Tag Archives: Marx

Wealth Inequality

Many say we live in the land of opportunity. The sky is the limit. We can all become who we want to be in life. All the resources are there, now it’s up to the individual whether he would take the opportunities to get where he wants to be in life. Is this always true though? Marx believes because of capitalism this is not true nor would it ever be true. The working class (proletarians) is constantly being exploited by the ones who own the means of production (bourgeois), it is the only way those on top stay on top. We are fed this dream that we can make it also and someday be on top that “those on top at some point were just like the others workers and look at them now” or “hard work pays off at the end, nothing comes easy” the idea keeps you going but in reality you are stuck and not really going anywhere or moving up in the ladder. We sell our commodities (labor) to earn money and with that money earned we buy everyday commodities (shelter, food, etc.) needed in order to survive. The wealth inequality and gap would always be there, if anything with time it gets worse. This is the ongoing cycle that will never end. We would never have the extra money to invest and profit from in order to gain capital or at least many and the majority wont. As the rich get richer the poor get poorer. Get rich or die trying in which there’s a higher possibly you die from old age while trying to succeed at becoming wealthy.

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Blog #1 Wealth Inequality in America

Considering the truths of both videos my response reflects my concern for the future of America. In the Land of the Free, Home of the Poor Americans were questioned to pick a pie chart that reflected the distribution of wealth. Most Americans were choosing the pie chart that represented the wealth of Sweden. In my opinion their motives for choosing the pie chart that actually reflected the wealth of Sweden was , considering the location of the poll of that time , that the opinion of a specific social class of elite status. At the end when two men that would be though of as low middle class, actually pick the right chart. This makes sense since the elite individuals in our society are not always or don’t want to be aware of how unequal is our society. This would point to Marx concept of class consciousness, where the proletarians become aware of their position and united to fight against the bourgeois. In the Wealth Inequality in America, they show the same phenomenon as the first video but the pool of people question is bigger therefore it is more accurate. The remark about communist lets the viewer know that they are not making propaganda for communist, they believe in capitalism but they do believe that something needs to be done. My concern is people’s ignorance about our reality, people tend to not want to admit how unequal our wealth distribution is and the gap keeps getting bigger. There is a need for class consciousness, even if is not to establish communism as Marx would want but just to be more realistic about our economic situation. In conclusion I enjoyed the videos very much and made me understand better the occupy Walt-street campaign.

Blog 2 – Alienation

Marx’s theory of Alienation is surprisingly common when looking into our social structure in the U.S.  Being a capitalist country, we developed a mode of production that deprives humans of being “human”.  Workers are basically drones, gears in a grand industrial clock, where they are emotionless and have only one output which is labor.  What is the point of constantly grinding out work, the same thing day in and day out, if you can’t enjoy life.  It’s unfortunate that this net, that is alienation, has caught so many people and exploited them.  However, as seen in history many times over, revolution seems to cure, even if only for a short time, the proletariat’s epidemic.  I would assume that in order to achieve a “fresh start” that overcoming bureaucracy would be necessary and as time passes it seems more and more difficult.  Alienation of the worker is spreading and it looks as if we are drifting further away from humanism.

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 #3- “Commodities Fetishism” drives today’s society

Karl Marx wanted to reunite theory and practice.  His theories are shaped by the world around him. Marx would also refer capitalism as a mode of production which involves commodities for the means of exchange in the market place.   Marx used a “materialist” approach in formulating his theory on commodity. He defined commodities as “an object outside of us, a thing by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another” (P. 69). He would describe this phenomenal as companies producing goods and pressured to stay competitive in the business world.  All commodities are characterized as having a use-value and an exchange-value.  Marx would say use-value is reflective on the workers’ labor, whereas, goods that are exchanged for profit becomes an exchange-value.

Modern day Marx would say that the company, Michael Kors, is not producing appealing handbags to its consumers but driven by intentions to make profits.  Marx would argue that capitalists turned commodities into ‘Fetishism’ because he said they believe that value can be inherent to a commodity.  Fetishism is defined as ‘the belief that natural objects have supernatural powers, or that something created by people has power over people’.

The term ‘Fetishism’ can be applied to material goods such as Michael Kors.  One way to convey if commodity fetishism applies to this company or any other materialistic object is if the product affects the normal routine of society.  Mostly women are driven to have the latest Michael Kors bag or watch.  These two items have become fashionable in today’s society.  Modern day Marx would say that people are consumed by materialistic things.  Such fetishism may not be healthy to individuals and they continue down this path with the intentions to make themselves look and feel better.  However, individual who may not afford such luxury of being fashionable or following the latest trend in society.  Such individuals may be looked down upon or not accepted.  Marx would say that conflicts may arise resulting in a division in society.

I still question why most people are so bewitched into fetishism in today’s society.  If only such strong beliefs can be transferred to important matters in society such poverty or abuse.

Marx vs. Durkheim

Durkheim and Marx both held different opinions about Capitalism, specifically the modern division of labor. Marx was a conflict theorist and argued that the division of labor resulted in alienation, he mainly focused on the social inequalities between social groups. On the other hand, Durkheim claimed that the division of labor was not necessarily bad for the individual or society. Unlike Marx who claimed economic specialization produced alienation, Durkheim who was a functionalist, believed the division of labor was beneficial for society because it increases the worker’s skill and created a feeling of solidarity between people. He claimed the division of labor creates a certain balance and unites social systems, essentially making them more efficient. Although Marx and Durkheim were essentially basing their theories from the 19th century and the rise of industrialization, the division of labor theory can still be applied in today’s society.

 Durkheim disagrees with Marx on alienation, he believes only in rare circumstances do people actually become aliented. In todays society someone who agrees with Durkheim would argue that the worker who works in retail is constantly interacting with other people, whether it is other workers or the customers. Although their task is to sell or restock, they understand that they are part of a bigger picture, they are helping economy, therefore the worker remains consious of their humanity.  The worker sees they are part of a whole, as Durkheim says “he knows that his activity has a meaning.” 

 Based on the two arguments, I would agree with both. I believe workers do tend to get alienated from their work, for example my friends who work in retail always complain about how much they dislike their job. Similar to the workers becoming “the machine,” in todays society workers become “the dummies” in order to sell and make their wage or commission. Along the lines of Marx’s theory, employees work out of necessity, therefore they grow more and more resentful of their jobs. However I don’t believe alienation is the correct term, not every worker hates their job and my friends certainly do not feel isolated from their jobs. In other words I believe a better word for alienation is people feeling occasional discontent in their jobs. For example I am a waitress and bar tender, my hourly wage is very low because I get tips. There are days where I feel extremely discontent, days where it’s not busy, or days when customers are cheap; however, there are days where I have my regular customers or even new ones who always brighten up my day. Along the lines of Durkheim’s theory, I believe economic specialization is not necessarily bad, because I find that since I’ve been specializing in my job for so long, I am actually really good at it. But then again I am a bit biased, because I have great relationships with my boss and co-workers and actually enjoy my job. 

 Overall, I believe a combination of both theories is essentially the most accurate in today’s society. Although I just make drinks and serve them, I do not feel alienated from my job. Although my friends simply engage people to buy or work at the cash register, they do not necessarily feel alienated, especially in today’s society. However there are cases where people MUST work and do resent their jobs. 

Blog #2: Obsession of consumer items (Marx)

There is no way to say that you work only for survival. There are reasons that we work part – time and full – time jobs. It is for the survival of yourself and your family but for paying some bills, getting weekly groceries, clothes, and other things that you might need for living and for leisure time. Marx discusses the idea of “labor theory of value”. ‘Labor theory of value’ means that the amount of hours you work to get the object (Edles & Appelrouth, 66).  This idea indicate that people (workers) must sell their own labor power to get money to survive for the next day. In a Capitalist societ, that is what we are doing right now, we are selling our time to work 40 or more hours a week for the sake of our family or our own survival weekly.

I believe that Marx was trying to say that because we make the objects through our labor, we create this idea of wanting it and to work harder and longer to get more of the wants. In addition, he mentioned that as workers we alienate ourselves from our jobs we do not have an emotional attachment to our work. An example of alienation was brought up in the classroom when the shoemaker use his own time of the day and hours to produce 2 pairs of shoes which he felt more attach to the shoes because he decided when he wanted to stop making the shoes. However, if the shoes were made in an factory with line of people producing a piece of the shoes, these factory workers are not attach or have a connection with the products because they are worry about doing their part the best way they can without having any flaws and try to finish the amount of shoes they have to produce that day.

There is a Youtube video that I’ve searched that explain the reasons why us the consumer and the workers that decided to sell our time for things that might sound ridiculous for some people. In this video one of the items that we make such an important thing in our lives is money. Money is made made, however it has no value as gold. But, we make money an important object that we need to for because it something we cannot live without or else it is the end for our existence. Marx mentioned that “we treat the goods we buy as if they have “magical” powers” (Edles & Appelrouth,68). It is very interesting that he might think that way, just wondering that having to buy an IPhone 5S or a tablet makes everything feel new and special. I think the reason that the items we purchase are magical might because the amount of hard labor and long hours we are able to buy the item of our dream or items that we might need for future school classes. In any case, it is a concept that I would agree with because if I work many hours a week and I literally save as much as I can from my wages, then I purchase the item that I need, lets say a Mac Pro laptop, I would be feeling accomplished because I am getting a product that many other people who have money have in their own hands.

Finally I believe what  Marx is trying to say is that everyday commodity, like oil, clothes, shelter, is something that we need to get regularly which is why we need to work often to get the wage or money to get the items we need.  In the end we need to exchange ourselves to get what we produce because of survival.

(The Youtube channel person has a blog with more Marx information that might be helpful — http://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/)

References:

Edles Laura D. and Apperouth Scott. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era Text readings. Pine Forge Press, 2010.

Law of Value 2: The Fetishism of Commodities [Video]. Accessed on 2.19.2014: Web. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4MbUx-il6c&feature=share&list=PL210260F8F0177A93&index=1]