Marx on exploitation: A Kantian perspective

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Despite exhaustive discussion among scholars of Karl Marx, there remains significant disagreement regarding the best conception of capitalist exploitation. This article tries to move the debate forward by drawing on the ethical theory of Immanuel Kant. The aim is to give moralizing Marxists a foundation in Kantian ethics for the injustice of capitalist exploitation that they already instinctively believe in. As well as using the formula of the end in itself to develop a Kantian articulation of capitalist exploitation (which is in turn compared and contrasted with the three leading conceptions of capitalist exploitation found in Marx scholarship), the article also develops the idea of an antihierarchy philanthropist-capitalist—someone who is not yet motivated to move beyond basic capitalist institutions but who is nevertheless willing to listen to (and forgo some gains that do not benefit) his workers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360–381
Number of pages22
JournalRethinking Marxism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Marx; exploitation; Kant

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