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Exploitation, Human Nature, and Social Institutions

Jon Wisman ()

No 2018-03, Working Papers from American University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Exploitation exists where some gain advantage at others' expense. Its root force is found in human biology, the fact that as a socially-reproducing species, humans compete for mates and the exploitation of others can generate a competitive advantage. Social institutions direct and channel this competitiveness. Thus, during 97-98 percent of our species existence, competitiveness was not expressed by accumulating material wealth and political power, but by being good warriors and foragers, being cooperative, and being generous. However, with the rise of civilization and the state, elites gained ownership and control over the means of production, thereby subjugating all others and appropriating their surplus. Although violence stood behind this exploitation, ideology served as the principal political tool for its maintenance. It is the force of ideology that clarifies why, even with free speech, free press, free assembly, and the franchise, exploitation continues to exist.

Keywords: Inequality; ideology; Sexual selection; Economic Surplus (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B52 N00 N40 P00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hme and nep-pke
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