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Chapter 1

SOC102 Habits of Inequality Chapter 1

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Lorne Tepperman

Habits of Inequality Chapter 1 – Exploitation LUCKY NUMBER - The paths people follow through life are often made clear when they’re still young (e.g., tend to leave little room for change past a certain age) o “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man” – Jesuit - Michael Apted o Directed the documentary Seven Up  Follows fourteen British children (10 boys, 4 girls) over the course of their lives  Presents new footage every seven years  Represents the segments of British society, differentiated by class  Provided support for the Jesuit quotation by noting obvious differences between the upper- and lower-class children at only seven years of age o Shows how the British class system influences education, aspirations, and life experience  The social class into which they were born largely shapes the clothes they wear, their body language, the way they talk, their education, and what they spend their lives doing - Bernd Baldus and Verna Tribe o The same holds true for Canada’s class system  Interviewed 108 local school children (under 11 years of age) to learn about their ideas on inequality  Children can recognize the signs of inequality  Children already formed moral judgements about inequality  Why some people are rich  “They deserve it”  Why some people are poor  “They didn’t work hard enough” o Young children recognize class inequality as a significant aspect of social life o Young children endorse the belief that virtue is rewarded - Class and class inequalities are linked to exploitation o Economic differences often turn into economic inequalities by powerful classes who exploit less powerful classes o Economic differences need to be framed in terms of class differences  The rich define themselves as the upper class  The rich name the poor as the lower class o Class differentiation  Produces different lives for people of different backgrounds  Produces an ideological system that justifies economic inequalities by making cultural and even moral distinctions between people of different classes THE WINING SIDE OF HISTORY - Friedrich Engels o Openly discussed his strong belief in communism, effectively rebelling against his privileged background o Studied how working-class families in Manchester lived and were treated o Published a book in 1845 called The Condition of the Working Class in England  Revealed that English industrial workers were deprived and experienced conditions just as bad as those in today’s least developed countries  Believed that all of this misery would provide fertile soil for revolution and the path to a better society, and that workers would reject capitalism and find the strength to over-throw the factory owners o Formed the basis for Marxism  Karl Marx was the more intellectually flamboyant of the two  Engels encouraged Marx’s intellectual genius - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels o Joined the Communist League o Published the Manifesto of the Communist Party  Society as a whole is splitting up into two classes directly facing each other (e.g., bourgeoisie and proletariat) o The year of its publication was marked by upheavals across Europe  The breadth of social unrest showed just how agitated the working class was, yet the revolutionary uprisings failed to achieve their goal o The next decade saw a fierce counter-revolutionary backlash that forced Marx and Engels to move to London o Despite these failures, both remained convinced that revolution and the fall of capitalism were inevitable  There has always been a struggle between the oppressed classes and those who oppress them in history  Capitalism marked the end of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat  Bourgeoisie is the class of modern capitalists o Owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour  Proletariat is the class of modern wage labourers o No means of production of their own o Reduced to selling their labour power in order to live  Believed that the struggle between the capitalists and wage labourers would be the final struggle o Capitalism is the last mode of production because it carries the seeds of its own destruction  Cannot survive without constantly increasing profits  Must constantly make the production process more efficient, pay lower wages, and control the workers more closely, in order to extort the maximum possible profit  Always has to expand by creating an increasingly larger and deprived working class that will eventually revolt o Workers’ revolution is as certain as the growth and fall of capitalism (e.g., post-revolutionary society = communism)  Give rise to a new society  One with no state and no private property  People will contribute according to their ability, receive according to their ability, and fulfill their creative potential o Most people argue that capitalism has prevailed since the collapse of the Soviet communism, proving Marx wrong  “Communism isn’t the same as capitalism at all. Under capitalism, some men oppress all the rest. Under communism, it’s the other way around.” o Communism in Russia was important in several ways  Pressured capitalists in other countries to accept a variety of forms of democratic socialism  Gave the working classes confidence in their historic mission and legitimized their goals of improving wages and work conditions  Gave the working class that their struggle would inevitably succeed  Though some of these gains have been eroded through globalization o In most industrial societies, capitalism divides the population into two opposing classes  Class is a group of people who have the same relation to the means of production  The materials needed to produce goods (e.g., capital, property, machinery)  Workers are provided with access to the machinery and capital to produce goods in exchange for a wage  Wages are often low and only enough to keep the worker alive and productive  Usually more workers than jobs, which is why people are willing to accept such low pay  Capitalists know that continued unemployment ensures that a reserve army of labour will be available in case extra hands are needed (e.g., unlimited access to labour)  Know they can pay the lowest wages they like  Able to find another worker to replace the one who refuses their offer  The mere threat of unemployment guarantees that workers will comply with the capitalists’ wishes  This means exploitation  The working class has only three options o They can work for the capitalists o They can form unions and try to change the conditions set by the capitalists o They can revolt, overthrow the capitalists, and create a new, egalitarian, classless society  Least likely because compliance is safer and easier than organizing a revolution  The means of production mediates the dynamic between the capitalists and the working-class  The means of production determines differences in social position (e.g., power) o Change in technologies of production  change in the means of production  change in the forms of ownership and control practices  change in forms of exploitation  change in forms of conflict  The means of production causes constant shifts in power relations o Class conflict is an inescapable feature of any society  Hunter-gathering societies  Capitalist industrial societies  Lower wages and worse working conditions = higher profits o People remain divided along class lines for generations  Born into the proletariat class  cannot further their education or improve themselves  forced to work for capitalists in order to survive  live off subsistence wages  always exhausted  The only way to change this situation is for the working-class people to recognize how similar their economic experiences are (e.g., common relationship to the means of production) o Class consciousness is awareness of their common economic situation  Essential to both mobilization and revolution (e.g., to control or change the class system)  Two types of class awareness:  A class that is aware in itself  A class that is aware for itself o A class is aware that they have a common relation to the means of production and that they are capable of mobilizing to pursue their own interests o False consciousness is the belief in the ideas perpetuated by the dominant capitalist class that blame people for their own troubles, rather than the system as a whole  Prevents the transition between the two types of awareness  To oppose and overthrow capitalism, workers need to develop a revolutionary class-consciousness and believe that they are on the winning side of history A WHOLE LOT MORE FOR A WHOLE LOT LESS - Democratic socialism comprises of small improvements and timely social reforms that deal with working-class concerns o Workers are divided by other factors (e.g., geography, culture, language, religion, values) that make them unlikely to come together as a single revolutionary group o The Great Depression and the world recession failed to set off a class revolution o Capitalism has survived thanks to a combination of protection by Western governments, and to the war-making that has yielded profits, increased productivity, and boosted employment rates  Capitalism has been considered too big to fail - Today, capitalism has introduced factors designed to appease the working class (e.g., welfare, consumerism, upward mobility) o Western workers, especially in the US and Canada, have lost their class consciousness and shifted their focus to identity politics (inequalities based on race, sexuality, and age) o As unionizing manufacturing jobs have been lost to overseas workers, Canadian and American workers have lost their political voice - Today, the working-class remains unlikely to revolt because it lacks class consciousness o The development of class consciousness has always posed a huge challenge o Successful mobilization requires successful organization  Protest and revolution need tight organization and loyal membership  Expelling free riders  Class-based organizations (e.g., trade unions) need to mobilize their members behind strong leaders  Leaders need to ensure that the group exercises self-control and works toward collective interests o Class mobilization forces people to blindly trust union and party leaders, to value equality over liberty, and to work toward long-term goals o Theory of exploitation  Workers will only agree to self-sacrifice if they have an common enemy (e.g., exploitation)  Exploitation is the control and use of an economic resource (e.g., capital, property, technology) to profit at the expense of the workers  Based on the labour theory of value that allows capitalists to exploit and benefit from the poverty of workers o From the workers’ standpoint, exploitation is unfair and dehumanizing o From the capitalists’ standpoint, exploitation (and profit) is the reason why investors put their money at risk  Investors in production control a unique commodity (e.g., labour power) that creates more value than it costs  Workers (who lack access or control over the means of production) are forced to sell their labour power to whoever owns the means of production  To maximize profits, capitalists pay workers low wages in exchange for their labour power and charge consumers high prices for the products yielded by the labour power  Theory of surplus value is the difference between the wage received by the worker and the value of the product produced by the worker - Labour is the supreme source of all wealth o Adam Smith  If workers owned their own means of production, goods would be priced in proportion to the labour needed to produce them o Neo-classical economists  Too abstract because no one can measure the surplus value o Mainstream economists (and Marxists)  Technical defects because the costs of subsistence vary historically and culturally, so not able to solidly define how much labour time is necessary for survival - Karl Marx o Exploitation  Economic unfairness, including notions of disadvantage, trickery, greed, dehumanization - Max Weber o Exploitation  Profiting unjustly from the labour of others - Erik Olin Wright o Three principles of exploitation  Inverse interdependence  The material well-being of the controlling group depends on the material deprivation of the controlled group  Wealth is a zero-sum game  Capitalists can only thrive if they deprive the working class of material wealth  The material welfare of one class depends on the material deprivation of another  Exclusion  The exploited group must be barred from accessing the resources they need to survive (e.g., land, housing, water, health, credit), except through paid labour  Capitalists have to starve workers into submission in order to gain their surplus value
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