Capitalism is able to function on the aspect of providing individualism and freedom when in actuality, it limits such provisions to both workers and consumers. It can be argued that capitalism actually desists many Americans. Capitalists’ believe that in order to fix the economic problems, there must be an increase in capital circulation (Mia Waldron). The gap between the rich and the poor widens continuously which further shows how workers tend to be more disadvantaged. Karl Marx interprets and criticizes the exploitive nature capitalism holds while focusing on production and the relations of production.
As someone who has contributed to both working and purchasing, it’s easy to attest to capitalism’s holistic effect on those in society. Capitalism infringes on the true meaning of freedom, increases consumerism and halts the progress of workers.
Freedom is defined as the right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraints (Oxford Dictionaries). Under a capitalist society, no one is completely free.
People are constantly thinking about the means to meet their basic needs and wants. With that being, capitalism contributes to alienation. Workers can be alienated from the product, the work, the producer themself or other workers. Marx states, “If the product of labour does not belong to the worker, if it confronts him as an alien power, this can only be because it belongs to some other man than the worker” (Appelrouth and Edles 2016:52). True freedom, or less estrangement, can come about when individuals learn the concept of species being.
I’m constantly caught between wanting to do things that contribute to my self interest and saving energy for work. The actual workplace also plays a role in the sense of freedom and individuality. Working for someone requires you to follow a set of rules and adjust to certain work cultures. These can include things as simple as dress codes to more drastic things as obediently following orders of those “above” you. Such factors have an impact on what freedom and individuality truly mean.
The goal of any company is to increase profits for owners and stakeholders. There are many propagandist approaches that have the ability to turn a regular person into a consumer. Advertising and marketing are the most impetus tactics that increase consumerism. Capitalists have the power to maximize profits through such approaches. I personally see social media and online advertisements that easily catch my attention. Those advertisements have also led to me purchasing specific products. It’s extremely common for individuals to purchase items they don’t need or can’t truly afford. Mia Waldron states, “This, in turn, leads to greater economic disparity, and despite having the most or latest products, consumerists have a feeling of unfulfillment due to spending a lot of money yet having nothing of personal importance.” Consumerism also plays a major role in what Marx calls commodity fetishism. As consumers, we tend to place special value on commodities without thinking about personal qualities (Appelrouth and Edles 2016:72). There is also a competition for consumers under capitalist structure. The concept of competing against other companies can be described as a “dog eat dog” world. Whichever company is able to convert the most people to consumers will typically have a better bottom line that its competitors. As long as consumers have needs and wants and the willingness to spend, companies are going to continue to compete and thrive.
It’s merely impossible to be a sustainable person in society without having to work. The most basic needs requires one to have a source of income in order for them to be met. I happened to be introduced to this concept at a young age and it is ingrained in me now– and possibly forever. Working to help others, with others being millionaires, achieve their sought after goals has become a norm in society. As a worker, you put out more than you recieve (Lee Simmons). The minority have the economic power to suppress the majority’s growth, whether it be economically or personally. Gary Engler states, “This gives a few rich people the power to buy and sell jobs, which means they can build or destroy entire communities that depend on those jobs.” This alone shows that employers have the power in their hands to control an employees income and their sense of security that comes with having a job. Employers control the wealth that employees are barely able to benefit from. There have been numerous times where I’ve personally questioned how my work is greatly benefiting others. Appelrouth and Edles assert, “Human labor is the one commodity that is exchanged for its value while being capable of producing more than its value” (p. 70). Workers continuously add value, yet they aren’t recognized or adequately compensated for it.
Capitalism has much power over people’s everyday lives. It becomes very apparent once an individual becomes a worker and/or consumer. The chance to gain individualism and freedom may increase when these capitalistic powers decrease. Workers and consumers are inevitably major driving forces in a capitalist society. Marx’s theory have greatly applied to me as both a worker and a consumer.