This article explores the theory of exploitation which Marx sets out in Capital. It argues that Marx assumes there that there are five modes of extraction of surplus value. These are associated with the following principles: 1. extended duration of the working day; 2. enhanced productivity (due to the introduction of new technology); 3. efficient organization of the process of production; 4. increased intensity of labour; and 5. depressed consumption of the labourer. The paper argues that Marx’s theory of exploitation is not as systematic as it could have been. For this reason it is ripe for a theoretical reconstruction.
The paper also discusses the views of recent commentators who have developed the idea of ‘super-exploitation,’ which is taken from Marx’s writings. There is a tendency in this literature to associate this notion with the principle of depressed consumption and to argue that it is especially relevant for understanding of what is happening in the societies of the Global South. Those concerned identify this as a third mode of extracting surplus-value, in addition to the principle of extended duration (absolute surplus value) and enhanced productivity (relative surplus value). The paper argues that this procedure overlooks certain aspects of Marx’s theory of exploitation, especially those having to do with the efficient organization or rational administration of labour within the process of production.
Burns, T. (in press). Marx’s Capital and the concept of super-exploitation. Capital and Class, https://doi.org/10.1177/03098168231199913