Exploitation and Efficiency

Elias L. Khalil
  • The Review of Black Political Economy, October 2017, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1007/s12114-017-9263-z

Why we cannot define exploitation and efficiency without first defining the boundary of the group

What is it about?

This paper advances a thesis about exploitation and its relation to efficiency that stands irrespective of specific theories of justice. This paper provides a minimal definition of exploitation: Group B is exploited by group A if the members of the group B would do on average better if certain discriminatory institutional hurdles or practices, controlled by group A, were removed. This paper then asks: can efficiency, i.e., improvement of wellbeing, act as the basis for the advocacy for the removal of such discriminatory institutional hurdles or practices? This paper provides a clear answer: efficiency cannot be the basis for the advocacy for the removal of such discriminatory institutional hurdles or practices. The reason is simple. To make arguments based on efficiency, one must refer to the wellbeing of the same society, i.e., the society whose boundary is well-defined. But given the definition of exploitation, we have two different societies: the exploiter and exploitee. Therefore, arguments from efficiency cannot justify anti-exploitation arguments.

Why is it important?

It provides a framework to the debate on including other people and animals in one's sphere or boundary of justice. Is the advocacy of inclusion based on self-interest and hence the expansion of boundary? or is it based on altruism?


Elias Khalil (Author)
Monash University

This paper is one paper among others that I have authored and continue to author on the broad issue of the determinants of the size of groups.

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The following have contributed to this page: Elias Khalil