Multinational Enterprises) with which they contract.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Exploitation, Sweatshops, Social Responsibility

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Date posted: March 4, 2011 ; Last revised: December 15, 2011

Suggested Citation

Zwolinski, Matt, Structural Exploitation (December 15, 2011). Social Philosophy and Policy, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1773864

Contact Information

Matt Zwolinski (Contact Author)
University of San Diego ( email )
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-4094 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski
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