“Marxian exploitation is the exploitation of people’s lack of understanding of economics.”
Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia
The impetus for this post was provided by two graduate students here at the University of North Florida, Doidos and Solta (not their real names). In conversation with Doidos and Solta, I was made aware that both were rather sympathetic to Marxist political philosophy. (In fact, on more than a few occasions, Solta even claimed to be a Marxist.) Despite their proclamations of capitalism’s “exploitative and oppressive structure” and their palatable antipathy toward the economic system that permits them the luxury of academic pursuit, it occurred to me that neither Doidos nor Solta knew a thing about Marxian economic theory. E.g., they could not for the life of them provide me with a coherent encapsulation of Marx’s conception of surplus-value, use-value, or exchange-value, all of which are necessary for his theory of exploitation. I could only conclude that, for them, “exploitation” and “oppressive” were indicative of a facon de parler rather than an understanding of a political-economic theory. Therefore, it is my hope that both Doidos and Solta read this post (though I am confident that neither will) and listen to the accompanying lecture. Even if they dismiss the critiques of Marx contain herein, perhaps they will learn a bit about their patron saint’s economic thought.