Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world


Feb 14
16:00 - 17:30
Regimes of Exploitation and Inequalities
SSPSSR Staff and Postgraduate Research Seminars
Professor Mark Harvey, University of Essex

Professor Mark Harvey established the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation at the University of Essex where he is now Emeritus Professor.

This seminar will give an overview of the main issues addressed in the book Inequality and Democratic Egalitarianism (Manchester University Press, 2018) which I co-authored with Norman Geras, sadly no longer with us. We ask: what are the processes that generate societal wealth inequalities, and how are these formed, socially, politically, legally and historically? Proceeding from a critique of Marx, we retain the idea that labour, in all its varieties and modalities (market, non-market, domestic) is the creative source of societal wealth. Developing a neo-Polanyian analysis of instituted configurations of production-exchange-distribution-consumption, I will focus on three main points. First, there is exploitation in historically and spatially instituted combinations of relations of production and exchange, not just in production (as in Marx) or market exchanges (Stiglitz) or through inheritance (Piketty). Exploitation of people as both consumers and workers is double-sided and pivots on the wage as both payments for labour and the means of purchasing goods. Relations of production and market exchange are characterised by linked asymmetries of economic power, legitimated by law and fiscal regimes, profoundly gendered and racialised. Second, capitalist political economies are multi-modal, and so too are its intersecting public-market inequalities, involving rights to public goods such as education, as much as to market goods. Finally, the evolving socio-political-economies of capitalism are viewed as historically open, hybridising, and heterogeneous. In this perspective, the development of industrial capitalism in the UK was a distinctive combination of slavery in its own colonies and the US Deep South, and 'free' wage labour in the metropolis, emerging slowly from domestic regimes of coercion. The industrial revolution drove not only the growth of wage labour but also a vast capitalist expansion of slavery – and its subsequent replacement by other forms of servitude. The legacies of those inequalities persist to this day. If we look at many of the commodities purchased today, they are the product of combined and heterogeneous regimes of exploitation.

Chair:  Dawn Lyon

No need to book


Seminar Room 2,
Cornwallis East
United Kingdom


Open to SSPSSR Staff and PGR students,


Contact: Eddy Hogg


Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 04/12/2014