Tag Archives: American Dream

Blog #4 How to make it in America–“Get rich or die trying”

Throughout society hustling may be portrayed as something devious. We tie the word to negative connotations. In the music industry rappers talk about selling drugs and hustling on the streets to make money. I always viewed hustling as something that was done as a means to make quick money in which ever way you can obtain easy access to. Think about the people who sell dvds, perfumes, and handbags on the street corners or even the usual group of people who stand in front of the bodegas. Hustlers take on many different forms not just the form of flashy cars and entourages however although their trades may vary they all share common characteristics between them. They have the ability to easily convince people into buying their products with charm or even deceit.

Hustling is something sporadic and unconventional, it is characterized by a broad range of activities.  It is not a typical 9am-5pm job which may be considered honorable/respectable. However hustlers take on the task of finding a way to make quick money which shows immediate results. They don’t have to wait for a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck. Aside from negative connotations that come to mind when hearing the word, I found that hustlers are dynamic and innovative. Hustling as described by Veblen is a strategy which adds structure to our society.

We find that unemployment rates are high across the United States. More and more people are finding themselves doing odd jobs off the books because unemployment can only go so far for so long. While finding it difficult to land sustainable jobs people look for ways to make a quick buck. Whether through catalogs, from home, out of a car or even by foot people hustle. In order to make it in America we must hustle. As a nation of workaholics we find it difficult to stand still when receiving little to no income through unemployment or through mediocre jobs that neither satisfy us nor pay all of our bills. We fear being labeled as lazy or incapable. We constantly feel the need to multi-task. Keeping busy and having full schedules is what we do best. If we sit at home and do nothing we become restless. We must go out in search of something to do and become pro-active.

hustlingThe article “No Hustle, No Success” talks about mastering the art of hustling. It states that “the act of hustling means to act in an aggressive manner to achieve a self mandated goal no matter how difficult it may be”. In this article Yura Bryant talks about the hustler mentality as being essential to surviving amongst the declining infrastructures in today’s society. In fact, I believe this to be very true. Opportunities come to those who are willing to work hard and hustle even through  unconventional means. Yura Bryant discusses the hustler mindset as the fuel to the “American Dream”. He ends the article by stating “I am telling you without a doubt that you have to hustle hard to make it in these new times. We are currently in a rebuilding period throughout the entire world and only those with a keen sense of how to strategically operate a legitimate hustle or hustles will find themselves in a comfortable position moving forward”. I definitely agree as this gives light to the way that Vebelen presented hustling. It is truly an art and the hustler must display distinctive qualities. The next time I am doing my nails and someone comes in to sell socks or dvds I would look at them in a different perspective as this lecture has helped me to develop a distinct respect for them.

Attached below is a link to the article that I discussed previously. I definitely recommend it.



Blog 1 – Income Inequality

After watching “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor”.  It was shocking to see the reality of our income inequality.  I would of liked to have seen more people realize the issue than a bunch of seemingly oblivious drones.  Being that I work in the Financial industry it’s easy to see how the rich seem to get richer and those not at the level are stuck struggling just to scrape by.

I especially enjoyed watching “Wealth Inequality in America” since it broke it down in several graphs and images which make it simple to see how skewed income inequality actually is in the U.S. The chart of the U.S. income breakdown is a clear example of Marx’s idea that capitalism causes inequality.  Also, since Sweden’s “chart” was among the favorite as an ideal breakdown of income, maybe we should be taking notes as to how they run their society.  All in all, it is clear that the U.S. has a major income inequality problem that seems to only be worsening.  Hopefully some change is able to occur to relieve the issue.

Blog # 1Status Anxiety and Envy

Americans all have the idea that one day they can achieve the idea of the american dream. everyone wants to be the richest or most glamorous person walking, no one wants to think that the “normal life is for them” they want to be more than what they already are. Sometimes they think the normal life or the life they have just isn’t enough, sometimes even the rich want to become richer. when people see others advancing while they are getting left behind, they tend to get envious and greedy, and develop a dislike about a neighbor or anyone who is prospering if this prosperity doesn’t apply to ones self. People tend to be self assertive, so they need others to praise them and to always be in the spot light, and even when that happens, its sometimes not enough. The video epitomizes the idea that the normal life isn’t enough. One character who was a store manager wanted to be way more than that and believed that one day he could achieve being on television as long as he pursued it.

Blog #1: Inequality and its Reality


The videos “Wealth Inequality in America” and “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” show the unequal distribution of money in the United States. I always understood there was a gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% however I did not realize it was such a wide gap. I would have fallen in the category of what people “think” it is. The “actual” middle class closely represents what we think “poor” distribution is. Marx’s ideas of a ruling class owning the means of production and a subordinate class that lacks the means of production and the ability to sustain itself without selling its labor power to the ruling class lives on. The statistics are especially surprising, it is jaw dropping to see that 1% of America has 40% of all the nations wealth, and the top 20% holds 84% of wealth! This adds to Marx’s theory of capitalism, we can clearly see how capitalism produces inequalities. A complete equal society in a capitalist nation is unrealistic, however the reality behind the inequalities should produce alarming attention. 

The video makes you question the reality and the American Dream. Can we still call America the land of opportunity? The first thing that comes to mind is that the people at the bottom of the social triangle are resistant to work and the people at the top are the ones who have worked hard to reach their wealth. However, the video shows how this is not the case, its unlikely that the CEO is working 380x harder than the average worker. After learning the reality it is amusing to see everyone so confident about what they think the distribution is. Naturally we don’t notice these inequalities on an everyday basis, it seems as if everyone is more or less equal considering the packed malls and designer clothing many people have. The truth of the matter is the inequalities are present and corporate profits continue to grow and the inequalities continue to grow with them. 

After learning this information, one thing I wondered is how to overcome this class struggle and reduce the differences and inequalities. 

‘Two American Families’ – Frontline

indexTwo American Families follows the story of two ordinary, hard-working families in Milwaukee — one black, one white — over two decades as they battle to keep from sliding into poverty.  The FRONTLINE documentary (83:46) raises questions about the changing nature of the US economy and the fate of a declining middle class.  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Over the last several decades, the middle class has struggled with stagnant income, mounting debt and dwindling opportunities for steady work.  Here’s a snapshot: The State of America’s Middle Class in Eight Charts.
The existence of a strong “middle class”  seems to contradict Marx’s theory of capitalism, which imagines only two classes with opposed interests: the bourgeoisie (owners) and the proletariat (workers).   Indeed, the postwar rise of a strong middle class in the United States caused many to question the utility of Marxist theory.  Today, fewer Americans are able to achieve the upward  social mobility once considered a birthright.  Median wages have been stagnant since the 1970s and we’ve seen growing polarization in the distribution of wealth.  These trends have sparked renewed interest in Marx’s critique of capitalism.  From this critical perspective, some contend that the glory days of the American middle class are over, and that its heyday was actually a historical anomaly, the product of very particular historical and political circumstances that could never be sustained and will never be repeated.

‘Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)’

Rapper/social critic, Lupe Fiasco on the state of the American Dream…

Blog #8: The American Dream According to Marx

The American Dream in our society places a large emphasis on hard work and determination, which can then lead to economic and social success. This success can allow individuals to create a home and provide a better future for one’s loved ones. This notion of the American Dream has been promoted ever since the establishment of the United States, creating a sense of meritocracy in our society. However, due to the rise of capitalism and the influence of “bourgeois ideology”, that notion of the “American Dream” has all but deteriorated. Elite capitalists in our society have attempted to capitalize on our society’s obsession with the accumulation of wealth, in which the end result has been a substantial disparity of wealth between the elite few and the rest of society. Karl Marx an influential political economist believed that capitalism and its effects would create a massive class struggle that would eventually lead to large-scale crisis.

Karl Marx would conceptualize this notion of the American dream as a product of “bourgeois ideology”, one that places false hope among the working-class of our society. The American Dream’s current emphasis on home ownership has a direct correlation with the rise of capitalism in our society. Capitalism places an emphasis on borrowing capital in order to amass more capital; this emphasis however has created an influx of debt to increase substantially, allowing individuals to invest their life savings and future income into a home. According to Marx, the bourgeoisie shapes this obsession of accumulating wealth and home ownership, principles that the elite class holds in high regard. The upper class’ values and ideals in a capitalist society tend to become that society’s hegemonic values as well. Since the bourgeoisie own the means of production, their best interests are always prioritized. Therefore capitalists (bourgeoisie) make decisions that will solely benefit them, neglecting the well being of others.

Amassing capital has become a value of large significance in our present society. This obsession with the accumulation of wealth has created a shift in our American Dream. It was once truly based on creating better opportunities for one’s family and creating a better future. Unfortunately this has completely changed to one of owning property, and amassing as much capital as possible. This has allowed capitalists to try to extract as much surplus value from their workers in order to gain as much profit as possible. This extraction of “free labor” as Marx called it has created high levels of exploitation towards the working class. The working class in recent years has not been able to amass wealth due to their poor relationship with the means of production. The Proletariat class has had to deal with stagnant wages while the amount of labor expected from them rises exponentially.

Capitalism and its boom and bust tendencies cannot even promise the working class the small compensation that they receive from such a flawed system. This creates alienation within the working-class according to Marx. These individuals are not able to achieve their “American Dream” mainly because the elite capitalists make large-scale decisions with only their best interests in mind. As a result, the working class becomes alienated with the process of labor, the product they are producing, their natural ability to produce, and most importantly they become alienated with each other. The working class has started to believe according to Marx that they are not able to truly move up the social ladder based on their hard work and achievements. This creates dissension amongst classes and further intensifies the class struggle that Marx believes is a consequence of capitalism.

This dissension and exploitation creates class-consciousness for the working class, in which they notice that their hard work is not accounted for anything since they are not the owners of the means of production. This consciousness is heavily prevalent in today’s society, as various forms of protest throughout the world have been ignited due to the exploitation that many individuals have had to deal with due to the poor decisions that our elite capitalists and leaders have made. This class-consciousness is what ignited the “Occupy” movements throughout the United States and now throughout the world. Individuals around the world are now fed-up with not being able to achieve their own dreams since this disparity of wealth has created worse economic and social conditions for the rest of society. This specialization within individuals has only intensified this class struggle, further developing this division of labor.

Emile Durkheim would reject this notion that the division of labor has ruined the “American Dream”. Durkheim sees the division of labor as a means of organic solidarity in our society, allowing individuals to specialize in acts of labor according to their skill set. Durkheim would believe that the “American Dream” is very much alive, but that debt has become criminalized in our society. Too much emphasis is being put on the influx of debt, and not much is being used on how organic solidarity can perhaps allow us to help each other and relieve one another from such dire conditions. Credit according to Durkheim would be something sacred, as it can allow individuals to amass more wealth. This wealth can allow the business cycle to continue, further injecting the money supply and creating a positive chain of economic events. Durkheim would not agree with Marx in that the American Dream is just an injection of “Bourgeoisie ideology”. The American Dream is something sacred that can be achieved through collective means. Owning a home creates social solidarity amongst individuals according to Durkheim, allowing individuals to have a common objective.

Max Weber would disagree with both theorists, as he would blame the deterioration of the “American Dream” on increased emphasis on rationalization. This emphasis on rationalization has made efficiency the most important aspect of amassing wealth. Capitalists are being inclined to making decisions on what is in their best interests, neglecting the values and beliefs of the workers and the citizens of that country. This often creates an iron cage in which decisions are being made to benefit one’s likeliness in succeeding. This rationalization along with the rise of the protestant ethic, has led to this obsession with the accumulation wealth and owning a home in the United States. The Protestant ethic would be Weber’s main reason as to why the “American Dream” is so important, but would not provide answers as to why its likeliness to be achieved is continually fading.

Although each theorist is subjective in their analysis of the “American Dream”, each does provide their own unique perspective in terms of explaining why things occur in society, and what shapes these events. As a scholar, I truly believe that Marx’s ideology fits the deterioration of the “American Dream” better. Marx in his Economic Manuscripts of 1804 and through the words of Stuart Easterling, believed that “capitalism is an economic system that is inherently crisis-prone. It is driven by forces, which cause it to be unstable, anarchic, and self-destructive” (Easterling). Karl Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1804 and The Communist Manifesto, give us a foreshadowing of capitalisms flawed nature, and how it can ruin things in society such as individuals hope to achieve an “American Dream”.