Exploitation, Alienation and Oppression

Bakan, Abbie

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/07/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23346

Bakan discusses the varations of Marxism and proports that the best of the Marxist tradition resists orthodoxy. She considers the complexity and variation in the core concepts in Marx's work regarding inequality.




Much ink has been spilt regarding the politics of difference, inspired largely by the philosophical debates between what has come to be called generically "post-modernism" and Marxism. Anti-oppression theorists have embraced recognition of difference as a theoretical and methodological starting point, often seen as a corrective to a perceived economic reductionism associated with traditional Marxism.

While many Marxists might reject, dismiss or minimize such contributions, there are grounds to consider that there is a certain "politics of difference" in Marx’s work. The notion of difference, as it has been developed in contemporary debates, was not a category used by Marx but is implicitly integrated in the categories of human suffering identified in his work.

Many Marxists commonly focus on Marx's work on exploitation, which he developed most fully among his various abstract categories, regarding human suffering and capacities for resistance. But Marx also was considerably interested in other forms of inequality, and the related implications for human suffering, one of which is alienation.

Alienation is a fairly well-developed concept in Marx's work but receives less attention than exploitation, especially when we think about its implications to move from the abstract to the concrete, or issues of strategy.

Another concept regarding inequality, one that is the least developed in Marx's work but extremely important for Marxists today, is the category of oppression. In what follows, each of these concepts in Marx’s work is briefly considered.
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