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Integrative Paper

.

Jeanice Banttari
 
Professor Jill Holslin / GS450
 
June 28, 2003

                     Capitalism and it's Impact Upon our World

 

Introduction

      The world that we live in today is vastly different than the one that existed

before capitalism. Our world has seen many changes as it was transformed

from a traditional to a modern society on a global scale. In making that

transition, there have been both positive and negative consequences that have

occurred worldwide. One of the positive occurrences has been the success of

the industrial revolution. However, there have been devastating consequences

such as a further divide between the rich and poor, and an increase in global

warming. Most of the people that have felt the negative effects of capitalism are

those that live in third world countries. This has been because of their status

and lack of power as compared to first world countries. These negative effects

are strictly due to the implementation of capitalism. "Capitalism was the system

which gave legal, political, and social sanction to land, labor, and capital as

separate market entities, convertible into money terms or prices"(Reilly, p.

109). Capitalism, to say the least, has had profound and everlasting effects on

people as well as the environment on a global scale. These effects are

irreversible and significant, changing not only the lives of the people that have

been affected but also our world forever.

Colonialism and Capitalism

      The historical geography of colonialism and the slave trade

in third world cities is a contributing factor as to how and why third

world cities embody the most salient features of the modern global

economy. Most countries that are considered to be third-world countries

today, were at one time colonies during the colonial era. The only

exceptions to this are the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and

Australia. The underdevelopment of third world cities is marked by a

number of common traits such as having distorted and highly

dependent economies devoted to producing primary products for the

developed world and to provide markets for their finished goods. Other

traits include traditional, rural social structures, high population

growth, and widespread poverty. Nevertheless, the third world is sharply

differentiated, for it includes countries on various levels of economic

development. Despite the poverty of the countryside and the urban towns

that exist in the third world (and even first and second worlds), the

ruling elites of most third world countries are wealthy.

      During the time of colonialism, many people were displaced from their land

because of the slave trade and were transported to other countries. "One

consequence of the slave trade was that it generated vast wealth for the

European and New World interests who participated in it, both from the sale of

people into human bondage, and from the income gained from the labor of

slaves and their progeny" (Porter and Sheppard, p. 319). This difference in

wealth created the basis for large mercantile and maritime companies in the

eastern ports of the United States as well as in Europe. It also provided the

means for plantation economies of the Caribbean and southern United States to

prosper and played a role in the industrialization of Europe. This led to a vast

amount of wealth and contributed to the differences in people socially and

financially speaking. "The legacy of the colonial experience continues to

permeate many aspects of economic and social life in third world

countries" (Porter and Sheppard, p. 332). Some examples of this can be seen

in the way the former colonies have economic and trade dependencies, which

leaves them closely tied to the former colonial occupier.

Divisions of Race

      The implementation of capitalism had a direct and profound division

between different races of people. "The European colonial enterprise was

firmly based on African slavery, and historians have long acknowledged that

the very creation of capitalism as an economic system was inextricably

intertwined with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the wealth generated by the

slave trade and the labor of those enslaved peoples" (The Trans-Atlantic Slave

Trade).

      In the United States and South Africa, people often thought of

themselves with regard to what race they were instead of what class they

were. "People often thought of themselves (and others) as members of a race,

rather than as representatives of a particular social class, income group,

religion, or even gender. The white boss (a redundacy in itself) saw the

African first as a black, then as an individual who happened to be a

Christian, poor, or male.(Reilly, p. 181).

      Slaves were used because of their cheap labor which fueled the

discrimination due to race in the United States as well as in South Africa.

Even though slavery was eventually abolished, racial discrimination still

existed in both of those countries and racial segregation was the norm for

both South Africa as well as the United States.

      During the first half of the 1900's, racial inequality and segregation

was practiced in most areas of the United States as well as in South Africa.

In South Africa, even though the British granted it's independence in 1910,

they only gave power to white people. In 1948, the National Party gained

office in an election where only white people were allowed to vote. The

National Party then began a policy of racial segregation known as apartheid,

which means "apartness". This led to further discrimination against blacks.

In the early to mid- 1900's, racial discrimination became worse in many

parts of the United States. Strict segregation and "Jim Crow Laws" were very

common in the South. Jim Crow was considered to be the title or name of the

practice of discriminating against black people, through a set of laws

passed in the southern states, after blacks had earned their freedom from

slavery. These laws segregated white and black people with the use of

railways and streetcars, public waiting rooms, restaurants, theaters,

public parks, libraries and cemeteries. The laws also required blacks to use

separate phone booths and bathrooms, and in some cases, deprived blacks of

the right to vote. Both the United States as well as South Africa can be

looked to as an example of how two different countries were experiencing

much of the same problems of racial discrimination and segregation at the

same time as a direct result of capitalism.

"Racial segregation unifies South African and United States history, because both societies made an important investment in racial segregation in the twentieth century. We might date the reign of racial segregation in the United States from the Supreme Court Decision of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 to that of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, although it began earlier and has continued in residential and other "voluntary" forms since. In South Africa we may date segregation from shortly after the founding of the Union of South Africa in 1910 to the collapse of the apartheid regime in 1989" (Reilly, p. 189).

      While we can look to the court decisions mentioned above as the official

and legal end of racial segregation in the United States and South Africa,

divisions of class still existed. To this day, there is still evidence of

discrimination between white and black people. One of the more recent, and

famous court cases that evidence this is the infamous Rodney King beating

trial where two Los Angeles Police deputies were accused of beating a man

because of the color of his skin.

Methods of Exchange

      As a result of capitalism, methods of exchange were greatly altered.

"Capitalism has been defined in a lot of different ways. Any useful definition,

however, must describe a series of very recent economic developments in

Western history over the last five hundred years or so" (Reilly, p. 101). One of

the key elements of a traditional society was the method of distribution or

exchange, which was based upon systems such as reciprocity, redistribution,

and householding. The form of exchange called householding is a system where

everyone works and contributes for the benefit of everyone that lives in a

particular household. There are no prices or exchange of money involved and

everyone benefits in one way or another. Reciprocity is based upon the notion

of giving. Members in a household give their work to other members, from

which they will receive a gift in return. The method of redistribution is more of a

forced type of exchange in which goods are collected much like taxes, and are

kept in one location for redistribution later one. None of these traditional

methods involved money, bargaining, or price. The modern society replaced

these systems of distribution and exchange with capitalism. This was in stark

contrast to the traditional forms of exchange because everything was fixed with

a price and everything was bought or sold for a price.

Industrial Revolution

      The Industrial Revolution was widely regarded as the hallmark of

capitalism. In the eighteenth century, all of Western Europe began to

industrialize rapidly. The industrialization brought with it an increase in

population, urbanization, as well as new social classes. During this time, there

were many great inventions that came about. The steam engine and locomotive

were only two of many other inventions that contributed to the success of this

time. "With locomotives and steamships, goods could now be transferred very

quickly across the country or ocean, and within a reasonably predicted time,

since the steam plants provided constant power, unlike transportation relying

on wind or animal power" (The Industrial Revolution). This was a very

important invention because it cut the time as well as costs down significantly

for the transportation of goods.

Third World City Planning

      Capitalism brought various degrees of fortune for different cities. Some

cities profited from capitalism because of their locations and others were unable

to attract the new activities of industrial commodity production and trade. The

combined development of colonialism and capitalism in Europe brought with it

historically unprecedented rates of urbanization. Most third world cities "have

been conditioned by European colonial influence, notwithstanding the extensive

precolonial history of urbanization in selected regions throughout the third

world. In regions where there was little indigenous urbanization, colonial

contact dramatically altered the spatial organization of the administered or

conquered territory" (Porter and Sheppard, p. 438). European colonialists

were responsible for the introduction of a distinct spatial structure to third

world cities. European city planning implemented its networks of wide streets in

both residential and commercial areas which were important for transportation

in the days of colonial administration and production. "City plans spatially

segregated colonists, merchants (often ethnically distinct from the majority of

the population), and indigenous people into different parts of the city, as well as

zoning commercial and residential activities into different areas" (Porter and

Sheppard, p. 445). However, these plans were utilized for colonized cities

which left indigenous cities with little or no separation of classes and activities.

Contrary to the wide residential streets in the colonized cities, indigenous cities

had narrow, winding, unmarked streets which could only be navigated by

people who were local residents.

The Divide Between Rich and Poor

      Capitalism itself is responsible for further widening the existing

divisions between the rich and the poor. To this day, the people of

third world cities often are exploited for their cheap labor. The

innovation of EPZ's (Export Processing Zones) is a good example of

this. EPZ's seem to be tailored to benefit industry owners instead of

the worker in the third world. The comparative advantage of the EPZ

location is that industry owners gain a workforce that is paid minimal

wages. "Workers recruited to EPZ's must be willing to carry out

repetitive, unskilled tasks for long hours and low wages. There has been

heavy recruitment of young female workers, who are perceived to have

been socialized to be both docile and dexterous assembly workers"(Porter

and Sheppard, p. 423). These women earn between .17 cents to a dollar

an hour. Because of the nominal wages paid and the long hours worked,

this contributes to the suppression of women as well as the

deterioration of health and the poverty level in third world countries.

One can see the differences in third world cities in comparison to

first world cities simply by the way the people live. The people of

third world cities often are very poor and consequently do not have

adequate housing. Oftentimes, housing consists of cardboard with a

plastic sheet laid across the top and no source of water. Most people

have no legal title to the land that they upon which they have built

their dwellings. The informal sector in third world cities can be seen

in the goods that are sold on street corners, prostitution, guarding

parked cars, peddling wares, and other activities. "The informal sector

includes many of the only options open to new in-migrants and longer-

term residents alike, struggling to gain a foothold in a metropolitan

economy that has few conventional jobs to offer" (Porter and Sheppard,

p. 453).

Global Warming

      As a result of an increase of consumption of our earth's natural

resources, our environment is being subjected to many adverse effects.

One of these effects is in the form of global warming. "Global warming

from greenhouse gases (so called because they trap solar radiation like

the glass roof of a greenhouse)has increased with mounting use of fossil

fuels, making the earth warmer than it has been since the fourteenth

century" (Reilly, p. 359). First world nations such as the United

States are responsible for the majority of this problem. The United

States alone is responsible for one fourth of the world's emissions of

greenhouse gases. "Of the top five nations in carbon dioxide emissions,

the United States is first with more than the combined total of the next

four, China, Russia, Japan, and India" (Reilly, p. 360).

Conclusion

      Our world has been subjected to many different impacts as a result

of capitalism. While there have indeed been successes, there have also

been devastating impacts to our environment and to people on a global level

which cannot be taken back. Unfortunately, most of the negative impacts have

occurred as a result of an abuse of power by first world nations upon third

world nations, as a result of capitalism. It is imperative that we learn from the

past in order to preserve our future. The actions of first world countries need to

beheld to a higher standard in order to protect third world countries from

further abuses of power. Only by taking a good look at our history can we

implement changes that will be for the common good of everyone in the future.

Works Cited

"The Industrial Revolution." 9 June 2003.  

      <http://artzia.com/History/Revolution/Industrial/>.

Porter, Philip W. and Sheppard, Eric S. A World of Difference. The Guilford

      Press. New York, NY. 1998.

Reilly, Kevin. "The West and the World: A History of Civilization." Third

      Edition. Markus Wiener Publishers. 2002.

"The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade". 11 June 2003.

      <http://www.unc.edu/depts/afriafam/AnniversaryConference/baw.htm>.



Jeanice Banttari, Global Studies Program, National University, La Jolla, Ca.