Global systems theory is perhaps one of the many theories related to capitalism and transnational corporations. This paper attempts to look into global systems theory in the context of capitalism by making use of three articles as part of the literature for the research. By outlining the major contentions for each of these three articles, this paper will further juxtapose these main points with global systems theory and arrive at a more developed and comprehensive understanding of the theory as a whole.
Brief Literature Review In Robert Granfield’s article “Making It by Faking It: Working Class Students in an Elite Academic Environment”, he indicates how working class law students experience inequalities among upper class students which influences the class of law students.
By collecting data through observation, personal interviews, small group interview and survey from a national law school in the eastern part of the United States, Granfield was able to expose the essential differences between law students in terms of class background. Through class background, Granfield also identifies the apparent discrimination between working class students and upper class students at school whenever working class students feel that they are being treated as ‘cultural outsiders’.
In Hays’ article “The Ideology of Intensive Mothering: A Cultural Analysis of the Bestselling Gurus of Appropriate Childbearing”, he presents the key components of the ideology of intensive mothering, specifically: children are outside the market value, are priceless and are not economic assets; good childrearing requires intensive commitment on the part of the caregiver, and; childcare is the primary responsibility of the individual mother.
The central focus of Hays’ article focuses on childcare especially on the role of mothers towards their children. The author further gives the emphasis that children are ‘sacred’ in a sociological sense because of the fact that childrearing and its effects on children reaffirm the belief in the importance of children. It creates a protected space of security, trust and close human connection inasmuch as it illustrates the generous and nurturing characteristic of individuals rather than being individualistic and always inclined for competition.
In Webb’s newspaper article “A Crowded Family Enters the Space Age” featured in the New York Times, the author explores the case of Eric Alan’s family through the functionalist perspective. From a functionalist perspective, social institutions such as families and governments are analyzed and explained as collective means to satisfy specific or individual biological requisites. These social institutions, along with the rest, are composed of interconnected roles or norms such as the interconnected roles within the family (e. g. father, mother, etc.
). In the case of the family of Eric Alan, the worth of his family proves the idea that the family as a social institution has interconnected roles with the larger society. In particular, having to redesign his family’s home into something more ‘breathable’ exemplifies the presumption that the individual roles in the family, such as the role of the father to provide an ‘inhabitable’ home for his family, and the family in general is tied with the other segments of the society in such a way that one reinforces the values of the other and vice versa.
Featured in the November 8 issue of the New York Times, “A Crowded Family Enters the Space Age” conveys the story of a father, Eric Alan, wanting to provide a larger house for his growing family with the aid of Architect Neil Denari. In return, Denari’s expertise and skills acquire a ‘living experience’ thus proving to be another feat not only in his career as an architect but also in the discipline of architecture. From a functionalist perspective, this very well provides a real life example of how the units of the society interact together harmoniously in order to continue with survival.
Description of the Case Global system theory is a base for the concept of transnational practices. However, cross state boundaries do not necessarily originate with state agencies or actors. The global capitalist system operates to maximize profits at the expense of others. Murray Dobbing (1998) claims that the economic world order has changed and the nation-state is in decline. This paper will outline and support the claims of Dobbing through a discussion of the transnational practices in the economic and the cultural-ideological spheres in relation to the political sphere.
The paper will further discuss the agencies that facilitate transnational growth. In the economic sphere, the global capitalist system offers a limited place to the wage earning masses in most countries. It has very little need of the subordinate classes in this sphere as sophisticated machines replace human laborers for cost saving and greater profit for capitalists. As John Kenneth Galbraith in Rifkin’s The End of Work (1995) indicates, the global capital system requires scientific minded managers who have specialized talent and can operate sophisticated machines.
Unskilled workers and their families become part of an underclass and face permanent unemployment. Meanwhile, the global economy has created an environment in which many large corporations are becoming transnational corporations which bring wealth to both developing and developed countries often by lobbying to their governments so as to gain access to these developing countries. The governments of developing countries are jeopardizing their own legitimacy to cultivate an inviting environment for the private sector.
While the global capital system provides resources for economic development, the global capitals’ desires for low prices and high dividends result in child labor, environmental destruction and the expropriation of land and resources from local communities including indigenous people. In the culture-ideology sphere, the aim of global capitalists is to persuade all classes, especially the working middle-classes, to consume above their “biological needs” for pursuit of capitalists’ profit, which will ensure the belief that global capitalist system will be perpetuated.
The cultural ideology of transnational growth proclaims that the meaning of life can be found in the things that we possess. To consume, therefore, is to be fully alive, and to remain fully alive people must continuously consume. Moreover, the notions of men and women as economic or political beings are discarded by global capitalism as the system does not even pretend to satisfy everyone in the economic or political spheres. Their value to society is determined by what they can afford to purchase. Therefore, people primarily become consumers rather than citizens.
The point of economic activity for working middle-class of the global capitalist system is to provide the resources for consumption to create the “global shoppers,” and the point of political activity is to ensure that the conditions for consuming are maintained. The advancement of the internet and technology has hastened the reduction of trade barriers and the increment of the “global shoppers. ” According to Chomsky (2003), mass media overwhelmingly corporate and embraces the values of corporate leaders.
Moreover, the major media outlets are linked in huge media chains, with many of these conglomerates owned by transnational corporations. Corporate control is further solidified by advertising paid in dollars to the media by corporations. Thus, the mass media consistently supports globalization, neo-liberalism, and the politicians who push these corporate agendas. Transnational marketing such as TV commercials, billboards, etc. are forced on the world’s middle-class consumers. Transnational corporations, such as Disney, heavily market their American pop culture products.
By selling the same thing, the same way, everywhere with little or no reference to local cultural differences, transnational corporations has homogenized world culture. Analysis of the Case Robert Granfield’s article helps one to understand ‘global system theory’ as a whole. For the most part, Granfield’s discussion on how working class students adapt in the academic environment dominated by upper class law students gives us a brief but useful overview of how working class students attempt to join the remainder of the upper class of the workforce.
The startling irony is that while Granfield espouses the idea that working class law students can blend well with their environment which is presumed to give much preference to upper class students by ‘faking it’ or by posing as one of the upper class, global system theory on the other hand implies that there is no substantial place for these working class students especially in the workforce.
This is because the lower classes of the society or the working force comprising the bulk of the lower hierarchy, have already been replaced by sophisticated machines. Hence, manpower or physical labor becomes confined to those individuals who have sufficient learning to operate these sophisticated machines. If this is indeed the case, then it must also be the case that global system theory also espouses the presumption that the disparity between the highest and the lowest ranks of the social hierarchy grows parallel to the pace of global capitalism.
But Granfield suggests that the working class students have the ability to ‘fake it’ which may also suggest the probability that even the individuals from the lower ranks can also make it to the bulk of the workforce able to operate the sophisticated machineries of the contemporary world. Nevertheless, the totality of the global workforce remains to this day comprised of a large number of working class citizens who fall at the median of the social hierarchy, notwithstanding children or minors who work which leads us to the next point.
In Hays’ “The Ideology of Intensive Mothering: A Cultural Analysis of the Bestselling Gurus of Appropriate Childbearing”, we are given the presumption that children should be given the sufficient care and attention. This includes the idea that children or minors are not individuals who are expected to literally work whether in offices or factories. However, the opposite is true especially among nations below the poverty line or less-developed third-world countries.
It is estimated that around 250 million children are under what we call “child labor” according to the statistics provided by Think Quest, an online database providing global child labor information (Think Quest, 2007). If global system theory is indeed true, then there would be little reason to believe that there is child labor among the less-developed countries where capitalism is beginning to grow its roots since children have very little knowledge on the use of sophisticated machines intended to replace the workers who handle the basics of the tasks in the corporations, for instance.
But the case is that 250 million children work across the globe, which prompts us to question the claims of global system theory. On the other hand, global system theory may respond to this criticism by stating that the replacement of manpower with sophisticated machineries is only true for those transnational corporations operating in developed countries.
Part of the reason to this is the idea that underdeveloped countries are not suitable locations for transnational corporate ventures largely because developed nations have what it takes for global capitalism—a strong and sustained demand for the goods and services being offered by these corporations. Webb’s article “A Crowded Family Enters the Space Age” reiterates the presumption that the family has its roles in nurturing its members which partially relates to Hay’s article that children should be nurtured and protected and should be treated as economic assets especially in terms of manpower or a part of the work force.
The fact that Webb implies the idea that there are parental responsibilities towards the needs of the family especially of the children at least in terms of a suitable place to live point us to the idea that children or minors should be nurtured and cared for instead of being treated as members of the working class whether or not parents are able to provide for their needs.
Ultimately, this brings us to the understanding that the decline of the nation-state as espoused by global systems theory is not fully achieved precisely because the basic unit of the society or of the nation-states for that matter—the family—reinforces the entirety of the nation-state by sustaining its integrity as a functional basic unit able to maintain its internal status. Conclusion In the end, global systems theory may not necessarily apply to the broadest range of nations, from developed to the developing and less-developed precisely because these nations have differences although similarities may also be noted.
The presumption that the family remains a cohesive force in the society may substantially refute the claim that the nation-state is dissolving. Nevertheless, there are certain arguments of global systems theory that remains to this day a force with grains of truth in it. Apart from the fact that sophisticated machineries have slowly replaced the manpower of the working and lower classes of the society, capitalism has been reinforced by the expansion of transnational corporations worldwide. Works Cited Chomsky, Noam.
Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. House of Anansi Press, 2003. 1-20. Dobbing, Murray. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Democracy under the Rule of Big Business. Stoddart, 1998. 49-60. Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. 1st ed: Harper Business, 1993. 1-17. Rifkin, Jeremy. The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. 3-14. Think Quest, http://library. thinkquest. org/03oct/01908/800/whatisit_childlabor. htm, December 4, 2007.
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