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Earned Bachelor Degree from the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (Class of 2013) Major: Political Science Minor: Sociology ------------------- I am your typical nerd/geek/otaku. I like to ride my bike, read, write, and surf the internet. Otaku(noun)(おたく/オタク)- is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and/or video games.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blog Post #7 -- Chapter 10: What is Exploitation?

War & The Intellectuals: Collected Essays, 1915-1919 by Randolph S. Bourne
[Edited with an Introduction by Carl Resek]
Blog Started: November 26, 2011 8:03 p.m.



Featured: Inigo Montoya [The Princess Bride]
Please note: This image was added merely for a comedic and aesthetic effect. There is no direct correlation between the image and the actual context of this blog.


This passage describes a debate between the author and his "western friend who runs a prosperous stove factory" (pg. 134). Both men had differing views regarding the term "exploitation". Bourne himself believed that he had been a victim of exploitation. Randolph S. Bourne apparently had his first job cutting perforation in music paper for a musician (pg 136). He felt cheated when he discovered that his employer received 15 cents per every foot of paper that Bourne made. The musician also reduced Bourne's pay from 5 cents per piece to 4 and a half cents (pg. 136). Bourne felt that if his effort was worth five cents per foot while he was learning the craft, then he should be worth more, because he had mastered the basics (pg. 136). Thus, it was seen as a great injustice to him that he would have his value reduced. However, when he confronted his employer about this problem, his "master folded his arms" (presumably in contempt). Bourne did not have to work for him, but the lack of any other marketable skills caused him great fear. Bourne could have left as he saw fit (according to his capitalistic employer), but the position would then (most likely) be given to someone else for (perhaps) the same rate of pay. Thus he stayed. Bourne expands this concept to an industrial model and eventually one begins to see his position, especially with regard to the Mesaba pamphlet which he supports.

Bourne and his friend's testimony (as told in Bourne's words not those directly of his associate, making the credibility of the analogies stated questionable...especially considering Bourne's tendency to scornfully chastise any opinion not parallel to his own...) can be seen as drawing from personal experience with regards to exploitation (to which end, I myself believe that exploitation is just as subjective as "truth" is. I tend to quote Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) from the television series Lie to Me, who, when asked to "Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth..." replies that truth is subjective and that it passes through our own filtering system. Furthermore, Dr. Cal Lightman states that it was rare for the whole truth to ever actually be stated honestly in a courtroom. When applied to the concept of exploitation and the world as a "courtroom" one can see the similarities). There is somewhat of a bias on an individual level for this type of definition, whereas exploitation is perhaps more predominantly visible and undeniable from an abstract, observational standpoint.

I think that in Bourne's case, he WAS exploited, but can it truly be considered exploitation if he just acts as an enabler to the system by offering information to his friend to apply for a position himself? If anything, that's just perpetuating the cycle...
I feel as though people tend to believe that their effort is worthy of a value that is not proportionate to the actual product of that work. That's not to say that the work one does is not of ANY value or merit, however it can be seldom said that anyone would complete a service or deed out of the kindness of their hearts without any expectation of gratitude. There used to be a time where one would take on apprenticeships in the hopes that the skills gained would be used to allow that person to become self-sufficient. That skill was of more importance at the time than the profit that would be gained from it. Craftsmanship and attention to detail was the true gain back in the day. Now, for instance, internships have an expectation of monetary compensation.

I'm all for giving people the "benefit of the doubt" but it's just that people do not volunteer to work without some sort of compensation for their "valuable time & effort" (outside of learning a new skill or doing something selflessly for their fellow man). It's a sad world we live in where money talks louder than the need to be humble, kind, and sincere...

Bourne trusts power, his associate however trusts in one's rights. Where Bourne's companion recognizes the individual, Bourne recognizes classes (pg. 138).

1 comment:

  1. David,

    Some good observations here. I'm not sure the idea that exploitation is subjective gets us that far, though. In some cases it's objectively the case, no? (slavery) There are other gray areas. But you need to make your case with evidence, etc. Also, this is way too long.

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