Forced Labor and Free Enterprise on Sugar Plantations Created a Feudal and Capitalism Society Essay
Feudalism, a political and economic system that was practiced in Europe between the eighth and fifteenth century, was based on a relationship between the lords and their vassals. The vassals were protected and maintained by their lords through granting of fiefs (maintenance fee paid in return for services) and served under their lords in war.
Capitalism refers to private ownership system of all the physical non-human inputs of production such as factories, machines, and all the tools used in the production of wealth are operated for profit. Such an economic system owns all the means of production as well as the means of distribution.
In America and Europe, there was a great demand of slaves to provide forced labor that was useful in the large plantation farms that were owned by the lords. These demands led to the acquiring of stronger slaves from the African continent who could withstand the harsh weather conditions and work for longer hours on the plantations.
Slave came from different tribes and origins and the owners of the plantations used many ways to control their slaves. One of the ways was to choose one member of each tribe, feed, treat them well, and give them fewer responsibilities.
In turn, the leaders chosen ensured that the slave members of their tribes behaved well worked even harder and had a chance to earn some income. Moreover, slavery individuals swore allegiance to their social superiors who protected their interests. This resulted into a system of labor known as plantation complex.
The rise in market economics and the spread of agricultural labor slave resulted in more productivity from the plantations and acquiring of wealth. The plantation complex also enabled the owners to have overall control over the slaves and their labor, which resulted in the accumulation of wealth from sugar plantations.
The plantation owners used such vast wealth to buy their political and economic power and change the economic system to their advantage. The plantation complex had its master or planter who owned the land, the slaves, and the products produced. Such masters eventually controlled the means of production and distribution of products such as the factories and machines that aided production.
They sold their products to and had shares in large companies such as the East Indian Company that promoted its sugar. Moreover, the lords prevented peasants from obtaining surplus amounts of produce above their subsistent needs, as this was required to replenish the soil and improve its fertility.
The merchants accumulated wealth and they were viewed as capitalists who controlled all the means of production to their own advantage (McNally, 1988).
Exploitation of Caribbean Islands
The exploitation of the Caribbean islands was carried out by the western powers. It involved the extirpation (total extermination) of native population through war, disease, and maltreatment.
Those who were not killed were assimilated genetically by their conquerors, resulting into a westernized and modernized Caribbean because of the introduction of advanced forms of large-scale capitalistic agricultural practices (Mintz, 2007).
The American countries exhibited capitalism due to slave trade. The labor demand and the increased economic forces because of increased productivity called for more labor preferred from the slaves from African origin who were stronger and resistant to the harsh conditions in the agricultural plantations of the merchants.
In the West Africa, the British colonialism led to rise in the prosperity of peasant producer groups that retained freehold ownership of their land. This resulted into greater economic growth that made them enter into the world great currency trades because of the colonial powers’ national policies that favored them.
In the Australian society, the European colonial powers were conquerors; they created new western transplants because of a modern way of administration and development. Moreover, the Spaniards conquered large populations of the highland agriculturalists through decapitating of political structures of the villages and imposing their policies to other members.
Skilled and domestic slaves
In the plantations, there were the field hands who were slaves who would work long hours on plantation farms, they had no skills and they usually worked under an overseer. In addition, they received harsh treatment from the overseer whose main interest was to maximize the harvest.
Domestic slaves worked on the master’s homes (preparing meals, prepare for guests, tend the house, looking after the masters’ children) and they were considered part of the extended family. Skilled and domestic slaves were in constant contact with their masters, resulting into development of mutual bond between them and the families of their masters.
The bond between them and the children made their masters to provide them with better treatment and enjoyed the high status accorded to them by their masters, unlike the others on the plantation who were harshly and brutally treated by overseers who monitored the work for the owners.
Such overseers needed to impress their masters in terms of thorough work done on plantations by the slaves; hence, the overseers had to ensure that decent work was done on the plantations at any cost.
Slaves who had skills such as crafting, woodwork, art, and so on were treated differently because they would use such skills for the benefit of their masters in terms of maintaining the properties of the masters. Articles made by skilled slaves were used as decoration in their masters’ houses, and this motivated their masters to treat them with utmost fairness and hence they enjoyed the higher social status (Scully and Paton, 2005).
Social classes in plantation slave society
Five social classes existed in the slave society. The first class is the large plantation owners who were the elite group that had vast wealth and great influence to the government on matters such as taxes; they owned most of the slaves.
The second class involved the small slaveholders, who did not have quite a substantial number of slaves, and due to their economic limitation, they could easily be found dwelling in farmhouses, as well as working alongside the slaves.
The third class comprised of the independent white farmers who had a significant influence due to their enormous number. The forth class consisted of free blacks who were a product of a white and black parent and they were free because of the idealism of revolutionary days. They were treated harshly and never had a choice of occupation.
The fifth class consisted of the black slaves, which was the lowest class treated poorly by their masters who owned them, they were oppressed and subjected to hard labor. They were owned by both the plantation owners, small slaveholders, and the independent white farmers.
The large plantation owners depended on their black slaves who provided labor on their plantation farms. The slaves spent more hours working on the farms; planting, harvesting and transporting the produce to ensure that the produce met the owners’ expectations in terms of profits gained from the sale. The owners also had relationships with the women slaves who acted as their mistresses.
Moreover, the black slaves depended on their masters for food (daily rations), clothing (and shoes provided after a predefined time) and shelter. Those who worked for the plantation owners were treated fairly by their masters and obtained tips and favors for good work done. Indeed, the slaves provided market for the small slaveholders farm produce (Conlin, 2008).
Conlin, J. R. (2008). The American Past: A Survey of American History. OH: Cengage Learning.
McNally, D. (1988). Political economy and the rise of capitalism: a reinterpretation. London: University of California Press.
Mintz, W, S. (2007). Caribbean transformations. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.
Scully, P. and Paton, D. (2005). Gender and slave emancipation in the Atlantic world. NY: Duke University Press.
Capitalism: Exploitation of the Poor and Resource Monopoly Essay
Exploitation of the Poor
Most analysts on economic issues argue that capitalists extort the poor by exploiting them. These people argue that capitalism helps the rich men and women get more wealth at the expense of the poor, who gets poorer. This leadership style attributes to what most people would consider as classical economic prediction. In this theory most men and women with assets believe that income from land ownership and huge capital in big businesses would accrue; however other theorists believe that both land and capital fluctuates unpredictably.
Most defenders to capitalism would not agree to this objection because they believe capitalism presents equal opportunity to both the poor and the rich. Although land (renting rates) and capital in form of interest rates fluctuates, one observation is that they remain unchanged.
Defenders to capitalism would therefore attribute such fluctuations to uncontrollable forces within the marketplace, which are not easy to control under either capitalism or federal leadership style. Other defenders would use an example of power supply in a country.
In this example, if electric power becomes cheap and readily available to the entire population, capitalists argue that it is the poor that benefits the most as opposed to the rich community. This is because the rich would get pressure to pay flunkies for alternative services.
The above reply needs a critical evaluation to either agree or disagree to it. As much as one would agree that market fluctuations are beyond the control, it is still possible for a willing leadership to adopt effective measures that ensure a fair play in the market segment.
It is therefore not true that poor men or women would reap more benefits than the rich because most of the legislations in such environment favour the rich community. Therefore, this reply is not convincing because capitalism centres most of its legislations in favours of the rich, which exploits the poor.
Monopoly of resource is the second most serious objection on capitalism. This refers to an act in which a group of people within the top leadership holds and controls a large amount of resource. Although these resources are for the public use, those in leadership would keep the materials far from reaching out to the common citizens. The general public would not be in a position to have equal share of such resources because the few individuals on top leadership have the final decision on resource utilization.
Most defenders would convince those discrediting capitalism that effective strategy of replacing resource monopoly should not adopt another monopoly that is not responsive of market forces.
These people view capitalism as effective in responding to such forces, to them the leadership style experience constraints and challenges in which the only way of ensuring equitable utilization of resources is through implementation of capitalism. Other defenders believe capitalists have a major role of ensuring economy remains stable and steady over a given duration by checking economic forces. This is possible through controlled utilization of resources.
This defence is not as convincing as one would expect it to; resource monopolization puts the poorest people in a disadvantageous position because they do not have equal share in the national cake. As much as most businessmen would expect effective control of market forces for productive business environment, capitalism does not offer the best option because the negative effects outweighs the benefits.
US Economic Success: Rise of Capitalism Research Paper
America’s economic development can be traced over several centuries ago. Economic historians in the United States have established America’s development to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries during the period of intense colonization by the Europeans (Gilje 3). The earliest economic activity involved independent regions which were mostly engaged in farming.
These small regions in the North American continent came together to form a block in 1776 which later acquired the name, the United States of America(Headlee 12). This merger saw the region register a significant growth in their collective economy and the subsequent quest for political unity through constitution making in 1787.
For the over two centuries, the United Sates States of America has grown through ups and downs to its present industrialized economy which represents more than a quarter of the entire world’s collective economy (MacNally 10). The research paper seeks to provide an overview of America’s economy, particularly the free market. It will also focus on the rise of capitalism, especially through industrial development, government policies, and American values.
The Free Market Economy
It was in the late 18th century that the present North America began to experience the need for some political and economic freedom. This was also motivated by the urge to gain independence from the colonialist, England. The agitation was fueled by the then high taxation rates by English powers among other emerging issues (Rhodes 2).
Their demands for self-governance was furiously objected by the British and it only worsened the tension leading to the American Revolution in 1775 that saw fighting of all British masters and the ultimate independence of the then thirteen States of America (MacNally 210). The war could not end until eight years later when the tension eased out and the challenge for reconstruction emerged.
In 1787, the American constitution was adopted and it governed all the states as a union with a shared market where interstate trade was not to bear any taxes or any form of tariffs (Gilje 37). The constitution also established that the unified states would be ruled by the federal government.
The pioneer government leaders forged an economic formula for economic growth in the United States. The first ever secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed that economic progress would be achieved through the diversification of manufacturing, banking system, as well as shipping (Headlee 35). The new policies by Hamilton did last for about a decade despite the strong opposition from other government officials (MacNally 225).
Subsequent changes at the helm of political leadership had direct impact on economy following the changing and the introduction of new economic policies. Economic reforms since the 18th century through the 20th century have seen America undergo significant economic transformations (Rhodes 43). Most economists have proposed that the establishment of free market helped in the economic achievements.
Free market is defined by economists as a system where the buyers as well as the sellers are independently responsible for the choices they make as far as business is concerned (Rhodes 7). This implies that the government does not interfere with pricing of different commodities, but instead, the demand and supply of the commodity is left to determine the price. According to Rhodes, the beginning of free trade in the United States was during the time when it became a unified nation under one constitution in 1787 (8).
It was marked by the interstate trade with no tax or tariff imposition by the government. In a free trade, the government is expected to maintain the national law and order for business to thrive and also to shield the buyers from excessive pricing by the sellers (MacNally 213). However, it is common that in a free economy, commodities are priced very highly living such engagements to those endowed with resources and wealth.
Another significant role of the government in a free economy, just as in America, is that it monitors the pace of purchasing people’s power. For instance, in times of depression and financial crises, the government regulates taxes by enacting the addition of credits to tax in a given financial year, and creating job opportunities for the people in order to empower them economically (Gilje 65).
One of the greatest advocates of a free market in America was Adam Smith, a renowned economist. Throughout America’s history, free market has been associated with the rise of capitalism, especially during the second half of 20th century and beyond (Rhodes 23).
Rise of Capitalism
Capitalism is defined in economics as a system where individuals are able to control the tools or means of production (Noble 71). This implies that the means of production like land, capital, and other non-labor factors are owned privately. On the other hand, goods, resources, and labor are availed for trade in the markets where the profits gained after taxation is shared among the private owners.
Part of the profit can also be used in developing newer technologies as well as industries. In the United States, economic historians have established that capitalism tendencies started just the same period as the introduction of free market economy (Gilje 3). Three major areas have been identified as having contributed significantly to the rise of capitalism in America and shall be discussed here; industrial development, government policies, and American values.
Prior to industrial development as from 1790s, the United States was predominantly an agricultural economy (Headlee 2). During the late 18th century and early 19th century, industrial revolution had not taken root as much as in Europe.
The introduction of sophisticated means of production in the US, however, brought a new dawn since people were excited by the machine-made products since they transformed their living standards (Noble 74). The use of hand-made goods and services was starting to be the thing of the past.
Means of communication also improved significantly through the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse in 1844. This followed the invention of the rail road as a reliable means of transport in the US. According to Noble, industrial revolution became more advanced in the late 19th century through the early 20th century as the American people sought to make life easier while at the same time increasing their rate of production (77).
By mid-20th century, people worked in industries and this helped in transforming America into a modern industrialized country. This development in the industrial sector impacted directly on the labor productivity since those who owned capital controlled the means of production as well.
Rise of Large Corporations
The industrial revolution played a central role in the rise of large corporations in the United States (Noble 67). A corporation can be defined as an institution that is given a charter acknowledging it as a separate legal entity with its own privileges, as well as liabilities different from those of the members (Rhodes 84), also known as limited liability. The process of registering a corporation with the respective state government is referred to as incorporation.
The relationships among all the stakeholders are governed by corporate laws under which the corporations are established. In America, large corporations did not emerge until the early years of the 19th century (Noble 70). The government had realized that it could collect more revenue through registration of corporations.
Hence, according to economic historians, more acceptable corporate laws were introduced (Gilje 79). Full recognition of corporations was achieved in 1819 when the government provided that corporate charters were to be respected and treated as separate entities.
The US government made much other legislation through the 19th century, especially the non-state interference of free markets and other forces of limited liability. This trend continued to the 1980s when the United States started privatizing the state-owned corporations (Noble 73).
At this particular time, the government embraced the laissez-faire principle where the state did not regulate the activities of the corporations. This era also saw the emergence of mergers where smaller corporations were swallowed up by larger ones (Noble 80).
The government of the United States of America played a major role in the rise of capitalism. The government allowed the demise of feudalism which subsequently opened way for the advancement of capitalism (MacNally 17). As have been discussed above, the government started withdrawing its influence and regulation of trade, and instead paving way for free economy. In fact, according to MacNally, the government’s role in promoting capitalism became more pronounced in the 1970s to the present (18).
As America grew with immigrants coming from most parts of Europe who came with diverse cultural values which would then merge to form what would be the US values. Calvinism originated from Europe and spread to the United States in the 16th century (Gilje 94).
The value system under Calvinism stressed the importance of an individual and God’s definite plan for everyone. It advocated the need for self-reliance and independence.
The pattern with which the immigrants explored the new land promoted independent struggle for survival. Each family had to search on their own. The value of self-reliance and independence has taken root in the US and is at the core of the present capitalistic economy (Rhodes 91).
The research paper has explored the emergence of capitalism in the United Sates of America since the 16th century through the 20th century. It has offered an overview of the economy, particularly the development of the free markets. It has also focused on how industrial revolution, government policies, and the American values have helped in the rise of capitalism.
Gilje, Paul A. Wages of independence: capitalism in the early American republic. Rowman & Littlefield. (1997): 1-123.
Headlee, Sue E. The political economy of the family farming: the agrarian roots of American capitalism. Greenwood Plc. (1991): 1-76.
MacNally, David. Political economy and the rise of capitalism: a reinterpretation (3rd ed.). University of California Press. (2000): 1-21, 209-268.
Noble, David F. America by design: science, technology, and the rise of corporate capitalism. Oxford University Press, US. (1979): 67-110.
Rhodes, Sybil. Social movements and free-market capitalism in America (4th ed.). SUNNY Press. (2006): 1-106.
How Capitalism Beat Communism/Socialism Essay
Nowadays, it would be quite impossible to come up with the exact number of published books and articles that deal with the subject of what was the ultimate reason for Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. This partially explains why the dismantling of an ‘evil empire’ has been addressed from a variety of different perspectives, which often imply ideological and even incidental nature of such a dismantling.
Even though the majority of researchers do insist on appropriateness of application of namely economic approach to dealing with the subject matter, there are still many people who think that the actual reason, why in 1991 Soviet Union had collapsed like a stack of cards, has to do more with ideology then with economics.
For example, in his book Beissinger (2002) attempts represent the end of USSR as the ultimate consequence of the fact that, despite their Communist rhetoric, Soviet officials never ceased professing Russian imperial values: “As the Soviet Union collapsed, it came to be widely recognized as a multinational empire. In this sense, the real issue that needs to be explained is how a polity once almost universally construed as a state came to be universally condemned as an empire” (6).
Nevertheless, the actual clue as to USSR’s collapse is being contained in the very abbreviation – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Apparently, Socialism as political doctrine based upon the premise of social egalitarianism, simply contradicts the objectively existing laws of nature, which is why everything affected by Socialism becomes short-lived.
It is important to understand the moving force behind universe’s functioning, as we know it, is the disparity between energetic potentials. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the amount of entropy in the universe is geometrically proportionate the extent of energy’s dissipation throughout the cosmos.
Given the fact that human societies are essentially material, The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to them as well. Therefore, it is namely the differentiation in energetic potentials, which makes life possible. In human societies, energetic differentiation is being defined by the lack of resources (inequality), experienced by its members, which in its turn, serves as the primary force behind civilizational progress.
On the other hand, the ultimate goal of Soviet ‘welfare state’ has always been the equal distribution of resources among society’s members, due to considerations of ‘fairness’. This is exactly the reason why USSR was doomed to collapse – in just about every society, the functioning of which is being concerned with the observance of Socialist principles, the prolonged continuation of social, cultural and scientific progress becomes impossible, as the notion of equality is synonymous to the notion of energetic death.
In truly ‘fair’ society, as Soviet society once was, people are being deprived of a stimulus to indulge in socially productive activities. In this paper, we will aim to explore the validity of an earlier articulated thesis even further by revealing the set of objective preconditions, which had accounted for Soviet ‘classless’ society’s failure in confrontation with its main rival – the Capitalist society of United States.
Even though many political scientists refer to Thomas More’s book Utopia as such that only formally relates to the conceptual premise of Socialism, the close reading of this book points out to something opposite, because in Utopia, More had succeeded in formulating the two most important principles of Socialist state’s organization, which would later be observed by Soviet officials.
These principles can be outlined as follows: 1) Government’s active involvement in managing the economy, 2) Government’s policy of exposing citizens’ strive towards enrichment as something utterly ‘immoral’, because it is namely on the account of citizens’ ‘selfishness’ that the existence of inequality is possible: “The richer sort are often endeavoring to bring the hire of laborers lower, not only by their fraudulent practices, but by the laws which they procure to be made to that effect” (1516, 118).
This is the reason why, even though More described Utopians as people who used to indulge in a variety of economic activities, these activities appear being deprived of any logical sense, whatsoever.
As Shephard (1995) had put it: “The main purpose of Utopian trade appears to be the accumulation of their hoard of gold and silver. Since these precious metals are worthless in Utopia… Utopians’ mercantilistic trading policies seem perverse” (846). Thus, even as far back as in 16th century, the conceptual fallaciousness of Communism/Socialism has been revealed in the very work of this ideology’s initial theoretician.
Nevertheless, it was not up until the demise of Soviet Union in late 20th century that More and Marx’s Communist ideas were exposed as utterly anti-scientific in the realm practice. The reason for this is simple – the idea that economy should the subject of governmental management transgresses the laws of nature.
It is important to understand that the subjects of economy are millions and millions of people – each with its own economic interests. Just as one’s body, economy is an organism, consisting of operational cells. And, just as a particular cell of one’s body cannot ‘steer’ the rest of cells, government cannot ‘steer’ the economy, simply because it itself never ceases to remain economy’s subject. While trying to ‘govern’ economy, socialistically minded politicians simply act as body’s cancerous cells – they destroy the whole body of economics.
The history of Soviet Union (especially during the course of 20th century’s seventies and eighties) proves the full validity of such our suggestion. Just as it was the case in More’s Utopia, the functioning of Soviet economy has been firmly based upon the principle of state’s unilateral ownership of production assets and labor.
For example, up until 1961, Soviet peasants, working in collective farms, were even forbidden to hold passports of their own country – they were essentially state-owned slaves. And, as we know from history, the functioning of slavery-based economies has always been utterly inefficient.
One might wonder what was the actual stimulus for Soviet citizens to even bother to work? Soviet official propaganda answered that question from rather a moralistic perspective. According to it, the reason why citizens were expected to be hard-workers is that they were supposed to be genuinely concerned about benefiting their country, as their foremost priority, at the expense of neglecting their personal economic interests.
As Soviet high-ranking officials never ceased implying – since Soviet citizens were endowed with strongly defined communal-mindedness, it was only natural for them to perceive surrounding realities through essentially communal lenses – hence, making their existence quite incompatible with the Capitalist spirit of individualism. It is turn; this caused the very purpose of Soviet economy’s functioning to be concerned with the issues of morality, as opposed to be concerned with generation of a commercial profit, as it is the case in Capitalist countries.
While referring to the specifics of Soviet life, Horowitz (1989) states: “Soviet Socialism is based on a religious-social ideology… It rests upon a largely, although not exclusively, secular view that communal living would make everything from sexual affairs to child rearing to work patterns simpler and nobler” (110).
Soviet citizens were encouraged to work for peanuts, while deriving an emotional satisfaction out of the fact that in Soviet society there was no ‘Capitalist exploitation’ and while expecting to believe that governmentally designed economic policies were meant facilitate ‘equality’ within the society. Nevertheless, as we have pointed out earlier, there is simply no way to make a particular political ideology functionally effective for as long as such ideology’s very premise violates the laws of nature.
And, the foremost law of nature, regarding economy, insists that there can be only one objective reason for people to indulge in economic activities, in the first place – the prospect of generating a monetary profit. As it was rightly suggested by Geva (2001): “Business is expected to do whatever is necessary in order to succeed, and is not expected to be concerned with abstract morality. Business is a one-dimensional, purely profit-seeking enterprise. Profit is not just prioritized; it is elevated to the exclusion of all other interests” (585).
Therefore, the continuous existence of Soviet Union was only possible for as long as country’s citizens were being spared of an opportunity to compare their highly ‘moral’ but impoverished living with ‘immoral’ but prosperous living of people in Capitalist countries.
Soviet leaders were well aware of this fact, which is why, prior to the outbreak of WW2; they never even tried to keep their agenda of world’s conquering concealed. After all – even right until USSR’s collapse in 1991, Soviet coat of arms featured the Communist symbol of hammer and sickle on the foreground of the globe and Soviet Constitution openly stated that it was only the matter of time before the rest of world’s countries would join ‘workers’ paradise’.
Nevertheless, as time went by, it was becoming increasingly harder for Soviet leaders to keep citizens informationally isolated. In fact, many Soviet leaders, such as Khrushchev, had a particularly hard time understanding a simple fact that it was not the American military that represented the foremost threat to USSR’s existence, but information about the actual realities of America’s Capitalism, to which Soviet people were being progressively more exposed, despite the existence of an ‘iron curtain’.
For example, it is being estimated that at least two million Russians have attended 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow, which is why it comes as no surprise that it was namely from early sixties onwards that the number of Soviet citizens dissented with regime began to grow rather exponentially.
Apparently, by being allowed an access to the actual information about American way of life, Soviets were becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they were living not in the ‘happiest’ but probably in the most miserable country on Earth.
While referring to the effects of American National Exhibition of 1959, Reid (2005) states: “In the notorious confrontation between the superpowers at the American National Exhibition in Moscow 1959, it was the state-of-the-art kitchen of the model American home that served Vice-President Richard Nixon as the ideal platform from which to challenge Soviet state socialism” (290).
Things got even worse for Soviet leadership throughout the course of seventies and eighties, because it was specifically during the course of this historical period that Soviet economy was beginning to show more and more signs of being ill beyond the point of recovery.
For example; whereas, in 1970 USSR imported 2.2 million tons of wheat from Capitalist countries, the amount of country’s wheat imports increased to 15.9 million tons by 1975, to 29.4 million tons by 1980, and to 45.6 million tons by 1985.
Whereas; as of 1970, the amount of country’s meat imports accounted for 165.000 tons, by 1975 it accounted for 515.000 tons, by 1980 it accounted for 821.000 tons and by 1985 it accounted for 857.000 tons. It is needles to mention, of course, that Soviet Union has been paying for these imports with U.S. dollars. And, what was the source of Soviet hard currency? It was the export of Soviet natural resources, such as natural gas and oil.
When we look at the price-dynamics on international market of oil throughout the eighties (1980 – $66.1, 1981 – $57.6, 1982 – $50.3, 1983 – $45.2, 1984 – $42.2, 1985 – $39.9, 1986 – $19.9) the ultimate reason for USSR’s collapse in 1991 will become perfectly clear – the country simply became a bankrupt, due to the sheer inefficiency of its Socialist economy. As of 1975, in terms of agricultural production, Soviet Union fell behind U.S. by twenty times.
Yet, in the same year, Soviet production of tractors beat that of America’s by six times, and the production of agricultural combines beat America’s production by sixteen times! There was something utterly surreal about the situation – the country that could not feed its citizens, nevertheless kept of spending millions and millions of dollars every year to manufacture useless tractors, which would broke down on the next day, after being put to use.
By the year 1985, even such basic products as salt, sugar, cigarettes, vodka, milk, butter, and sausages had simply disappeared from the shelves in Soviet Union’s state-owned stores. Around that time, even Soviet high-ranking officials were willing to sell country’s top-secrets to the West for as little as few cartons of Marlboro cigarettes, a pair of jeans or few video cassettes with porn.
How was it possible for the country that, before Communist revolution of 1917 used to be referred to as ‘world’s agricultural basket’, to be reduced into essentially huge concentration camp, populated by starving ‘white niggers’?
The answer is – it was nothing but the logical consequence of the fact that, for duration of seventy years, the functioning of country’s Socialist plan-economy did not make any economic sense, because Soviet leaders had never even been concerned with trying to ensure economic sense, in the first place. Instead, they were concerned with ensuring ‘equality’.
In a similar manner, the promoters of a ‘welfare state’ concept in Western countries (read Socialists) had never been concerned with trying to assess what would be the actual consequences of their political activities – all they care about, is gaining a cheep popularity with marginalized masses by the mean of indulging in essentially Socialist rhetoric about importance of ‘fighting inequality’, ‘ensuring affordable Medicare’ and ‘helping underprivileged’. Just as Communist commissars before them, these ‘progressive’ individuals suggest that the pathway to ‘fairness’ is taking money away from the rich and distributing it among the poor.
Here is how one of self-proclaimed ‘experts on equality’, Townsend (1979) discusses the ‘evils’ of Capitalism, while blaming it for the fact that the representatives of racial minorities in Western counties are rarely able to attain social prominence: “Poverty has to be understood not only as an inevitable feature of severe social inequality but also as a particular consequence of actions by the rich to preserve and to enhance their wealth and so deny it to others” (25).
Apparently, it never occurred to this Commie-wannabe that ‘equality’ could only be achieved among equally poor and miserable. To paraphrase George Orwell – all people are equal but some people are more equal than the others are.
As the history of Socialism in different countries indicates, this political ideology is best discussed in terms of a social illness, which simply assumes different forms. For example, today’s Western concept of neo-Liberalism has very little to do with the traditional concept of Liberalism – it is essentially a poorly concealed Socialism.
In its turn, this explains why the hawks of neo-Liberalism think that it is being perfectly appropriate, on their part, to come up with suggestions that industrious and hard-working people should be stripped of a half of their annual income in taxes, so that newly arrived immigrants from Third World would be able to enjoy free Medicare and to ‘celebrate diversity’, while pushing drugs on the streets.
Nowadays, such Western countries as Sweden, Germany, Britain and Finland have been turned into essentially Socialist states, where the hordes of uneducated and unemployed social parasites are being provided with free food and free housing in exchange for nothing. One of the most important principles of Socialism is proportionate presence of representatives of society’s different strata in the Parliament.
This is why in Finland’s Parliament, for example, the number of ethnic Swedes-parliamentarians accounts for 6% at all times, because this is the actual percentage of ethnic Swedes in Finland’s population. Whether these people are being professionally adequate to pass legislations matters very little – ‘equality’ is above all.
The only reason why the economy of an earlier mentioned countries has not yet began rapidly disintegrating, as it was the case with Soviet Union’s economy in seventies and eighties, is that the illness of Socialism there had assumed rather chronic then acute form – after all, the process of industrialization in Western countries was completed as early as the beginning of 20th century.
However, in economically and socially backward countries, with substantial percentage of rural dwellers, such as Cambodia, China, Russia, Cuba, and North Korea, the implementation of Socialism had in many instances placed these countries’ whole populations on the threshold of physical extinction (Cambodia).
It is important to understand that the Socialist transgression of objectively existing laws of economy and history cannot go on for too long, without bringing about the set of negative and often irreversible consequences. Apparently, the ‘progressive’ politicians in Western countries have a hard time understanding this simple fact.
This is the reason why they insist that government should be meddling with economic affairs, as they believe this would increase the levels of ‘equality’ in every particular society. Nevertheless, as the example of Soviet Union in seventies and eighties suggest, it is namely when the hawks of ‘equality’ are allowed to exercise political authority for prolonged period of time, that the society under their management becomes grossly ‘unequal’.
Through eighties and seventies, Soviet society became probably the most stratified on Earth. Despite Soviet official propaganda’s claim that country’s Communist party had succeeded with building semi-classless society, consisted of proletarians, collective farm peasantry and intelligentsia (without bourgeoisie), the actual realities of living in ‘workers’ paradise’ did not correlate with propaganda’s claims, whatsoever.
On one hand, there was a small number of Party’s top-ranking officials, with their own bodyguards, chefs, physicians and even private jets, but on another, there were millions and millions of nothing less than slaves, who had to spend long hours every day in huge lineups, while waiting for their turn to buy even such basic products as milk from state-owned stores. This was the logical consequence of Socialist experiment in Russia.
This is why; those familiar with the history of Soviet Union are being naturally inclined to draw apparels between the promoters of Socialism and mentally inadequate people, who believe that the functioning of their internal organs should be ‘planned’.
However, just as it is being impossible to ensure that one’s liver produces a ‘planned’ amount of ursodeoxycholic acid on daily basis, it is impossible to ‘govern’ the economy. Therefore, the idea that the process of building of Socialism in USSR had simply been mismanaged, because otherwise it would have produced positive results, is best referred to as utterly preposterous.
The utter fiasco of Soviet Socialism became self-evident through eighties, especially given the fact that during this time, America’s economy experienced nothing short of a boom.
When the majority of Soviet citizens experienced a hard time, while trying to buy milk, America’s even unemployed citizens thought of their ownership of at least one car as something most natural. Therefore, the victory of America’s Capitalism over Soviet Socialism was dialectically predetermined and had nothing to do with Capitalists having succeeded in conspiring against ‘workers’ paradise’.
This was nothing but the consequence of a fact that economy cannot possibly serve the purpose of advancing any moralistically charged political dogma, as it used to be the case in USSR. In eighties, all it would take for even Soviet hard-core Communists to begin hating their country with passion, is to be shown a catalogue of Western products, such as Quelle.
Apparently, being able to choose among hundreds of different sorts of grocery products in a Capitalist supermarket, after having arrived there in its own car, is so much better than being nothing short of a staving slave in highly ‘moral’ and ‘equal’ Socialist paradise, featuring state-owned stores with absolutely empty shelves.
The earlier provided line of argumentation as to what was the actual reason for Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 substantiates the validity of paper’s initial hypothesis – Socialism can never work because of the unnaturalness of its theoretical premise, concerned with the notion of equality.
Once there is ‘equality’, there can be no flow of energy. And, once there is no flow of energy, everything comes to a stall – just as it was the case with the functioning of Soviet economy in seventies and eighties. We can only feel sorry for the fact that the example of Soviet Union had not taught Western socialistically minded political activists a whole lot.
Had it been otherwise, they would not be pushing forward clearly Socialist agenda of ensuring ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ in traditionally Capitalist White countries. There can be no ‘fairness’ – all that there can be is an ongoing economic, cultural and scientific progress, which in its turn, is being fueled by ‘inequality’. It is only when people realize this simple fact that that the illness of Socialism would be dealt with, once and for all.
Allen, Robert “The Rise and Decline of the Soviet Economy”. The Canadian Journal of Economics 34.4 (2001): 859-881.
Beissinger, Mark. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Geva, Aviva “Myth and Ethics in Business”. Business Ethics Quarterly 11.4 (2001): 575-597.
Horowitz, Irving “Socialist Utopias and Scientific Socialists: Primary Fanaticisms and Secondary Contradictions”. Sociological Forum 4.1 (1989): 107-113. More, Thomas. Utopia. London: Forgotten Books, (1516) 2008.
Reid, Susan “The Khrushchev Kitchen: Domesticating the Scientific-Technological Revolution”. Journal of Contemporary History 40.2 (2005): 289-316.
Shephard, Robert “Utopia, Utopia’s Neighbors, Utopia, and Europe”. The Sixteenth Century Journal 26.4 (1995): 843-856.
Townsend, Peter. Poverty in the United Kingdom, London: Allen Lane, 1979.
- Robert Allen, “The Rise and Decline of the Soviet Economy”. The Canadian Journal of Economics 34.4 (2001): 874.
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Weber Compare and Contrast Essay
Anthropologists make attempts to establish the relationships between cultural and economical sides of the life of the society, deciding between the materialistic and spiritualistic approaches or trying to integrate both of them. Weber’s theory of religious beliefs as the basis for the division of labor forces in capitalistic society can coexist with Malinowski’s and Lewi’s views but is opposed by Geertz who put emphasis on culture.
The key issue of Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Weber is the definition of the primary principles of capitalism and the prioritized values of people living in a capitalistic society. Defining the leading principle of capitalism, he notes that “man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life” (Weber 53).
The researcher is aimed at establishing the relationships between the individual’s motivation for working, the principles of division of labor forces and materialistic values in the society and the level of its cultural development.
Considering the religious beliefs as an integral element of culture having a significant impact on people’s decision making, Weber finds the rational explanation for prioritizing the materialistic values in the principles of the asceticism. Not limiting the concept of capitalistic culture to the economical structure of the society, Weber attempts to evaluate the influence of the religious beliefs on the citizens’ obedience to the existing economical laws.
The anthropologist analyzes the protestant principle of calling as the main argument for faithful labor at low wages for the lowest strata that have no other opportunities. “The capitalism of to-day, which has come to dominate economic life, educates and selects the economic subjects which it needs through a process of economic survival of the fittest” (Weber 55).
On the one hand, Weber points at the utilitarian nature of humans and their passion for acquisition of the material values, underestimating the importance of culture. On the other hand, he analyzes the evolution of the Christian beliefs and considers faithful calling to be the prototype for the division of labor forces in the contemporary capitalistic society.
“One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism, and not only of that but of all modern culture: rational conduct on the basis of the idea of the calling, was born … from the spirit of Christian asceticism” (Weber 180). Despite all his assertions as to the place of culture and religion in the system of beliefs, in the final conclusion part of his work Weber denies the effectiveness of one-sided interpretation of history from materialistic or spiritualistic perspective, considering the complex character of the issue.
The anthropologists Malinowski, Levi and Geertz shed light upon the main principles of the development of the society, drawing the parallels between the present day beliefs and culture of primitive tribes, ancient myths and contemporary science. For instance, researching the social code of Kula population, Malinowski contrasts their preferences and beliefs of capitalistic society.
At the same time, evaluating the place of materialistic values in the system of beliefs of the tribe, the researcher establishes the relationship between the property and the social status because for Kula people “to possess is to be great, and that wealth is indispensable appanage of social rank and attribute of personal virtue (Malinowski 103).
Describing the competition of generosity among the richest members of the tribe, Malinowski still points at the significance of economical acquisition of the population as the marker of their position in the society and corresponding obligations.
Analyzing the common features of the myths structure, Levi uses their content as the basis for interpreting the principle of the division of labor forces in present day society. “The problem often regarded as insoluble, vanishes when it is shown that the clowns-gluttons who may with impunity make excessive use of agricultural products – have the same function in relation to food production as the war-gods” (Levi 223).
Similar to Weber’s analysis of the Christian beliefs, Levi finds the roots for the present day social injustice in ancient myths, explaining the inequality of various strata of population and other social phenomena with the gods’ will. As opposed to all the previous researchers, Geertz focuses his studies on the concept of culture, giving preference to the spiritualistic interpretation of the life of the society. Altering the traditional definition of culture, he points at its significance and impact on other spheres.
Geertz develops Weber’s theory of a man as an animal in the significance webs which he/she creates “I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning” (Geertz 6). Thus, the views of Malinowski and Levi do not contradict Weber’s theory and can coexist, while Geertz shifts emphasis to culture as the significant element of the life of society.
Drawing the parallels between the system of beliefs and the organization of society, anthropologists try to make understanding of social phenomena and people’s consciousness more comprehensive. Weber, Malinowski, Levi and Geertz used the definition of the concept of culture as the basis for explaining the main principle of division of labor forces.
Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books Publishers, 1973. Print
Levi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Schoepf. New York: Basic Books Publishers, 1963. Print.
Malinowski, Bronislav. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: Routledge. 1932. Print.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. Talcott Parsons. New York: Routledge. 1992. Print.
Development of the Atlantic Trade Triangle a Colonial Capitalism (Mercantilism) Essay
Mercantilism is an outdated analysis of finances, which was common from 16th to 18th century. By definition, “the theory states that the world only contained a fixed amount of wealth and that to increase a countries wealth, one country had to take some wealth from another either through having a higher import/export ratio or in actual conquest of new lands and resources” ( Magnusson 5).
During those times, a country’s economy heavily depended on mineral resources that they had and the primary objective of this economic policy was to guarantee a net optimistic inflow of valuable metals by trading. The backbone of Mercantilism integrated chartered corporation for instance the French Royal African Company, the Dutch West India Company, and the utilization of armed forces to chase business supremacy.
The English and French purged Dutch rivalry from the Americas by overpowering the Dutch in a sequence of fighting from 1652 to 1678. The English and French colonies afterward canceled the domination rights of their chartered corporations, although sustained to employ elevated tariffs to put off outsiders from having contact to do business with their protectorates. The Atlantic turned into the key transaction region for the Portuguese, the French, and the British in the 18th century (Bairoch 270; Davis 306).
During those times, purchasing goods from another state were highly discouraged, as it was perceived as a state of depriving off their precious metals. As a result, mercantilism ways of trading aimed at restricting liberated function of marketplaces and establish stern limitations on financial doings, for example, protectionist actions that controlled trade in, and regime funding of domination, which permitted stringent control on a number of features in the financial system that was to be maintained.
Introduction of Profitable crops
At around 1500, European settlers launched sugar-cane farming on slave farms of West Indies and later in early 16th century, the English and French nationals established protectorates founded on tobacco farming. With the introduction of profitable crops, the way of trade changed whereby countries could import and/or export raw materials and finished products without feeling that their precious metals was not being taken away.
Crop cultivation in West Indies and particularly tobacco inspired by new developments such as the accessibility of inexpensive manual labor “in the form of European indentured servants and the formation of chartered companies” (Harley 8). Here with cheap labor from slave, it was easy to cultivate a large track of land and sell the produce at a competitive price to other states, which actually opened market, and eventually states moved away from being protectionist to liberalists.
On the other hand, the Portuguese had initiated sugar-cane farming to the Dutch West India Company and Brazil, which brought rivalry with Spain, which had grabbed over 1,000 miles of sugar-farming Brazilian coast. They enhanced the competence of sugar industry in Brazil and ferried human slaves from Luanda and Elmina.
With bringing in of cheap labor, the cost of their sugar produce became cheaper as compared to other producers like pre-Columbian European, which compelled other countries to lower prices. As a result, the next two centuries that followed was mainly as Harley puts it, that of taking advantage of openings for sugar farming with manual labor importations and capital or resources.
As time went by, colonies like Guadeloupe, Martinique, and predominantly Barbados shifted to sugar cultivation away from tobacco farming. Because of this, Barbados demand for manual labor lead to a quick and considerable augmentation in the number of the Atlantic slave transaction. With this kind of revolutions, there was of change in the sourcing of slaves where colonies shifted and began to source for imprisoned African manual labor instead of European pact servants.
This steady decrease in the number of European servants was because most of them were no longer eager to have any agreement as servants in the West Indies farms. Additionally, Harley posits that “the fact that the life expectancy of a slave after landing was longer than the term of the typical contract of indenture, and a rise in sugar prices that made planters more able to invest in slaves” (9).
Planting of profitable crops did not only bring positive impacts but also led to negative ones such as deforestation and soil exhaustion. With repeated cultivation of crops, soil became infertile which forced farmers to seek other alternative tract of lands and as a result, deforestation gained momentum (Bairoch 300).
Slave Lives and their Contributions
Slaves played a major rule in turning around economic activities.By engaging slaves, the cost of sugar and tobacco drastically went done and paved way for competition among producing nations. At this point, countries become liberalized and exchanged goods without feeling like their resources were being taken away. Slaves were grouped into “gangs” while farming and while others where engaged in carrying out specialized tasks.
Slaves were compensated for excellent work and punished if they delivered poor work. Unfortunately, their life expectancy was short due to poor working conditions and this meant that more slaves were to be brought in from African hence those doing slave trade benefited a lot in this. Furthermore, they never had time to rest, no formal education among other violations of their basic rights.
The progress of the Atlantic structure revealed that the Europeans colonies went further than the invasion and took into custody of existing structures to fashion a fresh business structure, changing the financial systems of regions for example the West Indies.
African slaves contributed a lot to the Atlantic trading structure by providing cheap labor, which transformed sugar-cane market in general. Africa as a continent in generally played an indispensable part Atlantic organization, the Africa itself was not dictated by European colonies as compared to the Americans were.
Bairoch, Paul. “International industrialization levels from 1750 to 1980.” Journal of European Economic History, 11(1982): 269-333.
Davis, Ralph. “The rise of protection in England, 1689-1786.” Economic History Review, 19, 1966: 306-17.
Gaudet, Henry. What is salutary neglect? Conjunction Corporation, 15 Sept. 2008. Web. O4 Dec. 2010.
Capitalism: A Love Story: A Reflective Paper Response Essay
The paper will start by giving an overall impression of the documentary, followed by an examination of what the documentary meant to me. This will be followed by an analysis of whether I agree with Moore’s message in the movie or not, and why. The conclusion will be a discussion on whether the movie has in any way changed my perception on capitalism. There will be included a bibliography page citing the resources used in the paper.
If you cut out the drama, the people-bashing and the over-simplification of complex economic systems in Michael Moore’s documentary movie ‘Capitalism: a Love Story’, you can still find substance in there. Having had reviews to both extremes; with others claiming that Moore should have stopped making movies at ‘Roger and Me’, and the other half exclaiming that it was an eye-opener, it was with mixed expectations that I watched the documentary.
I admit it was at first difficult to follow the storyline, but by the middle of the movie, I could see clearly the point that Moore was trying to put across. Moore was presenting the social and economic inequalities that have been the result of decades of capitalism. He pointed out at institutions such as Wall Street and Goldman Sachs as being the major culprits (Dargis n.p).
He argued that politics and the corporate world are too closely tied in America, and this undermines democratic practice. Who suffers for this? It is the small people, who, ironically make up 99% of the population and only own 5% of America’s wealth (Dargis n.p).
A broad definition of capitalism is an economic system where business enterprises are privately owned while the rules and policies that run market conditions are determined by a central government (Bowles 5). After watching Moore’s movie, I had to rethink my understanding on the benefits of capitalism.
Capitalism, as it was argued for by its earliest advocates: Max, Smith and others in their league, is that it stimulates economic growth. This is generally accepted as fact to date. A more important but less considered question, is, who does the economic growth benefit. Or rather, what percentage of a population does capitalism benefit?
Moore’s movie provides a clear answer for that; in America, which is considered one of the wealthiest nations in the world, 1% of the population own 95% of country’s resources (Gritten n.p). Is that not shocking? In a country that preaches constantly freedom, equality, democracy and human rights, something close to neo-slavery is being practiced. For in this materialistic age, are you not owned by the person who owns the material resources?
Democracy is hampered, as Moore illustrates, because the process of elections and voting has become compromised; the corporations contribute to the campaigns for those candidates who they feel will best serve their needs, the candidate with the biggest campaign stash wins the election (Dargis n.p). And the 1% remain at the top of the game, getting off lightly for crimes such as the ‘pheasant insurance’ or the 700 billion dollar tax write off awarded to sustain failing financial institutions after the most recent economic downturn (Dargis n.p).
I agree with the movie to a large extent.The facts may be presented with some pomp and circumstance but they are still facts. Just because there are myriad facts involved in the foreclosure does not change the fact that a home in America is foreclosed every seven minutes (Gritten n.p).
There are still thousands of people losing their jobs monthly, there are thousands more who cannot afford insurance cover. Moore is right in his message; there are a select few who have abused the American capitalistic system and made a ‘plutonomy’ out of the system (Dargis n.p).
The movie changes my view of capitalism in the sense of ‘unregulated capitalism’. Every social theory has its time, Karl Max evolved capitalism because the time was right for it, and the people, at that point in time, were ripe for the capitalistic revolution. But for every period in history there are systems that work, as well as others that simply do not.
From Moore’s movie, I see that perhaps it is time that not only the U.S, but also the rest of the world, reviewed how capitalism is put to work. With or without the blaster in Moore’s movie, the cold, hard facts do not change that there is a gross imbalance in the distribution of resources, as was intended in the first place, and that perhaps, it is about time there was a post-capitalism revolution.
Bowles, Paul. Capitalism. London: Pearson & Longman, 2007. Print.
Dargis, Manohla. “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Movies.nytimes.com. 23 Sep 2009. Web.
Gritten, David. “Capitalism: A Love Story, Review.” Telegraph.co.uk. 25 Feb 2010. Web.
Compare of Capitalism and Socialism Essay
Arguably, one of the most outstanding features in human beings is their ability to design systems that help them develop various aspects of their civilizations. Over the last century, nations all over the world have implemented various systems that help them allocate, distribute and govern the available resources accordingly.
Despite the effectiveness exhibited by these systems, various scholars and system analysts have come up with evidence that either support or disapprove such systems in relation to how they help the citizenry achieve their needs, and how the governments allocate various resources. Among the most common systems adopted by most nations are the capitalistic and the socialistic economic systems.
Through their use, these systems have in the recent past proven to be effective to some and detrimental to others. This research paper shall set out to explore the differences and similarities between these two systems. A detailed analysis of how each of these systems affects the distribution of wealth and resources within different nations shall also be provided.
This shall aim at elaborating the extent to which each of these systems has proven to be effective in maintaining certain socioeconomic aspects such as human right, health care, social economy, model of development and social wellness among others in specific nations.
Capitalism: A brief overview
According to Hooker, Capitalism traces its roots back to the early middle ages where individuals participated in a form of trade known as mercantilism (1). In this trade practice, individuals would distribute goods and services with the main aim of getting profits (Hooker 1).
One of the recurrent characteristic in this form of trade was that merchants would buy goods from one region and redistribute the same to other regions at a higher price. As time went by, this system of trade was introduced and adopted by other nations across Europe. It is from here that the word capitalism was used to define this evolved economic practice.
Capitalism: A current perspective
Considering these undertones, Capitalism can be defined as an economic system in which individuals exercise a high level of freedom in matters regarding to acquisition of property, price determination and private ownership of resources. Members of a capitalistic economic system have the freedom to make their own decisions as relating to how best they can utilize the scarce resources in their possession as well as the freedom to own and operate a business of ones choice (Blumenthal 8).
This indicates that in such economies there is little to no government interference on how businesses, income and profits are earned or regulated. In economic terms, Petras asserts that capitalistic economies are run by the forces of demand and supply (1).
In light of this definition and description, one would argue that this is the most convenient system of economic governance because individuals have the freedom to conduct business in a manner that best meets their business goals (making profits and market expansion), all the while appealing to their creativity in running business endeavors (survival for the fittest). However, documented and practical (real life situations) evidence has in the recent past proved that this assumption is far from the truth.
Socialism: A brief overview
In the world we live in today, historical as well as present economic situations have proven that granting individuals the freedom to determine market trends (prices, supply, resource allocation and distribution among others) is not only detrimental to ethical business practices, but also prevents the less fortunate from having access to some much needed social amenities such as roads, hospitals, schools and in some instances land.
The socialistic economic system is based on the principles of equality, freedom of expression and individual’s ability to exercise democracy. As such, is an economic system through which government and other significant regulatory bodies determine how, scarce resources should be allocated and distributed equally to all sectors of their economy.
Socialism: A current perspective
In regard to the above description, socialism can be described as a political and economic theory which advocates for the equal distribution of a nation’s scarce resources and wealth through the government (Pierce 16). Arguably, this is a convenient economic system in today’s world which is characterized by greed, injustices and high inequalities in both the social and economic/income perspectives.
Socialism and Capitalism: causes for debate
Ask yourself this question: what would happen to the world if people were allowed to only produce goods and services that earned them high profits? Would you afford to buy a car, use the roads, hospitals or even have access to a descent education? The answer that pops up in my head is; ‘NO’. This is mainly attributed to the fact that such amenities have proven to be of great use to us as human beings. In other words, they are highly demanded by people.
It therefore goes without saying that if they were individually owned with no government interference or regulations, the prices charged on such amenities would be insanely high such that only the rich in the society would benefit. So what happens to the poor members of the populace? This scenario highlights the differences between these two economic systems.
According to Blumenthal, capitalists believe in the notion that survival is indeed for the fittest (274). As such, the author suggests that capitalists are firm believers of the fact that everyone has a right to own as much land, property, resources as he/she is able to acquire.
Pierce further reiterates that capitalistic economies are defined by the notion that people who do not work as hard as those with property and other resources should not eat or be given special considerations because wealth is a reward for a person’s determination, creativity and aggressiveness in similar business situations (387).
These are logical arguments considering the fact that if people were spoon-fed without any ambitions or efforts, the world would have been a sad place characterized with low productivity, poor growth and development and poverty. As such, the capitalistic economic system would be most desirable if a nation wishes to promote determination, wealth creation and hard work among its citizenry.
However, Ross asserts that this economic system and its proponents fail to acknowledge the fact that there is no country within which people enjoy equitable distribution of natural resources (85). This is mainly due to geographical and climatically factors which in most cases affect the level of resources that can be found in a specific region within a country. In addition, people do not have equal mental skills.
This means that while an individual in Afghanistan can comfortably do some productive farming in the desert, another individual in the Sahara desert may not necessarily posses the same intellect or skills to do the same. In addition, the capitalistic economic system undermines the fact that no government can guarantee employment to all its citizens.
On the other hand, socialists believe in the notion that the government should be responsible for the allocation and distribution of resources within their countries.
This sentiment is further accentuated by the fact that government-regulated resource allocation is the most viable means of promoting equal growth and development within the country as well as an effective tool for combating inequalities and poverty within a nation. With these undertones, this report shall use various parameters to indicate the differences and similarities between these systems.
Differences between Socialism and Capitalism
Arguably, people go to work or spend most of their time working so that they can accumulate their wealth base and get financial rewards which in turn enable them to achieve set goals and objectives. According to Ross, capitalistic economies are governed by very strict policies regarding the ownership of private property (128).
As such, it would be safe to suggest that economic beliefs held by capitalists are most often influenced by private investment and innovation. This means that capitalistic economies are designed in such a manner that citizens can freely buy and sell their own property/possessions. This is not the case in socialistic economies in which private ownership of property is to a large extent discouraged or lack property rights (Kronenwetter 67).
In regard to investments, Pierce alludes that socialism discourages its proponents from investing (214). Personal investment means that some people will have more resources or wealth than others and this would go against the principles that govern this economic system.
In addition, people probably shy away from investing because at the end of the day, their effort will not matter as much as the notion that they should share their wealth and resources with those who do not have regardless of their effort or contribution in the investment (Pierce 229). Blumenthal therefore asserts that in a socialist setting, the probability of lazy people exploiting their hardworking counterparts is significantly high (114).
On the other hand, Blumenthal argues that unlike socialism, capitalism is a source of encouragement in regard to creativity and innovation (267).
The author suggests that due to the unequal distribution of resources that is normally backed by the capitalists’ desire to succeed; people are often under pressure to exhibit high levels of innovativeness and creativity as they struggle to remain relevant in an economy characterized by high levels of competition related to resource and market share acquisition.
This assertion is further reinforced by the fact that in most cases, people who have limited resources tend to work harder than their counterparts with more resources.
Similarly, Blumenthal sheds some light on the fact that capitalists have a right to patent their property as long as they do not infringe the rights of other people (28). As such, monopoly is a common and acceptable practice in capitalistic economies. However, this is not the case with socialism where every piece of property is government owned and monopolistic business entities are not allowed (Pierce 38).
A great example to expound this fact is the American health care system which is documented as being the most expensive in the world. This is mainly due to the fact that most insurance companies as well as health care facilities are owned by private parties who normally prioritize profits before safeguarding the wellbeing of their clients.
However, this is not the case with Australian health systems where the universal health care system which allows all citizens equal treatment is adopted. The American health care system is an example of a capitalistic business practice while the Australian system represents the socialistic approach in healthcare delivery.
Similarly, a look at the capitalistic Russia indicates that capitalism is detrimental to the growth of any economy. For example, since Poland shifted turned into a capitalistic nation, more than 20% of its labor force were considered unemployed by the year 2004.
In addition, 30% of the employed citizens get low paying jobs. Additionally, the real per capita growth of Poland has decreased significantly in comparison to the preceding 15 years that the country was socialistic in nature (Petras 1). The economic situation being experienced by the people of Poland are similarly being experienced by people in Bulgaria, Romania and most parts of East Germany which is filled with capitalists.
In addition, Russia which is a capitalistic economy has in the past two decades experiences political and economic unrests and declined progress due to the fact that most of the resources therein are owned by a numbered few who use illegal means such as murder, corruption, intimidation and violence to cut-off competition.
In addition, the nation is run by criminals who pillage resources for personal gains. As a result, the provision of social amenities such as hospitals and schools has declined significantly since such issues are not given adequate budgetary allocations in the national budget.
Similarly, the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS has increased even among young children who are subjected to child labor or forced labor as prostitutes and drug peddlers. In regards to mortality and life expectancy rates, the number of premature deaths increased above 15 million deaths after Russia transitioned to capitalism.
Petras suggest that these numbers would have been significantly lower if Russia stayed as a socialist nation (1). In addition, the life expectancy rate of Russian men decreased from 64 years to 58 years as a result of the increased rates of suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism and prostitution which came about after the transition into capitalism.
On the same not, a country like Armenia which was recognized as a technological hub has been reduced to a sad state of affairs where the number of scientists and researchers reduced from 20, 000 in 1990 to a shocking low of 5,000 professionals in 1995 (Petras 1).
Currently, the country is run by criminals and most of the population therein do not have access to power and heat facilities. These are the side effects that capitalism has on an economy.
The fact that people in capitalistic economies have unrestricted rights to do as they please means that the rich will get richer while the poor becomes poorer. The level of lawlessness exhibited in the above mentioned capitalistic nations is proof enough that without regulatory systems, most of the core values that hold a nation together are most likely bound to be neglected as people try to fight for survival and accumulation of personal wealth.
In contrast, Cuba and Bangladesh have recorded significant progresses since they adopted the socialistic system of economic governance. For example, by the year 2003, Cuba’s infant mortality had improved significantly (6 deaths per 1000 live births) as compared to statistics presented in 1989 (11 deaths per 1000 live births).
In addition, Russia only spent an average of 5% of its GNP on public and private health care while Cuba spent a little over 16.7% to support the same. In addition, the male life expectancy rates increased to 74 years in 2003 while it reduced to 54 in Russia (Petras 1).
During the same year, unemployment reduced by 3% in Cuba. This was as a result of the government initiative which enabled the youth to access training and educational programs that facilitated their efforts of acquiring employment. In contrast, capitalistic Poland had a 21% increase in unemployment during that period (Petras 1). Poverty has also reduced significantly in Bangladesh and Cuba.
This is mainly due to the fact that socialistic economies have regulated minimum wages which are increased in accordance to the type of job being done. In addition, the fact that resources are government owned means that they are distributed equally thereby promoting balanced progress in all sectors all the while ensuring that citizens have access to the basic social amenities. These are the characteristics of socialism that have aided such countries progress to such unimaginable statuses.
Similarities between socialism and capitalism
Ross states that the distribution of resources is the key concern in both the Socialism and Capitalism systems. In capitalistic settings, resources are distributed by those who have the ability to acquire them while in socialistic economies; resources and wealth are distributed by the governments. Similarly, both systems have proven to be unfair to various members of the economies. In both cases, wealth and resources are not distributed fairly.
For example, since the government allocated and distributes wealth and resources in a socialistic economy, people who work hard are at a loss since their efforts and rewards will be shared amongst those who do not have regardless of the reasons behind their lack of performance. The same case applies in capitalistic economies where those who are able acquire more resources than those who cannot access them regardless of the reasons behind their inabilities.
As regarding to company policies and management, both economic systems share the concept that markets can be monopolized. For example, the government in socialistic economies controls the market since it has all the resources. The same is true in capitalistic economies where the person/organization with the most resources controls the market (Blumenthal 231).
Regardless of the characteristics, the government has the power to decide and intervene in both systems. By using various economic policies, the government can influence capitalistic markets just as much as it does on socialistic markets. On the same note both systems make provisions for their citizens upon retirement.
For example, in capitalistic economies, private organizations as well as those owned by the government offers their retired employees pensions which help them cope and survive after their contracts have expired. Similarly, governments in socialistic economies have programs that cater for the needs of retired employees when the time comes. These are some of the similarities that are evident in socialistic and capitalistic economic systems.
Recommendation and Conclusion
This report has effectively illustrated that there are differences as well as similarities between socialism and communism. While each has various strengths and weaknesses, the discussion herein has shown that capitalism is not the best economic system to adopt in this day and age.
The risks associated with capitalism far outweigh the benefits as has been proven by the examples illustrated in this paper. Considering the fact that both systems have loyal followers, it would be best if they set aside their differences and learn from the weaknesses inherent in their preferred systems.
For example, while socialism advocates for the spirit of brotherhood (sharing and equality) among its followers, it has been noted that lazy socialists may take advantage of their hardworking counterparts and conveniently survive on their effort and sweat. On the other hand, capitalism is based on the Darwinian concept that survival is of the fittest. However, there are capitalists who may suffer due to inadequate access to resources despite the fact that they may want to succeed.
As such it stands to reason that socialists should adopt the Darwinian concept in a bid to promote hard work among fellow socialists and at the same time, the capitalists can utilize the brotherhood concept and share with those who are less fortunate in their economies.
Implementing such a strategy would not only guarantee economical success in terms of growth and development, but it would also ensure that followers in these systems enjoy some peace, equality and fairness as they go about their day-to-day activities. By accepting these changes, the world can finally look forward to a future characterized by practices that work for the common good of all.
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Similarities between Capitalism and Socialism. Compare & Contrast
Socialism has been regarded as kind of economy which relocates its means of production from individual ownership to state ownership and communal ownership.
A state that operates under socialism possesses all the means of production and also supervises them. This system has been believed to construct a different egalitarian system which is founded on the values of cooperation and solidarity. However, this further relies on another feature where human beings are viewed as capable of interacting and cooperating with one another (Newman 3).
Capitalism on the other hand could be reffered as a system where means of production are employed and owned by individuals. This kind of economy develops under the right of an individual who decides freely where and how they want to produce (Hunt and Lautzenheiser 5). Therefore these are two diverse systems; the following essay illustrates the differences and similarities between these two systems.
Economy and Trade
Marxist economists described various ideas concerning socialism and capitalism using various illustrations. According to his famous accounts, capitalist was depicted as destructive, a kind of system that is prone to crisis and administered by logic of capital. It was mostly expressed on the basis of economic laws of motion also the desire to accumulate on the capital.
However, socialism denoted elimination or suppression of such logic and its fundamental drives and laws, hence created the likelihood of a rational, organized way of managing social and economic life. Marxist economists condemned capitalism because of instability and irrational outcomes of a system based on private markets and properties.
Marxist noted the devastating social and economic outcomes of capitalist organizations, economic anarchy; for instance, sales seldom matched actual or expected levels of production, and the overall amount of savings planned for investments, hence affecting business cycles. Other associated crises were ineffective outcomes and uneconomical expenditures which led to starvation, unemployment, and ecological deterioration.
There was social disintegration and fragmentation because of unequal distribution of power and wealth and promotion of privacy, social interests, and personal interests over public. It encouraged alienation for instance through commodity fetishism because conception of false needs was encouraged rather than satisfaction of true needs. This led to denial of genuine individual knowledge concerning themselves and also the society surrounding them (Ruccio and Amariglio 216-17).
In contrast, socialism because of eliminating the scope of private markets and properties and its institution of planning, it has been represented as a system that demonstrates basic rationality and stability. Therefore, the results were fairly different; economic coordination and balance which was supervised by a central planning board and analyzed by enterprises and ministries.
Furthermore, the system portrayed effective and socially beneficial expenditures which were based on coherent calculations and no profit making motive. The system created unification and social harmony because of establishment of relative equality and social and private interests which were then allowed to converge.
More importantly, it promoted self realization and true needs could be articulated and the nature of social interactions was transparent and immediate. Marxist economists has also noted the degree at which capitalism has been based on individual exploitation which involves extraction of surplus value while in socialism almost all surplus was appropriated communally or socially (Ruccio and Amariglio 216-17).
Socialism could be defined as transfer of titles of a particular property from those individuals who have invested scarcely to those who have contractually acquired them or for some different use. It could be regarded as a social system where the scarce resources or means of production which are utilized to produce consumption products are socialized or nationalized.
The concept of socialization of means of production has been practiced in a number of countries such as Soviet Union and afterwards by Soviet dominated nations of Eastern Europe and various countries all over the world. If private property becomes the means of production, then one encourages differences. By eradicating private ownership everybody’s ownership means of production is equated.
Every person becomes the co- owner of all the properties and this reflects every individual’s identical standing as a human being. The economic rationale of a scheme like that one is suggested to be more effective. In contrast, capitalism which concentrates on private ownership as the means of production seems to be very chaotic. It appears more of a wasteful system which is characterized by ruinous competition, duplicating efforts and lacks concerted, coordinated action.
Unless the communal ownership is substituted with private then it’s possible to eradicate that waste by executing a single, coordinated comprehensive production plan. The property regulations which are assumed under the socialization policy and those which comprise the general legal principles of nations such as Russia are distinguished by two complementary attributes. First, no one possesses socialized means of production but they are owned socially.
That means nobody or no group of people, or all of them together have the right to either obtain them or trade them and retain the receipts got from their sale confidentially. Their use is however determined by people not as the owners but as the caretakers of the things (Herman 19-22).
Secondly, no individual or groups of people or all of them together has the right to engage in personal investment and form new personal means of production.
They could neither invest through changing the existing, nonproductively already used resources into productive ones, by pooling resources with the rest of the people, by original saving, nor by a combination of those techniques. Investment could be done only by caretakers, not for private profit but for the benefit of the community. In an economy such as capitalism which is founded on private ownership, owners resolve what to do with the means of production.
However in socialized economy such owners never exist hence it cannot happen and the major problem is what to do with the means of production. The difference between socialized property economy and private one is the concept of whose will prevails if there are conflicts. In capitalism somebody must be there to control and others who do not control and therefore real difference exists among people.
In this case, the problem on whose opinion prevails is determined by original contract and appropriation. Similarly, in socialism real difference exists between noncontrollers and controllers under some occasions, the issue on whose opinion prevails is not resolved through previous contract or usership but through political means (Herman 19-22).
Therefore, capitalist differs from socialism by replacing public ownership with private ownership. Public ownership caused excessive depersonalization of the property.
Neither losses nor gains had exclusive and direct effects on a particular individual, responsibility normally was enormously low. To some extent private property still existed in socialism (Kornai 87). Nevertheless, it seems to be scarce hence it does not cover the means of production.
If the property could not be transferred to the state, communal properties like agricultural cooperatives or small businesses such as handicraft were introduced. This shows theoretically the membership is voluntary and such ownership was not affected legally. Hence collective ownership was regarded as an intermediary stage which would be replaced by the state ownership finally.
On the other hand, in capitalism under property right it is evident there was division of labor, making of profit and uneven distribution of wealth and massive involvement in economic exchanges. That was portrayed as the only means of maintaining an individual existence which signify a great need for steady rules and enforcement system. That is mainly essential for property rights, and their transfer and their protection.
Another disparity between socialism and capitalism is depicted on how coordination is accomplished. Rather than letting people do what they desire, capitalism organizes the actions by restraining people to respect the earlier user ownership.
Capitalist is distinguished by decentralist and unstructured coordination instead of centralized management and steering. This is clearly observed in disincentives and incentives which are not set politically. In such society, distribution of resources occurs through the market.
On the other hand, in socialism rather than allowing people do what they wish, it manages individual plans through superimposing on an individual’s plan or the plan of a group and that of varying individual or group in spite of prior ownership and other mutual exchange contracts (Herman 23). This depicts central planning where the state owns almost all production facilities.
The required inputs for production and preliminary products are determined then organized, political priorities are always considered. The consumer and producer demand are anticipated while correct exchange relations are resolved by the setting of the price. However, this is costly and huge task to be carried by the administration which tends to be more complicated and develops technologically according to the nation economy.
Capitalists system argues that the major role of the government is to safe guard its citizens from deception or various forms of corruption. They argue that force is the security of individual’s rights.
To achieve that, the government employs police force that is in charge of security at their homes and military group which guards any exterior attack while the court ensures that local disputes between the residents are cleared. In addition, they believe that stirring force could only lead to violation of rights; hence the government simply uses force in case one initiates it.
In this society, anyone could begin any type of business one desires. This is because the security of monopolies does not operate. The main law which is plainly decreed and everybody is supposed to observe is that members of the society should not violate an individual’s human rights (De Soto 68). Thus they give credibility to observing individual’s rights which is supreme and freedoms are also regarded as supreme.
On the other hand, socialism is a reverse; the government is centrally involved while the society manages communal properties such as cooperatives and industries. Even though, they own those properties through the government. In addition, the workers are in charge of means of production owned by the society and are invested for the well being of the whole economy but not just the wealthy individuals.
In this system, the government manages the overall means of production but the members have the duty of choosing the best setting for the production, the amount to produce and which product should be produced. Those produces should also be allocated fairly to ensure everybody is satisfied.
Some philosophers like Karl Marx claimed that there is possibility of capitalism being overshadowed because already there are some evident changes in capitalist societies which resemble socialism. They further suggested that they must look for a means to conquer capitalists’ resistance and their proposers to achieve socialism.
In socialism economy, there is equal allocation of resources within its members and focuses on providing basic needs to the members to ensure equality. To make sure every member in the society benefits, the government ensures it caters for those who are needy and cannot support themselves, this is achieved through community based programs and related organizations.
In addition, socialist societies are usually known because of their charitable social security systems. These include: free education, full employment, total coverage through pension system, subsidized housing, welfare for the sick, orphans and elderly and good public security depicted by low crime rates (Rudiger 14).
For several decades the Soviet Union lived as an enormous national socialist government. The Kibbutzim and Mennonites abandoned the Soviet Union and settled in capitalist nations like Israel and United States.
The Amish live peacefully under capitalism since the community reaps together and sows together. Because they are not buying food and paying wages, there is fairly little taxable business taking place. Furthermore, the community could also work jointly to produce goods which could be sold to neighbors surrounding the community.
That enables the community to pay for things like property taxes (Gilpin 220). That indicates that the socialist society should own the means of production, but not the individuals within their society. Since socialism depends on production which belongs to the collective, then it’s very hard for a single socialist unit to exist in another socialist unit. Also in a case of a joint ownership, one of the parties must have more power over the property than the other.
It is impossible for two units to have sovereignty over similar property. As a result, socialist groups like Kibbutzim and Mennonites abandoned areas such as Eastern Europe and Russia in favor of Israel and United States. Socialist society depends on willing contribution of every member of that society. In case of the less productive members within the society, that is not regarded as a problem.
Nevertheless, if the most productive members in that society were able of being independent, that could be a problem. This is because if those members who are most productive depart from the collective, then the overall resources allocated to every member decreases. In case this repeatedly happens then socialism would collapse, since the only people who would remain are the less productive (Duck 2).
There must be something to maintain the most productive members in the socialist country; this ensures they do not leave. For instance, majority of productive Mennonites are kept within their society by the religion or the Jews in their Kibbutzim.
Patriotism might also maintain majority of productive members in a socialist country. Nonetheless, the tie of religion is stronger than that of patriotism. Because socialism cannot permit most of its members who are productive to depart from the collective, then it is very hard for capitalist to exist within socialism.
This is evident because socialist government always takes production from those people who are most productive and then reallocate it to the less productive people. If that was done against the desires of the people, subsequently they will harbor bitterness against socialist government. As a result, the tie of patriotism will grow weaker (Duck 2).
Government Role on Social Life
Critics argue that a government which is capable of providing everything is also powerful enough to take away everything. This happened to German National Socialists and Communist Russia. Nevertheless, government with socialist system does not withhold social welfare but the power it has over the economy of that nation leaves the citizens vulnerable to the dictators (Newman 39).
They argue that in a nation where Congress are not permitted to pass law which focuses on establishment of religion, then government social programs seems to be corrupt and mostly tend to be agnostic. As a result, such social programs seem to prohibit religion which is a free exercise or others encourage atheism.
There are many well documented government education programs which prohibit prayer and encourage atheism. Socialist governments appear to atheism. The morality of Atheist is only a manifestation of the light reflected by biblical morality. Without the guiding light from the bible, atheist morality is likely to go off course. Finally, it degrades to level where immoral behaviors such as genocide turn to be acceptable.
Critics further argue that socialism should not be allowed to exist in a government and socialist groups ought to support capitalism in their government since in capitalism they can freely exist. They believe that the framework of capitalism leads to efficient socialism, this is because it allows people to embrace socialism (Duck 2-3).
In capitalist system, prices are not determined by the state but set by interplay between demand and supply in the free markets. Nevertheless, the state could affect the prices indirectly through subsidization, taxation, restrictions of imports and in case it manages the Central Bank, through monetary policy like money supply and interest rates. Therefore, in this system coordination of transactions through prices is a distinctive feature of capitalist system (Friedman 8-13).
On the other hand, in case of socialist economy channeling so much power on the prices it would require sufficient market structure; it would also challenge the structure and the state that formed such system while trying to allocate resources in the economy. In socialist economy price mechanisms were not fully eliminated, mostly it was incorporated in economic planning.
This led to unofficial or multiple official price systems. This altered price system which never reflects true scarcity levels and makes consumers and companies to be price inelastic, thus they do not react adequately to increase and decrease of prices because these are meaningless. Conversely, households in classical socialist economy work under constrain due to the hard budget because their funds are limited.
Thus they never respond to prices because the state controls the prices which become political relevance. As a result, the prices of services and basic goods like medical services, staple food, housing, childcare, are normally subsidized whilst the demand for luxury goods is controlled through setting high prices. As proposed by classical economic theory the consumers respond promptly, they buy extra of the subsidized goods compared to what they would purchase in market equilibrium.
In capitalist system, private enterprises of different sizes coexist and usually compete with those enterprises owned by the state and other forms like the cooperatives. The main feature of capitalist system appears to be free market exit and entry. Thus it’s not a static system however it operates under dynamic renewal.
On the other hand, in socialist economy the seller incurs total transaction cost, seeks information on how and where to find the product, adapts to the seller’s supply through forced substitution. Therefore, the buyer bears the outcomes of uncertainty. This is opposite of capitalist economy which can be regarded as buyer’s market. In the case of seller’s market as in socialism, it’s usually a stable condition where demand constantly exceeds supply (Rudiger 11).
According to the discussion above it is evident that these two systems are quite different with a few similarities. Majorly, the socialist economy is depicted by its communal ownership as the name suggests. The society properties are owned by everybody and there is no one entitled as the sole manager.
The property rights are generally communal and the members act as caretakers of the properties. On the other hand, capitalism is distinguished by the private ownership of property. Analyzing on the prices the two systems are really diverse, under socialism the consumers are in control of the market and they bear the overall cost of market uncertainties.
Moreover, they are supposed to seek where and how to use the means of production hence the name seller market. On the other hand, under capitalism it’s the reverse it’s called the buyer market since the government is in control of the means of production. One similarity is that both governments control the amount of money workers contributes thus the pension is under government management.
De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. New York: Random House, 2000.
Duck, Samuel. “Comparing national socialism to capitalism, liberty, charity, and local socialism”, 2009. Web.
Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Gilpin, Robert. Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Hans-Hermann, Hoppe. Theory of Socialism and Capitalism. Alabama: Ludwing von Mises Institute, 2007.
Hunt, E. and Lautzenheiser, Mark. History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2011.
Kornai, Janos. The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Newman, Michael. Socialism: a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Ruccio, David and Amariglio, Jack. Postmodern moments in modern economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Rudiger, Frank. “North Korea: East Asian Socialism, Capitalism, or What?” University of Vienna, 2008. Web.
Alienation and Capitalism Essay
The idea of alienation was developed by Karl Marx and it can be used to analyze the nature of human interaction in the current world. Alienation is widespread today and it can barely be witnessed in almost all societies. “Marx developed his theory of alienation to reveal the human activity that lies behind the seemingly impersonal forces dominating society” (Meszaros 45). Marx contends that the modern world is a product of past human activities.
He further explains that the future world will also be influenced by human activities. The materialist theory as put forward by Marx indicates that human beings were influenced by their societies. Marx believes that alienation is entrenched in materialism and not in religion or the psyche. However, Hegel and Feuerbach associated alienation with the former and not the latter. Alienation in essence meant loss of the capacity to have power over labor.
“Marx criticized the notion that humans possess a fixed nature regardless of their society” (Marx 398). He clearly explained how the myriad factors associated with the unchanging human character, vary considerably in various societies. He contended that the necessity to influence nature to fulfill human requirements was the only systematic aspect of all human cultures. Just like animals, people should work in order to stay alive. Nonetheless, human labor was differentiated from animal labor since human beings developed perception.
Ernest Fischer noted that human labor is unique since people consciously work on nature, and formulate new mechanisms of getting the items they require. Working on nature changes both the laborer and his environment. “Consequently, labor is a dynamic process through which the laborer shapes and moulds the world he lives in and stimulates himself to create and innovate” (Ollman 156). According to Marx, “the individual is the social being” (Ollman 157).
In this context, Marx implies that as people struggle to obtain their daily needs, they are all compelled to interact with others. Society is not merely comprised of people; it conveys the totality of relationships and connections that people find themselves in. labor makes people to interact physically with the world.
Development of humanity is partly determined by labor. Moreover, human relationships are a product of labor itself. “Our ability to work, to improve how we work and build on our successes, has tended to result in the cumulative development of the productive forces” (Macionis 456). This is what produced class society.
Surplus production caused division of societies into classes. This process was significant in developing and controlling dynamics of production. However, it also meant that most producers could no longer have control of other people’s labor. As a result, labor alienation emerged with social order.
“The emergence of class divisions in which one class had control over the means of producing what society needed, led to a further division between individuals and the society to which they belonged” (Marx 345). Even though alienation is persistent in the world, it can still be altered.
Alienation and Capitalism
“Alienation arose from the low level of the productive forces, from human subordination to the land and from the domination of the feudal ruling class” (Macionis 134). Nonetheless, these types of alienation exhibited some restrictions. For instance, peasants labored independently on their land, and produced their necessities within their autonomous family systems.
Capitalism had dynamics and constraints that were different from those of feudalism. The bourgeoisie envisaged a society where transactions could primarily be based on money. In this case, alienation is practiced through selling. In the capitalist society, many individuals were restrained from accessing the vital modes of production.
As such, the majority of people were rendered landless. This compelled them to sell their labor in order to meet their daily necessities. Hence, labor was commoditized and it could be sold just like other items in the market. “Capitalism involved a fundamental change in the relations between men, instruments of production and the materials of production” (Marx 234).
Production shifted from homes to factories. Division of labor came into sight with the onset of factory production, and it was really devastating. Workers became over dependent on the bourgeoisie, who dominated production. Forced labor also emerged because laborers had no influence in their jobs.
Alienation was worsened by capitalism. In this case, workers were extremely alienated from the items they produced. “Marx argued that the alienation of the worker from what he produces is intensified because the products of labor actually begin to dominate the laborer” (Macionis 367).
Part of a worker’s produce is embezzled by his employer. Therefore, the worker is continuously exploited. Workers also use their wages to purchase what they have produced themselves. The labor patterns today have been seriously fragmented by the current production models.
From this discussion, it is evident that alienation has consistently developed from the ancient world to present. At present, alienation is manifested clearly by the kind of interaction that prevails between modern industrialists and their laborers. In this parasitic interaction, the capitalists have a tight grip on production channels. Conversely, workers are only left with the option of selling their skills. Therefore, Marx’s alienation concept is relevant in examining the existing production systems.
Macionis, John. Sociology. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall, 1997.
Marx, Karl. Theories of Surplus Value. New York: Humanity Books, 2000.
Meszaros, Istvan. Marx’s Theory of Alienation. New York: Merlin Press, 1986.
Ollman, Bertell. Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in a Capitalist Society. London: Cambridge University Press, 1977.