Capitalism is the Systematic Exploitation of Labor


In actuality, capitalism is still basically capitalism — and this explains the emergence of the purely superstructural readings of capitalism as a discursive regime held in place by fixed ideas — because of the basic expropriation of labor power from wage workers. All anticapitalist theories that foresee social change being brought about without the abolition of exploitation in the base are in fact sentimental morality tales masquerading as critiques of capitalism (which is what makes “emotional labor” so useful as the imag(in)ed social relations of global melodrama). Capitalism, as classical Marxism explains, is the global mode of social production in which labor has been transformed into a commodity by the total separation of the worker from the means of production. The result of this global expropriation is the class binary (that taboo term of mainstream theory) between exploiters and exploited because it forces those who have only their labor-power to sell to work for those who own the means of production and to produce profit for them or else starve. It is this systematic exploitation of labor that makes capitalism capitalism, not its maintenance of oppressive regimes of labor outside the logic of capital.

STEPHEN TUMINO, Cultural Theory After the Contemporary