Exploitation, Vulnerability, and Social Domination

Philosophy and Public Affairs, Forthcoming

22 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2012 Last revised: 13 Mar 2013

See all articles by Nicholas Vrousalis

Nicholas Vrousalis

Leiden University - Institute of Political Science

Date Written: March 12, 2013


This essay attempts to revive a research programme by criticizing it. Its object of criticism is the powerful research agenda of analytical Marxism. I shall attempt this revival by criticizing the views of two of the most influential members of that research programme, G. A. Cohen and John Roemer. I will argue that they are mistaken in their identification of exploitation with exchange against the background of injustice in the distribution of assets. Exploitation should be conceived, instead, as a form of domination, that is, domination for self-enrichment. The latter conception, I shall argue, captures intuitions surplus to the analytical Marxist view, accords better with Marx’s own critique of capitalism, provides a richer, and more plausible, understanding of socialist goals, is more amenable to integration into a rigorous Marxist social science, and brings Marxism closer to radical democracy. If I am right, then the idea of exploitation will have received a new lease of life, and the Marxist armoury will have been enriched by renewed focus on vulnerability and domination.

Keywords: exploitation, marxism, equality, G. A. Cohen, John Roemer

JEL Classification: B14, B24, E11, P16, P41

Suggested Citation

Vrousalis, Nicholas, Exploitation, Vulnerability, and Social Domination (March 12, 2013). Philosophy and Public Affairs, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2118772 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2118772

Nicholas Vrousalis (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Institute of Political Science ( email )

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
PO Box 9555
Leiden, 2300 RB

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