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In recent American history, especially as the economy has declined in previous years, the landscape of the workforce has changed. For instance, there are fewer jobs available than historically, which gives employers the opportunity to select workers, and also to tell them that if their performance is not the best there “are other people lined up and waiting to take the job.” This has contemporary workers working harder, and trying to make sure they are able to keep their jobs. Less emphasis is placed loyalty to employees because priority is placed on profit, and employees are a big expense! These considerations are changing work in America.
These are the basic tenets of capitalism.
Marx was concerned about the results of all of this. He believed that the switch to currency, the switch to salary, and the specialization of professions leads to alienation in the workplace. In other words, people become separated from each other, from their work, and from the creative process. Marx suggested that alienation leads to discontent and anomie, a sense of normlessness in society.
Weber linked the rise of capitalism to technology as much as ideas, specifically ideas and beliefs connected to the Protestant Reformation. He saw capitalism in a negative light, not because he thought it caused alienation, as Marx did, but because he thought people became obsessed with working and making money that they could never enjoy. For example, people who work in the Ford factory could not afford to own a Ford, or if they could afford one they might not have the free time to enjoy it.
The Ford Motor Company’s idea of the family wage was based on a very limited definition of family: It favored married men with children over single men or married men without children, and it reinforced the notion that women should not work. The fact that women have often been paid less than men has served to deter them from seeing work as a lifelong choice. The wage structure was one factor that made women see marriage as the only way to have financial security.
While more American companies are offering family-friendly policies such as flextime and “flexspace,” employees are not necessarily taking advantage of them in great numbers. Arlie Hochschild suggests that there has been a reversal of sacred and profane – that people would rather be at work than at home, because at least work is less chaotic. Studies show that working mothers are less depressed and have higher self-esteem than mothers who do not work, yet they are also more likely to feel tired and anxious and they have higher divorce rates.
Figure 14.3 Annual Vacation Days and Holidays Worldwide
While globalization is not a new phenomenon, the current period of globalization has a number of new elements, and it has clearly demarcated the division between the world’s rich and poor. The question is whether globalization can truly be a force to close that gap or if it serves only to widen it.
Figure 14.4 Champagne-Glass Distribution
Corporations have many of the same rights as people. They can buy and sell property, sue and be sued in court, and so on. However, corporations aren’t people. Are there problems with giving corporations rights when they inherently don’t have morals or ethics?
The overriding objective of corporations is to make profits for their shareholders, and in order to do this they must find ways to beat the competition. Sometimes these efforts lead corporations to cross the line of legality, or at least to come close. There is constant tension for corporations in terms of pressures to be environmentally responsible, which can add to overall costs, and pressures to be profitable.
Unions became more important as the pursuit of profit became more important for corporations. Unions traditionally helped to ensure that workers were treated fairly and that the working conditions were safe. When a company refuses to negotiate or renew a contract, this is called union busting. For an interesting discussion, ask students if unions are still necessary today. Are they helpful or hurtful to employees and employers?
Capitalism and the EconomyCapitalism and the Economy
An economic system in which1.Property and goods are privately owned.2.Investments are determined by private decisions.3.Prices, production and distribution of goods aredetermined primarily by competition in an unfetteredmarketplace.
Workers are more productive than ever, yet jobinsecurity is high. As a result, many people are workingmany people are workinglonger hourslonger hours, especially people at higherincome levels, in order to prove loyalty orachieve marginal benefits.
Adam Smith was an economist who believedthat:◦ Competition helps maintain a cohesive society.◦ Specialization increases productivity and innovation.◦ Using money, rather than barter, makes trading moreefficient.
Karl Marx◦ stated that capitalism created alienation inworkers—including alienation from the products theyproduced, from the production process, from otherworkers, and from themselves and their creativetendencies◦ predicted both that capitalism would ultimatelydestroy itself and that the working class would riseagainst the capitalist class, leading to a period first ofsocialism and then of communism
Max Weber◦ linked the rise of capitalism to technology,ideas, and beliefs, as well as the ProtestantReformation◦ expressed concerns about capitalism because hethought people became obsessed with workingand making money that they could neverenjoy
In society today, people actually earn less money(relative to the cost of living) compared to the early1900s. This is because:◦ Only men were “supposed to” work.◦ Men were paid enough to provide for the wholefamily.◦ Unfortunately, the higher wage was at the cost ofwomen’s freedom and autonomy.
Compared to other industrialized countries and somedeveloping countries, Americans work longer hours andhave fewer vacation benefits and less generous familyleave policies. Even when generous benefits are available, workersoften do not take advantage of them, which suggeststhat work is central in the lives of Americans.work is central in the lives of Americans.
Globalization refers to the processes thatcreate and intensify worldwide socialexchanges and interdependencies.◦ creates an increase in trade and economicexchanges◦ magnifies the division between the world’s rich andpoor