The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Rate of Exploitation

  • Fabio Petri
Reference work entry


According to Karl Marx, the proletariat, i.e. wage labourers, is exploited by the capitalists: behind the apparent freedom and equality of the partners in the wage contract, Marx sees a power inequality which results in the workers being exploited by the capitalists in the same sense in which the serfs were exploited by their feudal landlords, or slaves by their masters. The capitalists are able to compel the workers to produce a surplus product, which they appropriate as profits, not by virtue of any productive contribution of theirs, but simply owing to their superior bargaining position vis-à-vis the workers, deriving from their collective monopoly of the means of production. Much the same (although without using the term ‘exploitation’) had already been said by Adam Smith, who also anticipated Marx on the importance of the repressive state apparatus’s support for the institution of private property.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabio Petri
    • 1
  1. 1.