The visualization that most of us perceive when we hear the term exploitation is that of a child laborer from the turn of the century, slaving in a factory, barely large enough to operate the machinery. The Marxist concept of exploitation rests on the assumption that since businesses essentially coerce employees, they simultaneously exploit the employees. The logic being that, since the employees have little to no choice in the matter, the results will be against the interest of the employees and unfairly tipped in the balance of the employers. In order to buy this you must believe that: A) Workers and Employers have fundamentally irreconcilable differences as far as their goals are concerned, B) That workers have no choice in the matter and are therefore doomed to exploitation and unfair distribution that is against their desires and interests. Both these fundamental assumptions that must exist in order to rationalize the proof of the notion, that all workers are exploited, are false. Since these points have much commonality, we can attack them simultaneously.
A business exists to turn a profit, in other words, to make money. A worker works to make money. Therefore, you can essentially equate these two motives as being one and the same. A worker makes money by generating surplus value to their employer. Therefore, in a business, workers and employers must operate in a symbiosis, a partnership intended to generate mutually agreeable financial success. The operative term is mutually agreeable. The consent requisite in a transaction between a worker and a business repudiates the notion of any level of coercion or unfair agreement. If a business does not provide terms that the employee thinks are fair, the business has no right to the labor of the employee, and cannot force the employee to work. Although, a Marxist will tell you, there must be a class struggle. After all, without a job, in a capitalist system, a worker will starve. Surely that is tantamount to coercion. This fails to understand that businesses themselves have to have workers to eat. In this sense, I would posit, that, in a capitalist system, the servant is simultaneously the master. The employees can exert authority and have bargaining power with the employer. The employer is forced to form a contractual obligation that is suitable to the needs of the workers. If they don’t satisfy reasonable conditions, someone else will. When someone else does, those who don’t go out of business. When the workers have the power to negotiate with and exert authority over the employer, you cannot say they are exploited.
That which is most germane to the debate on exploitation is, the question of class mobility. Marxists love to categorize people as socially constructed automatons. They characterize the proletarians as creatures devoid of all their genuine human joys as a result of their oppression within the rigid and immovable social structure imposed by a capitalist society. In other words, they want you to look at things as an issue of class struggle. If you look at it from this perspective, a perspective in which all people are forced to remain in the confines of a class, then you still may be persuaded to believe the proletarians have a bad wrap and are exploited. There is a famous Marxist assertion that, people are born with an innate class based mindset based on their economic condition. However, this analysis and illustration of class structure could not be further from the truth. 86% of American millionaires and more than two thirds of American billionaires are self made. Li Ka Shing, of Hong Kong, is a prime example of upward mobility in a capitalist system. Born the son of a chinese teacher in 1928, he is now worth some 34 billion dollars. These examples constitute a refutation of the archaic marxist model of class fixation. I would posit that the aforementioned refutation is the most valuable in the broader refutation of the concept of exploitation. A person endowed with the liberty to start his own business and march to the beat of his own drum, cannot be categorized as an economically exploited individual. That is where the Marxist principle falls apart. That is where it cannot stand up to the real facts. The real facts that people are not defined by a class. The fact that people who are currently workers can become the owners. The fact that people are not forced into an impermeable bubble of economic depravity. The simple fact that you can start a business and take absolute control of your economic future, means you cannot be categorized as an economically oppressed, exploited, and enslaved individual.