Summary: Marx argued that exploitation is a situation where capitalists extract surplus-value from the laborer, and do not therefore, pay the worker for the full value of their labor. The capitalist is able to do this because of their position of power over the worker, who must work for a wage in order to survive. For example, they can exploit workers by making them work longer than they are paid for. We see a contemporary (2008) example of exploitation in this video, created by undercover journalists for Australia's Channel 7 news team. Potential employees recruited in poor countries with promises of high-paying jobs were then trafficked into Myanmar, where they had their passports confiscated and were coerced into signing 3-year contracts in a language they didn’t understand. Unable to escape, they are paid $6/day to produce shoes that can cost $125 or more in industrialized nations. Workers are housed in sets of 350 a single dirty tin shed with one "trough" for bathing, only a few bathrooms--located directly adjacent to where they eat. The news clip also highlights the 2 faces of Nike: their "public face" of super-star athletes (e.g. Tiger Woods was paid $22 million/yr by Nike) and the "hidden misery" of workers that produce its products. Viewers can consider how Nike, which claims to be a socially responsible company, continues to exploit their workers. Is this situation unique to individual companies, or as Marx argues, is this a central component of capitalism? Can the viewer think of other corporations or industries where these practices are common?
Submitted: Janine Siatkowski and Jon Weiss