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Reaction Paper 1

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Temia McColl

SOCI 3201

February 23, 2017

Reaction Paper 1

Societies all over the world have changed over time to the point in which life today would utterly unrecognizable to the average person in the 19th century. Several theorists have spent their lives analyzing the different patterns of change societies have taken and identified essential reasons for these changes. Theorist Davis & Moore and Ayn Rand argue parallel viewpoints of past communities about the role of capitalism in these societies. Whereas, others like Karl Marx and Marshall Sahlins critique characteristics of the rationalization of capitalism and its impact the people in societies.

Karl Marx, the founding father of sociology, argues that society determines one's consciousness and is entirely is entirely responsible for suffering. In Marx’s Seven Stages of Human history (The Grand Narrative), he proclaims that the humanity is built and driven by the class struggle which is divided into seven stages of human history. The first stage is known as the Pre-class Systems (Primitive Communism). This stage is defined by the minimal division of labor and communal ownership of property. The only division of work in this stage was based on sex and age. The second stage is known as Asiatic Societies where despotic leaders dominated but, local communities became economically independent. It is also where the earliest class system is developed.  Following this stage is Ancient Societies, which is described as the point in which there was a shift from communal ownership of properties to private ownership. This shift caused an enormous gap between the rich and poor. Here we the precursor to the development of capitalism in societies through introduction the "Relations of Production." Personally, I have a negative stance on ancient societies because the relations of production were defined as slaves vs. slave owners which was evolved in the fourth stage. In feudal societies stage, relations of production evolved to be defined as serfs versus the nobility with the serfs working the land for a small aristocracy. In this society, there is a rise to the merchant class that becomes the “bourgeoisie.”. The transformation from feudal societies to capitalistic societies was defined by a change in the “Relations of production” to be a conflict between “bourgeoisie” (or capitalist or owners) and “proletariat” (or the workers).  The conflict created between these class created many issues in which Marx and Shalins are critical of.

Marx examines commodification, which the main characteristic of capitalistic societies. This refers to the tendency of viewing the world as made up of commodities (things that are bought and sold). This makes people see both the products and workers of the productive processes commodities. Marx is critical of the effects of capitalism treating virtually everything in society as a commodity. According to Marx, alienation is the “result of the separation of man’s existence for his essence” which occurs as a result of people being looked as a commodity in the production process. He disputes that alienation often leads people to become despondent and results to low performance in the labor force. I completely agree with Marx’s analysis of effects of alienation. However, I believe he should also consider the steps in which society plays in making people believe they love their work. My viewpoint of this falls under Davis & Moore pro-capitalist viewpoints. Davis & Moore argue pro-capitalist views that are supported under the assumptions that that people need to be motivated to work and that human is essentially lazy and greedy. The greater the functional importance of a position the more rewards society attaches to it. Davis and Moore’s Theory of Inequality discusses equality in opportunity but inequality in the outcome. Individuals may be motivated to love their work through the Differential Rewards: Sustenance and Comfort, Humor and Diversion, Self-Respect and Ego Expansion.  In his rebuttal to my responses, Marx would introduce the third form of alienation is the worker's alienation from “species-being,” or one's consciousness of the human species and human essence.  He compels humans to take responsibility for what they produce, and the way they create it. Marx also says the effect of alienation is that individuals tend to depend on others to satisfy their needs, while not recognizing other aspects of people. I completely agree with this argument because it represents my current views of society. I witness and experience people befriending people and using them to get ahead in life rather than helping them to create meaningful bonds with others.

Presently, society is a capitalistic society where bourgeoisie and proletariat divide the workers. I believe this class divide has been continued for so long because the poor make the elite richer but, do not reap any of the benefits of their labor. To change this divide in society Marx argues that we should move into Socialistic Societies. This type of society will change the adverse effects of capitalism because there would be a focus on the public good rather than private gain. In this stage, education, food, shelter, and healthcare are treated as human rights and not commodities. This is more of a progressive method for dissolving the class system and the forming equality because everyone would have access to the same privileges, so the community collects benefits instead of individuals. Finally, Marx identifies communist societies as "the end of prehistory and the beginning of human history." In this stage, there would be no need for a “state” or government. And everyone would contribute in decision-making.  I completely disagree with this viewpoint and agree with the viewpoints Georg Simmel. Both Marx and Simmel developed theories that come from the Conflict Perspective, but they differ regarding what conflicts. Simmel argues that conflict lies within the paradoxical nature of the relationship between the individual and society.  I agree with his perspective that states under communism society have won the conflict between society and self because under this society you are submitting to the wants and needs for community and sacrificing personal inhibitions. Ayn Rand has similar viewpoints to Simmel because she also defends the rights of the individual over the tenets of collectivism. Her extreme pro-capitalist theory offers an uncompromising defense of laissez-faire, free market capitalism, a form of society which has yet to exist in its purest form in comparison to the Marx’s theory. I don't believe in her extreme viewpoints because I feel as if she completely disregards the importance of society working together as one. Her perspectives also support slavery under the notion to obtain profit by any means necessary.  

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