Affective Labour, Vulnerability, and Exploitation

Michael Giesbrecht 

This presentation will provide a two-fold critique of the Marxist notion of exploitation, asserting that it must account for vulnerability in affective labour for the subsequent theory to be adequate to the contemporary reality of capitalist exploitation.

In the first instance, I will follow Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s account of the hegemony of immaterial labour in post-industrial capitalist economies, affirming their dismissal of the classical Marxist theory of exploitation measured strictly by abstract labour time. Secondly, I will consider Nicolas Vrousalis’ assertion that relational vulnerability is a necessary condition for exploitation taken as whole-person exploitation. Against his circumscription of the salient forms of vulnerability as only those in the “basic structure” of society—i.e. economic relations rather than affective relations—I contend that, in the context of the hegemony of affective labour, whole-person exploitation necessarily implies an understanding of affective vulnerability.

Working Bibliography

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. Penguin Books. 2009.

Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Blackwell. 2009.

Vrousalis, Nicholas, “Exploitation, Vulnerability, and Social Domination.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 41.2 (2013), pp. 131-157.