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Chapter 2 - The Conditions of Exploitation in Political Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2021

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Summary

The understanding of labour exploitation in international and regional law in subsequent chapters will illustrate the international community's engagement with the prohibition of the most egregious forms of human exploitation and affirms Allain's assertion that ‘labour exploitation is hardly a novel phenomenon.’ However, as we will see, a number of conceptual difficulties exist that are detrimental to legal certainty and demonstrate that the legal clarification of exploitation in both law and policy remains a necessary task. To this end, in this chapter, a preliminary identification of the necessary and sufficient conditions of exploitation from the theoretical analysis is presented. The findings of the theoretical analysis are used to categorise three different stages of the exploitation process: background, procedural and substantive. The following five conditions have emerged from the theoretical analysis and constitute the building blocks of exploitation: (i) a position of inequality; (ii) an imbalance of bargaining power; (iii) taking unfair advantage, (iv) the irrelevance of consent; (v) a detrimental yet (mutually) beneficial outcome. Crucially, we will see that the conditions of exploitation are interrelated and, their presence in isolation, will not amount to exploitation. A tolerance of exploitation will be introduced as a caveat to the conditions of exploitation, and will be an issue of importance in the legal analysis where any understanding of exploitation also requires a clear intervention strategy i.e., even if exploitation does exist, to what extent should we intervene?

A POSITION OF INEQUALITY

The typology of exploitation theories revealed the presence of both ex ante and ex post inequalities. In the first instance our attention goes to the ex ante position of inequality. Political theorists demonstrate that sources of inequality are often derived from a number of unjust background conditions that can arise from both structural injustices or personal features: as illustrated by Marx's unequal distribution of assets, Roemer's unequal initial distribution of the means of production, Synder and Mayer's lack of the means of subsistence and Zwolinski's lack of an alternative.

The weight afforded to structural inequalities as opposed to personal inequalities has been subject to varying interpretations.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2021

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