The concept of establishing equality among all members of the society is as old as the history of civilization – the list of do’s and don’ts of several cultures also emanate out of that, before the dominant groups of the societies convert them as doctrines to maintain their dominance over the minorities. However, the voice of the concerned humans also rise from time to time, like what is now being heard under the titles like “human rights” or “living wage”.
Though usually dubbed as a means of meeting the basic living requirements, living wage aims at facilitating humans to earn their lives to fulfill what Maslow (1943) described in his “hierarchy of needs,” which comprises of five sets of needs such as basic needs (air, water, food, clothing and shelter), safety and security needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs. Thus the concept of living wage raises issues of human rights with special emphasis on the right to survival and dignity.
This article thus explores three situations depicted by three researchers to underpin the drivers of inequality in general. India is Plagued by Caste-concept and Exploitative Colonial Ruling Style In spite of being officially a staunch supporter of human rights with a clear backing from its constitution, India is still plagued by the legacies of the Hindu caste system and exploitative format of British ruling style, if the findings of Channa (2010) have anything to go by.
He points out with evidence that there is a huge gap between the constitutional vision and the ground-level realities regarding the social and economic situation in India, where it clearly fails to reason why the majority of its population still reels under “below poverty line”, save providing living wage.
Channa points out that legislation or legal strictures prove insufficient against the power of social will in India, which needs to be transformed to a state where the dominant groups of the society will unlearn the caste and exploitative colonial ruling concepts and perceive the real-time need of restoring the human status of its fellow countrymen. South Carolina Suffers from Contradictory Legislations
The issue of living wage gets another dimension when it is seen from interpretive and political economic anthropological perspectives, where Kingsolver (2010) comes up with the instance of South Carolina, the area which tops in the number of people living in poverty due to high unemployment rate. Here the solution lies in enforcing legislated living wage that would prioritize human needs over the issue of earning profit.
Kingsolver argues that the elimination of contradiction in the laws on tax or ‘right to work’ appears to be the first step towards achieving a legislated living wage, otherwise the age-old conflict between the logics of social welfare and the welfare of capital will continue to be at loggerheads in this region. Exploiters in the Avatar of Corporate Giants
Bensen (2010) shows how ‘biocapitalism’ of the corporate giants like Philip Morris is actually a veiled threat to the normative functioning of the society, where it violates not only the ethical standards of living, but also carries on with the tendency of exploiting the human capital, let alone ignoring the issue of social equality. For example, the placement of tobacco auction warehouses as well as the leaf-processing plants in North Carolina are strategically placed in predominantly Black residential areas to get low-skill workers at a minimum rate and to profit more by saving the expenditure on workplace conditions.
Conclusion All the three papers reviewed above analyze social dynamics of stigmatization under different contexts, where India suffers from the legacies of age-old caste system and exploitative British ruling strategies, while North and South Carolina suffer from racial discrimination and corporate manipulation. Such state of affairs only consolidates the impression that rules to establish human rights cannot be effective unless the mindset of the dominant groups are transformed, and for that matter, UN should steer a cogent and cohesive campaign across the globe on establishing human rights.
References Benson, P. (2008). Good clean tobacco: Philip Morris, biocapitalism, and the social course of stigma in North Carolina. American Ethnologist, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 357-379. Channa, M. S. (2010). What do people live on? Living wages in India. American Anthropological Association, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 15-28. Kingsolver, A. (2010). Living wage considerations in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. American Anthropological Association, Vo. 31, No. 1, pp. 30-41. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, pp. 370- 396.