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Summary A exploits B when A takes advantage of B in a certain kind of way. Usually, exploitation is held to involve taking unfair advantage. But this raises numerous questions about how, precisely, unfairness should be understood, and about what sort of moral implications a finding of unfairness generates. What procedures or substantive outcomes render a transaction between A and B unfair? Can an interaction between A and B be exploitative because of the unjust ways in which C has treated B, or are such third-party actions irrelevant? Does exploitation violate rights? Should it be legally prohibited? Are activities like organ sales, sweatshop labor, price gouging, and payday loans exploitative? And if so, what follows?
Key works Prior to the late 1980s, most philosophical work on exploitation focused on Karl Marx's influential theory of the exploitation of workers under capitalism - see, e.g., Cohen 1979, Arneson 1981, Roemer 1985. In the mid-1990s, Alan Wertheimer's important book, Exploitation, helped to bring interest and attention to the concept as a important moral concept not necessarily tied to Marx's particular framework. Rival theoretical accounts have been proposed by Wood 1995, Sample 2003 and Steiner 1984. Much of the literature on exploitation has developed in the context of the analysis of particular moral problems, such as sweatshops, a basic income, and clinical research on vulnerable populations.
Introductions Alan Wertheimer's entry on exploitation at the Stanford Encyclopedia provides a helpful overview of the topic. His 1996 book, and Ruth Sample's later book, also provide good, highly readable introductions.
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  1. Lawrence A. Alexander (1983). Zimmerman on Coercive Wage Offers. Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (2):160-164.
  2. David Archard (1994). Exploited Consent. Journal of Social Philosophy 25 (3):92--101.
    The article considers whether a professional's sexual relations with a client are wrong, even if the client's consent is not coerced, incapacitated or manipulated, the impartial conduct of professional affairs is not interfered with, and there are no damaged third parties. It argues that consent may be ``exploited'' if it is forthcoming only due to the occupancy of respective positions within an unequal relationship whose scope excludes such intimacy. The article explains the use of the term, exploited', and exposes those (...)
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  3. Richard Arneson (2013). Exploitation and Outcome. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (4):392-412.
    Exploitation is interacting with another in a way that takes unfair advantage of that person. Exploitation is thought to be morally wrong even when it would bring about the best attainable outcome, hence conflicts with the consequentialist morality that holds one ought always to do whatever would bring about the best outcome. This essay aims to reconcile norms against exploitation and act consequentialism. A puzzle about exploitation is raised and resolved.
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  4. Richard J. Arneson (2013). International Clinical Trials Are Not Inherently Exploitative. In Arthur L. Caplan & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Bioethics. John Wiley & Sons. 25--485.
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  5. Richard J. Arneson (2001). Exploitation. Alan Wertheimer. Mind 110 (439):888-891.
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  6. Richard J. Arneson (1981). What's Wrong with Exploitation? Ethics 91 (2):202-227.
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  7. Denis G. Arnold (2003). Exploitation and the Sweatshop Quandary. Business Ethics Quarterly 13 (2):243-256.
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  8. Denis G. Arnold & Norman E. Bowie (2003). Sweatshops and Respect for Persons. Business Ethics Quarterly 13 (2):221-242.
    This article applies the Kantian doctrine of respect for persons to the problem of sweatshops. We argue that multinational enterprises are properly regarded as responsible for the practices of their subcontractors and suppliers. We then argue that multinational enterprises have the following duties in their offshore manufacturing facilities: to ensure that local labor laws are followed; to refrain from coercion; to meet minimum safety standards; and to provide a living wage for employees. Finally, we consider and reply to the objection (...)
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  9. N. Scott Arnold (1992). Equality and Exploitation in the Market Socialist Community. Social Philosophy and Policy 9 (01):1-.
  10. Richard E. Ashcroft (2001). Money, Consent, and Exploitation in Research. American Journal of Bioethics 1 (2):62-63.
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  11. Daniel Attas (2000). The Case of Guest Workers: Exploitation, Citizenship and Economic Rights. Res Publica 6 (1):73--92.
    Working from a ``capitalist'''' theory of exploitation, based on a neo-classical account of economic value, I argue that guest workers are exploited. It may be objected, however, that since they are not citizens, any inequality that stems from their status as non-citizens is morally unobjectionable. Although host countries are under no moral obligation to admit guest workers as citizens, thereare independent reasons that call for the extension of economicrights – the freedom of occupation in particular – to guestworkers. Since the (...)
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  12. Christiane Bailey (2013). Zoopolis. A Political Renewal of Animal Rights Theories. Dialogue:1-13.
    Book Panel on Zoopolis including articles by Clare Palmer, Dinesh Wadiwel and Laura Janara and a reply by Donaldson and Kymlicka.
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  13. Angela Ballantyne (2014). Exploitation in Cross-Border Reproductive Care. International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 7 (2):75-99.
    This paper will focus on a subcategory of cross-border reproductive care—commercial contracts for the sale of reproductive goods and services. In these cases, the women are paid a fee (not simply compensation or reimbursement) for their reproductive goods and services (Wilkinson 2003). Such contracts have generated widespread concern about exploitation. Yet the term exploitation is used variably in the literature and conflated with concerns about harm, commodification, lack of autonomy of sellers, unjust conditions of poverty, and invalid consent. It is (...)
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  14. Angela Ballantyne (2008). Benefits to Research Subjects in International Trials: Do They Reduce Exploitation or Increase Undue Inducement? Developing World Bioethics 8 (3):178-191.
    There is an alleged tension between undue inducement and exploitation in research trials. This paper considers claims that increasing the benefits to research subjects enrolled in international, externally-sponsored clinical trials should be avoided on the grounds that it may result in the undue inducement of research subjects. This article contributes to the debate about exploitation versus undue inducement by introducing an analysis of the available empirical research into research participants' motivations and the influence of payments on research subjects' behaviour and (...)
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  15. Angela Ballantyne (2008). 'Fair Benefits' Accounts of Exploitation Require a Normative Principle of Fairness: Response to Gbadegesin and Wendler, and Emanuel Et Al. Bioethics 22 (4):239–244.
    In 2004 Emanuel et al. published an influential account of exploitation in international research, which has become known as the 'fair benefits account'. In this paper I argue that the thin definition of fairness presented by Emanuel et al, and subsequently endorsed by Gbadegesin and Wendler, does not provide a notion of fairness that is adequately robust to support a fair benefits account of exploitation. The authors present a procedural notion of fairness – the fair distribution of the benefits of (...)
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  16. Angela Ballantyne (2006). Under What Conditions is Clinical Research in Developing Countries Exploitative? A Framework for Assessing Exploitation in Mutually Advantageous Transactions. Advances in Bioethics 9:209-244.
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  17. L. Barclay (2008). Exploitation and Double Standards in Research in Developed Countries. Monash Bioethics Review 27 (4):37.
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  18. Tom L. Beauchamp (2009). The Exploitation of the Economically Disadvantaged in Pharmaceutical Research. In Denis Gordon Arnold (ed.), Ethics and the Business of Biomedicine. Cambridge University Press. 83.
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  19. Solomon R. Benatar (2000). Avoiding Exploitation in Clinical Research. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 9 (4):562-565.
    Clinical research has become a burgeoning activity in recent years, largely stimulated by the pharmaceutical industry's interest in new drugs with high marketing profiles. Several other forces fuel this thrust: the increasing dependence of academic medical institutions on research funding from industry; the need for large, efficient multicenter trials to obtain reliable and statistically significant results in the shortest possible time for drug registration purposes; and access to research subjects in countries. The intense interest in HIV/AIDS research and recent controversies (...)
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  20. Christopher Bertram (2009). Exploitation and Future Generations. In Axel Gosseries & Lukas H. Meyer (eds.), Intergenerational Justice. Oup Oxford.
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  21. Hazel Biggs (2005). Book Review: S. Wilkinson, Bodies for Sale: Ethics and Exploitation in the Human Body Trade. Routledge, 2003, 264 Pp., £17.99, ISBN 0-203-48072-4. [REVIEW] Feminist Legal Studies 13 (2):263-264.
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  22. R. Bigwood (1996). Undue Influence: 'Impaired Consent' or 'Wicked Exploitation'? Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 16 (3):503-516.
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  23. Rick Bigwood (2005). Contracts by Unfair Advantage: From Exploitation to Transactional Neglect. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 25 (1):65-96.
    This article aims to effectuate a paradigm shift in the way we view cases involving pure advantage-taking in contract formation. By ‘pure advantage-taking’ it is meant that D in some sense took ‘unfair advantage of’ a special bargaining weakness or vulnerability that D found ‘ready-made’ in P: D neither caused P’s relevant weakness or vulnerability nor otherwise was legally responsible for relieving it.Certain undue influence and unconscionable dealing cases (for example) fit this scenario perfectly, yet senior Commonwealth courts consistently assert (...)
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  24. Stefan Bogaerts (2004). Review of Bodies for Sale: Ethics and Exploitation in the Human Body Trade. [REVIEW] Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 7 (3):348-349.
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  25. Friedel Bolle (2001). Why to Buy Your Darling Flowers: On Cooperation and Exploitation. Theory and Decision 50 (1):1--28.
    Trusting in someone's cooperation is often connected with the danger of being exploited. So it is important that signals are exchanged which make it probable enough that the potential partner is reliable. Such signals must be too expensive for partners who are planning to abuse the trust they are given but cheap enough for those who wish to initiate a long-term cooperation. In a game theoretical model, it is shown that such signals could consist of presents given before the partnership (...)
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  26. Eileen Boris (1987). The Exploitation of Industrial Workers in Their Homes. Business and Society Review 62:27-30.
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  27. Jeffrey R. Botkin (2003). Preventing Exploitation in Pediatric Research. American Journal of Bioethics 3 (4):31-32.
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  28. Mark L. Bourgeois (2012). Autonomy and Exploitation in Clinical Research: What the Proposed Surfaxin Trial Can Teach Us About Consent. Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine 3 (1-3):51-56.
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  29. M. Brazier (2008). Exploitation and Enrighment: The Paradox of Medical Experimentation. Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (3):180--183.
    Modern medicine is built on a long history of medical experimentation. Experiments in the past often exploited more vulnerable patients. Questionable ethics litter the history of medicine. Without such experiments, however, millions of lives would be forfeited. This paper asks whether all the ``unethical'' experiments of the past were unjustifiable, and do we still exploit the poorer members of the community today? It concludes by wondering if Harris is right in his advocacy of a moral duty to participate in medical (...)
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  30. Harry Brighouse (2000). Alan Wertheimer, Exploitation:Exploitation. Ethics 110 (2):448-450.
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  31. Reviewed by Harry Brighouse (2000). Alan Wertheimer, Exploitation. Ethics 110 (2).
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  32. D. H. M. Brooks (1987). Dogs and Slaves: Genetics, Exploitation and Morality. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 88:31 - 64.
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  33. Hugh Browton (2005). Book Review: Bodies for Sale: Ethics and Exploitation in the Human Body Trade. [REVIEW] Journal of Moral Philosophy 2 (1):114-115.
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  34. Allen Buchanan (1979). Exploitation, Alienation, and Injustice. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):121 - 139.
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  35. Vittorio Bufacchi (2002). The Injustice of Exploitation. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 5 (1):1-15.
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  36. K. G. Butler (1985). Footbinding, Exploitation and Wrongfulness: A Non-Marxist Conception. Diogenes 33 (131):57-73.
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  37. N. Buttle (1991). Prostitutes, Workers and Kidneys: Brecher on the Kidney Trade. Journal of Medical Ethics 17 (2):97-98.
    Brecher argues that the practices of selling blood and kidneys are akin to the practices of prostitution and wage-labour since they all involve commodification and, by implication, should be subject to legal prohibition. I suggest that these practices need not involve commodification and that they should only be condemned if people are forced into them because of their lack of power. Rather than these practices being prohibited, I suggest that it would be preferable if they were subject to state regulation (...)
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  38. G. Calder (2005). Bodies for Sale: Ethics and Exploitation in the Human Body Trade. Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (7):e8-e8.
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  39. Anna Carline (2012). Of Frames, Cons and Affects: Constructing and Responding to Prostitution and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. [REVIEW] Feminist Legal Studies 20 (3):207-225.
    This article provides a critical analysis of the manner in which prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation was ‘framed’ by official discourses in order to support the reforms in England and Wales contained within the Policing and Crime Act 2009. Drawing upon the recent work of Judith Butler, emphasis will be placed on how the schema of the vulnerable prostitute was fundamental to invoking emotional affects, which justified certain political effects, especially the move towards criminalising the purchase (...)
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  40. Alan Carter (1992). "Institutional Exploitation'and Workers'co-Operatives -or How the British Left Persist in Getting Their Concepts Wrong. Heythrop Journal 33 (4):426–433.
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  41. Alan Carter (1989). 'Self-Exploitation' and Workers' Co-Operatives—or How the British Left Get Their Concepts Wrong. Journal of Applied Philosophy 6 (2):195-200.
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  42. Leonardo D. De Castro (1995). Exploitation in the Use of Human Subjects for Medical Experimentation: A Re-Examination of Basic Issues. Bioethics 9 (3):259-268.
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  43. Gary Chartier (2008). Sweatshops, Labor Rights, and Comparative Advantage. Oregon Review of International Law 10 (1):149--188.
    A normatively appropriate response to the exploitation of sweatshop labor in developing countries should center on labor rights. Satisfactorily secured labor rights will help workers to craft adequate compensation packages and workplace standards that keep them safe while allowing them to compete effectively in the global marketplace. Labor rights provide a more flexible and economically reasonable alternative to trade barriers as sources of protection for workers.
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  44. Mark J. Cherry (2000). Is a Market in Human Organs Necessarily Exploitative? Public Affairs Quarterly 14 (4):337--360.
    Creation of for-profit markets in organs for transplantation ignites in many deep moral repugnance. Proposals to broker organs have been denounced by the US Congress and professional groups alike. Financial incentives are believed to undermine consent, coercing the poor into selling their organs, violating human dignity, and improperly commodifying the human body; such concerns are held to trump the possibility of increasing life-sustaining transplants. While such views summarize the apparent global consensus which marks worldwide prohibition of the sale of human (...)
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  45. Thomas Christiano (2013). Introduction to Symposium on Exploitation. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (4):333-334.
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  46. Eric Chwang (2010). Against Risk-Benefit Review of Prisoner Research. Bioethics 24 (1):14-22.
    The 2006 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, 'Ethical Considerations for Research Involving Prisoners', recommended five main changes to current US Common Rule regulations on prisoner research. Their third recommendation was to shift from a category-based to a risk-benefit approach to research review, similar to current guidelines on pediatric research. However, prisoners are not children, so risk-benefit constraints on prisoner research must be justified in a different way from those on pediatric research. In this paper I argue that additional risk-benefit constraints (...)
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  47. Mathew Coakley & Michael Kates (2013). The Ethical and Economic Case for Sweatshop Regulation. Journal of Business Ethics 117 (3):553-558.
    Three types of objections have been raised against sweatshops. According to their critics, sweatshops are (1) exploitative, (2) coercive, and (3) harmful to workers. In “The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment,” Powell and Zwolinski critique all three objections and thereby offer what is arguably the most powerful defense of sweatshops in the philosophical literature to date. This article demonstrates that, whether or not unregulated sweatshops are exploitative or coercive, they are, pace Powell and Zwolinski, harmful (...)
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  48. G. A. Cohen (1983). More on Exploitation and the Labour Theory of Value. Inquiry 26 (3):309 – 331.
    In ?The Labour Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation? I distinguished between two ways in which the labour theory of value is formulated, both of which are common. In the popular formulation, the amount of value a commodity has depends on how much labour was spent producing it. In the strict formulation, which is so called because it formulates the labour theory of value proper, the amount of value a commodity has depends on nothing about its history but (...)
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  49. G. A. Cohen (1979). The Labor Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation. Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (4):338-360.
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  50. J. Angelo Corlett (2013). Economic Exploitation in Intercollegiate Athletics. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 7 (3):295 - 312.
    This paper investigates philosophically the question of whether or not college and university athletes in the USA are doing something morally wrong should they terminate their college or university experience prior to graduation and enter the professional athletic ranks. Various moral arguments are brought to bear in order to attempt to shed light on this issue. One reason why such athletes ?turn professional? before they graduate is the perceived economic exploitation they experience as essentially underpaid workers earning much revenue for (...)
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