About this topic
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. Benjamin Adams (2013). Mortgagee's Power of Sale [Book Review]. Ethos: Official Publication of the Law Society of the Australian Capital Territory 228:41.
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  2. Lawrence A. Alexander (1983). Zimmerman on Coercive Wage Offers. Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (2):160-164.
  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. Richard J. Arneson (2001). Exploitation. Alan Wertheimer. Mind 110 (439):888-891.
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  7. Richard J. Arneson (1981). What's Wrong with Exploitation? Ethics 91 (2):202-227.
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  8. Denis G. Arnold (2003). Exploitation and the Sweatshop Quandary. Business Ethics Quarterly 13 (2):243-256.
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  9. 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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  10. N. Scott Arnold (1992). Equality and Exploitation in the Market Socialist Community. Social Philosophy and Policy 9 (01):1-.
    Historically, critics of capitalism have had a great deal to say about the defects and social ills that afflict capitalist society and correspondingly little to say about how alternative institutional arrangements might solve these problems. One can only speculate about why this has been so. One reason might be a simple matter of priorities. Bertolt Brecht once said that when a man's house is on fire, one does not inquire too closely into alternative arrangements for shelter. The analogy between capitalism (...)
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  11. Coercion as Contextual (2007). Alan Wertheimer, From Coercion (1987). In Ian Carter, Matthew H. Kramer & Hillel Steiner (eds.), Freedom: A Philosophical Anthology. Blackwell Pub..
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  12. Richard E. Ashcroft (2001). Money, Consent, and Exploitation in Research. American Journal of Bioethics 1 (2):62-63.
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  13. 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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  14. Brenda Baker (2004). Alan Wertheimer, Consent to Sexual Relations. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 24:382-384.
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  15. Brenda M. Baker (2004). Alan Wertheimer, Consent to Sexual Relations Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 24 (5):382-384.
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  16. 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 for their reproductive goods and services . 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 also often assumed that exploitation should (...)
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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. 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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  20. L. Barclay (2008). Exploitation and Double Standards in Research in Developed Countries. Monash Bioethics Review 27 (4):37.
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  21. Michael Randall Barnes, Exploitation as a Path to Development: Sweatshop Labour, Micro-Unfairness, and the Non-Worseness Claim. Ethics and Economics.
    Sweatshop labour is sometimes defended from critics by arguments that stress the voluntariness of the worker’s choice, and the fact that sweatshops provide a source of income where no other similar source exists. The idea is if it is exploitation—as their opponents charge—it is mutually beneficial and consensual exploitation. This defence appeals to the non-worseness claim (NWC), which says that if exploitation is better for the exploited party than neglect, it cannot be seriously wrong. The NWC renders otherwise exploitative—and therefore (...)
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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. Christopher Bertram (2009). Exploitation and Future Generations. In Axel Gosseries & Lukas H. Meyer (eds.), Intergenerational Justice. Oup Oxford.
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  25. 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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  26. R. Bigwood (1996). Undue Influence: 'Impaired Consent' or 'Wicked Exploitation'? Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 16 (3):503-516.
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  27. 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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  28. Rick Bigwood (2003). Exploitative Contracts. Oxford University Press.
    In turn, the volume explains how an understanding of these contract law doctrines can be enhanced by a proper conception of exploitation.
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  29. Walter Block (2011). Reply to Hellmer on Sweatshops. Journal of Libertarian Studies 22 (1):719-739.
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  30. Walter Block & Hans Hoppe (2011). On Property and Exploitation. Nuova Civiltà Delle Macchine 29 (1/2):487-500.
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  31. Peter Boettke (1994). Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Freedom, Exploitation and Justice. [REVIEW] Reason Papers 19:175-180.
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  32. 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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  33. 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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  34. Eileen Boris (1987). The Exploitation of Industrial Workers in Their Homes. Business and Society Review 62:27-30.
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  35. Jeffrey R. Botkin (2003). Preventing Exploitation in Pediatric Research. American Journal of Bioethics 3 (4):31-32.
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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. Harry Brighouse (2000). Alan Wertheimer, Exploitation:Exploitation. Ethics 110 (2):448-450.
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  39. Reviewed by Harry Brighouse (2000). Alan Wertheimer, Exploitation. Ethics 110 (2).
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  40. D. H. M. Brooks (1987). Dogs and Slaves: Genetics, Exploitation and Morality. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 88:31 - 64.
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  41. 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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  42. Joseph Brunet-Jailly (forthcoming). The Ethics of Clinical Research in Developing Countries. IRB: Ethics & Human Research.
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  43. Allen Buchanan (1979). Exploitation, Alienation, and Injustice. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):121 - 139.
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  44. Vittorio Bufacchi (2002). The Injustice of Exploitation. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 5 (1):1-15.
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  45. Paul Burkett (1998). Marx’s Analysis of Capitalist Environmental Crisis. Nature, Society, and Thought 11 (1):17-52.
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  46. Keith Bustos (2009). Wrongful Exploitation and Terminator Technology. In Arn T. Danforth (ed.), Corn Crop Production: Growth, Fertilization and Yield. Nova.
    In an effort to restrict seed piracy, Monsanto intends to implement some variation of genetic use restriction technology (GURT). Regarding such intentions, many activist groups throughout the world (mainly in the US, Canada, and the UK) adamantly contend that Monsanto and possibly other multinational agrochemical corporations (MACs) will be acting immorally if GURTs, such as Terminator Technology (TT), are implemented in the global agricultural industry. These activists argue that the potential implementation of TT is immoral because it will grant Monsanto (...)
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  47. Keith Bustos (2005). Human Rights, Exploitation, and Genetic Use Restriction Technology: Sowing the Seeds of Reason in the Field of the Terminator Debate. Dissertation, University of Tennessee
    he current debate concerning genetically modified (GM) crops is primarily focused on the negative consequences that the production and consumption of GM foods could have on people and the environment. Adding to the list of concerns is the multinational agrochemical corporations' plan to implement GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) to prohibit the unauthorized use of certain genetically modified plant varieties. Several activist groups perceive the potential implementation of GURTs to be a threat to resource-poor farmers since this technology (which the (...)
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  48. K. G. Butler (1985). Footbinding, Exploitation and Wrongfulness: A Non-Marxist Conception. Diogenes 33 (131):57-73.
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  49. 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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  50. 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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