The Value of Exploitation

At the core of our societal structures, economic and political systems is exploitation.

Exploitation creates value in the most simplistic way by imposing a basic deficit model – I have, you do not.

Exploitation is systematic unfairness. It divides and separates people. It motivates the worst aspects of our human nature and utilises our innate ability to blinker, separate and abstract ourselves. It divorces us as individuals from what made us successful as a species the very idea of what is shared and common.

Value is created through exploitation which is then represented by “wealth”. Wealth is the abstracted concept of value and the process of having what others do not.

Money is the evolved representation of wealth. Before money wealth was tangible through physical manifestations such lands and treasure. Easily seen, easily coveted, easily taken. Money, in particular it’s digital form, abstracts wealth into something more pure and fitting of the modes and methods of current exploitation. Rather than simply act as a tool to simplify trade and exchange, money allows wealth to be accumulated in truly unimaginable amounts. Hidden and locked away as digits in a database its form is disguised – no longer an object easily identifiable, coveted or requiring armies to protect it. Wealth is removed from social constraints, removed from communities and removed from any need for redistribution.

The abstraction of wealth, and it’s associated value, into money allows exploitation to go on unfettered, unmonitored and mostly incomprehensible. How can you rebel against something you cannot imagine? How can you revolt against that which you cannot see? How can you reclaim that which isn’t tangible?

The current economic model of globalisation amplifies exploitation into a form that is trans and multinational. Exploitation can be systematised and localised – Asia becomes the hub to industrial exploitation, Australia and South America the environmental, North America and Europe is informational and economic while Africa is only pock-marked with points of exploitation due to its violent instability. Global exploitation is now almost complete – and for what? And for who?

The global disparity in wealth has never been higher. There is only an incredibly small number of humans on the planet actually benefiting form this global form of exploitation. As we charge into the Anthropocene leaving an indelible mark on the land, water and air around us – who benefits? As we poison the air, land and water shouldn’t we be asking why? As we destroy the planet piece by piece what do we gain as a people?

Capitalist ideology will simply attach value to something new – from land to industry, from industry to labour, from labour to information. Whenever a limit is reached you simply change the game, change the rules and move the goal posts.

Every equality is eroded.

Every commons is enclosed.

The value system that we’ve created has become so abstracted that people, the environment and the relationships we form are anomalies and impediments of the system. They are the dark areas, the externalities that affect the system but are not of it.

How did we develop a system that doesn’t recognise us or the ecosystem around us as part of it?

It has to change.

We need to move to a post-capital mindset. As an idea it is about finding and attaching value to something else – us. This is how you redistribute wealth. You assign value to each and every individual. The same value. In this way wealth is truly democratic and is untethered from the deficit model. Our footprint and ecosystem are not external to the notion of wealth, they become are part of it.

Can we effect this change now or will it emerge from the ruins? Will it require exploitation to reach its conclusion before we are ready to transform? How much needs to be exploited to the point it collapsed and is destroyed? What are we willing to lose in order to live appropriately? The forests? The oceans? The ice caps? The air we breathe?


POSTSCRIPT – After writing this post I listened to Can accountants save the planet? and Jane Gleeson-White discuss the idea of Six Capitals. It’s an interesting concept but there are some big caveats to this kind of approach. Monboit’s comment sums this up perfectly:

‘… everything will be fungible, nothing will be valued for its own sake, place and past and love and enchantment will have no meaning. The natural world will be reduced to a column of figures.’
– Guardian, 2014

I’m not sure if this is the right approach, but the singular model of financial capital has passed its use by date.

Image used https://flic.kr/p/owgD3y

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One thought on “The Value of Exploitation

  1. Reblogged this on Launch Port – The Open Door Business Blog and commented:
    There is an awful lot here that I totally disagree with and that to me obviously misses the point. But as a general observation on value, money, and especially the hidden and intangible nature of “modern money” I think the author made some brilliant observations.

    And I do not think that can continue, at least not in the current sense, because it is being constantly exposed by technology. On the other hand both technology and culture is allowing for the very opposite of what I said in the previous sentence, the “invisibility of immediate and perceptive value.” In a general sense.

    I also have nothing at all against exploitation, or manipulation. Both are merely methods, it depends entirely upon how you put them to use. Exploitation and manipulation by tyranny, and theft, and seizing of the property and money of others is equally bad whether this is done by a street thug, or a government in the guise of taxation.

    On the other hand the positive exploitation of your own talents, and of the talents of others, for some good end is entirely honorable and to be pursued at every opportunity if profits are shared equitably and fairly.

    And manipulation of yourself and of others in a Virtuous and self-disciplined manner, that is entirely noteworthy and good. That is to say you want to increase Virtue, just as you do profit, and every available opportunity. That’s exactly how you should be manipulating things.

    I know modern people love to think in either/or terms: them/us, wealthy/poor, have/have not, genius/stupid, and that terms like exploitation can only possibly mean, “bad, wrong, immoral, etc.”

    They’re propagandized to think that way. That’s why they have so much bad, wrong, immorality, poverty, etc. They can’t get past their models and their paradigms to what should be their real objectives – everyone prospering, everyone fully exploiting what is best about themselves and others (rather than just being consumed with exploiting for entirely malignant advantage), etc. etc.

    That is what cannot continue indefinitely.

    Then again look at human history. We’re pretty damned good at it… and we don’t much bother to explore any more profitable venues.

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