Exploitation and the Matter of History

  • Robert WachbroitEmail author
Part of the Research Ethics Forum book series (REFF, volume 5)


Despite the serious attention that has been given to understanding exploitation in health research, no consensus has emerged regarding its meaning or its moral force. Part of the explanation for this rests on what commentators take as a paradigm of exploitation. For many, that paradigm is the sweatshop. While this picture of exploitation certainly captures many cases we would recognize as exploitation, the picture is different from what others might have considered the paradigm of exploitation many years ago — the colonialist. The salient differences between these paradigms are that, according to the sweatshop paradigm, (1) history is not relevant to identifying exploitation and (2) exploitation is straightforwardly remedied by simply increasing the employees’ wages and perhaps improving their working conditions. The colonialist paradigm is more complicated. Not only does it depend upon history, a simple redistribution of wealth might not be considered an adequate or appropriate remedy. These differences can affect our understanding and response to cases of exploitation in health research.


Exploitation Colonialism Brain drain Vulnerability 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA

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