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Chapter 14

SOC 10000 Chapter 14: Capitalism and the Economy
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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC 10000
Professor
Weiss Dan
Semester
Spring

Description
Capitalism and the Economy • Paradox o The more one earns, the more one can afford leisure; however, the more one earns, the more it costs not to work in terms of forgone wages o The home office trend that started in the early 1960s, when urban artists who couldn’t afford the rent on separated residences and studios started occupying postindustrial spaces, continues to blur the line between home space and workplace o With the birth of the personal computer, the number of folks who used their home as their principal place of business skyrocketed, increasing 56 percent over the 1980s and another 23 percent in the 1990s o For some individuals, the boundaries between work and home have eroded to the point that they resemble precapitalist, cottage industry modes of production more than anything seen since the Industrial Revolution • A Brief History of Capitalism o Capitalism is an economic system in which property and goods are primarily owned privately; investments are determined by private decisions; and prices, production, and the distribution of goods are determined primarily by competition in an unfettered marketplace o Feudalism was the precapitalist economic system characterized by the presence of lords, vassals, serfs, and fiefs o Agricultural revolution is the period around 1700 marked by the introduction of new farming technologies that increased food output in farm production o There were many innovations during the Industrial Revolution, one major innovation for textile production was the power loom, a weaving machine powered by driving shafts, which made the manufacturing process much more efficient o A corporation is a legal entity unto itself that has a legal personhood distinct from that of its members, namely, its owners and shareholders o In the U.S., the corporations are legally recognized persons and share many of the rights of an individual • Theorizing the Transition to Capitalism o Adam Smith ▪ Perhaps capitalism’s greatest advocate was Adam Smith, the father of liberal economics ▪ Individual self-interest in an environment of others acting similarly will lead to a situation of competition, as long as basic laws and contracts are honored ▪ If a task is broken down into parts, each part can be completed more quickly and once people specialize in this way, they are better able to innovate ▪ Because money stores value, the actions of buying and selling can be staggered over time and across people o Georg Simmel ▪ Simmel saw the development of monetary payment systems as part of a historical evolution, the depersonalization of exchange ▪ Simmel argues that under the system of wage labor, people are paid in money, and furthermore, this wage is not tied to the quality of the raw materials, accidents, or other exigencies in the production process ▪ Under a salary system, workers are paid not for a direct service but for the sum total of their services ▪ Simmel argues that it is only by maintaining a monetized, economic public sphere that people can enjoy a private sphere that truly is private, where people actively exclude 2 market and monetary relations in order to experience pure sociability o Karl Marx ▪ Marx saw alienation, a condition in which people are dominated by forces of their own creation that then confront them as alien power, as the basic state of being in a capitalist society ▪ Factory work has become so specialized and their roles so interchangeable and devoid of skill, according to Marx, that most people working in shoemaking factories today probably do not know the entire process for making a shoe ▪ Labor is, in a sense, forced by economic need, and its rhythm is controlled not by the individual producer but by some larger social force, institution, or individual ▪ Socialism is an economic system in which most or all the needs of the population are met through nonmarket meth
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