Exploitation and Power Dynamics

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Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by GF on Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:55 pm

We are all aware of the economic exploitation that occurs between bourgeoisie and proletariat, but what about other forms of exploitation, i.e., how else is power used in capitalist society to exploit and take advantage? What do the different forms stem from, and how are they related?

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by Altair on Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:49 pm

GF wrote:We are all aware of the economic exploitation that occurs between bourgeoisie and proletariat, but what about other forms of exploitation, i.e., how else is power used in capitalist society to exploit and take advantage? What do the different forms stem from, and how are they related?

The state is the instrument through which this exploitation is reinforced. Police, as an example, are tools of the state which enforce policy that guarantees the success of capitalist society. Lenin said the state is “an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another.” This means that armed and powerful groups such as the police and army, along with the laws that give them their validation, are necessary to enforce this oppression.

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by GF on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:32 pm

Altair wrote:The state is the instrument through which this exploitation is reinforced. Police, as an example, are tools of the state which enforce policy that guarantees the success of capitalist society. Lenin said the state is “an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another.” This means that armed and powerful groups such as the police and army, along with the laws that give them their validation, are necessary to enforce this oppression.

This leads to another question. Can the state exist without exploitation?

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by Red Aegis on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:55 pm

You could looks at sexism, racism, and things like that if you want to get more perspective.

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by GF on Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:24 pm

Red Aegis wrote:You could looks at sexism, racism, and things like that if you want to get more perspective.

Definitely, I'm mainly interested in how they are interrelated, as well as how they're all related to the primary form of exploitation Socialists want to do away with, i.e., economic.

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by Celtiberian on Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:37 pm

GF wrote:This leads to another question. Can the state exist without exploitation?

It depends on what one means by the term "state." In the Marxist tradition the state is generally understood as the institutional arrangement which ensures that class exploitation continues unobstructed. Hence, since its raison d'être is exploitation, the abolition of class society necessarily entails the abolition of the state.

Liberal political philosophers use the word 'state' synonymously with 'government,' and it should be understood that Marx did not suggest that government would be rendered anachronistic with the ascent of communism. Terry Eagleton explains the distinction as follows:

"What Marx hoped would wither away in communist society was not the state in the sense of a central administration. Any complex modern culture would require this. In fact, Marx writes in the third volume of Capital, with this point in mind, of 'common activities arising from the nature of all communities.' The state as an administrative body would live on. It is the state as an instrument of violence that Marx hopes to see the back of. As he puts it in the Communist Manifesto, public power under communism would lose its political character. Against the anarchists of his day, Marx insists that only in this sense would the state vanish from view. What had to go was a particular kind of power, one that underpinned the rule of a dominant social class over the rest of society. National parks and driving test centres would remain. . . . [P]olice, law courts, prisons [and] even paramilitary squads [are indispensable]. The latter, for example, might prove necessary if a gang of terrorists armed with chemical or nuclear weapons was on the loose, and the more tender-minded species of left-winger had better acknowledge the fact."
Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right (London: Yale University Press, 2011), pp. 196-198.

To answer your initial question, there is a tendency on the Left to reduce all forms of oppression to the substructure of society, and I consider this reductionist approach to be mistaken. Sexism and racism, for example, could probably be culturally sustained even within an egalitarian society. Capitalism obviously exacerbates these phenomena, but I believe that social movements to redress those injustices will likely be needed well after class society has been transcended.

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by Rev Scare on Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:07 pm

I will take "exploitation" to refer to the Marxian sense, as other definitions tend to be vague and incongruous.

Women have historically faced exploitation within the home, as the traditional household was a feudal arrangement in which the husband would appropriate the surplus labor of the wife. Unfortunately, this has been erroneously taken by some on the Left to mean that marriage itself is the problem rather than the exploitative class structure.

It is possible to argue that certain racial groups, particularly blacks, were exploited as part of constituting membership within an oppressed group, as the race itself was the basis for the system of exploitation. Slavery in the South was the most obvious example.

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Re: Exploitation and Power Dynamics

Post by Uberak on Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:13 pm

I don't really refer to all systems of oppression and hierarchy as exploitation. I prefer to use the term to refer to the capitalist system of wage labor and hierarchical corporate management.

I personally believe that capitalism is merely an economic system, and we need to also evaluate the government that exists in our society, both it's restrictions and structure.

Of course, I see the role that culture plays on society, and we need to create a cultural movement that would marginalize the oppressive, anti-intellectual, consumerist, and cosmopolitan aspects of our culture.

While the three different spheres of our society complement and work with each other, they are still separate and independent of one another, and we need to make sure that we do not adopt reductionist methods in our observations.
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