Effects of the Culture of Capitalism
There are many effects that the culture of capitalism has had on people
around the world. Certainly, some effects have been more significant than
others. Three of the most significant effects that the culture of capitalism has
had on people around the world since 1400 are the rise in population, the
devastating impact on our environment due to increased consumption, and the
spread of disease. These effects have had dramatic impacts from their inception
and will continue to impact the future generations that have yet to come.
The culture of capitalism has had a significant effect upon the rise in
population. According to Robbins, "In the early twentieth century, colonial
governments in Africa worried about the low population and subsequent lack
of laborers and did everything they could to increase the birth rate" (page 161).
The population surge however was not only happening in Africa. Everywhere
that colonization was happening, populations were growing. Women actually
increased their fertility rates in some places by weaning their children earlier so
that they could become pregnant again sooner. Other ways that women altered
their own fertility rates was by marrying earlier and weaning their children
sooner. All of this was in response to the demand for labor. In earlier times, it
was common for children as young as eight years old to start working and
contribute to the family unit. Obviously, the more people that were working in
the family, the more income the unit would have. An increasing labor force was
also necessary to produce commodities for export. This was essential to the
colonies' economic growth. As long as there was a profit to be made -
especially a net profit which was more than the cost to maintain a colony - then
the policy was upheld to increase the number of people in the colony in order
to expand the labor force.
In his book, Robbins explains that in Ireland the "population increased not
because of improvements in health, but as a consequence of the economic
demands of the English Landlords" (Robbins, pg 121). Back then, all of the
land and farms were owned by British Landlords who charged rents for their
land. The Landlords wealth was increased significantly after subdividing made
possible more farms for the Landlords to collect rent from. After, there was an
increased demand for more food due to a higher population. So more people
meant more demand, which in turn meant more labor and more production.
Ultimately meaning more capital for the capitalist. These examples are but a
few that show that the culture of capitalism had had an influence upon the
change in population and reproductive behaviors of people.
The second most important effect of the culture of capitalism around the
world since 1400 is the destruction that has been done to our environment due
to increased consumption. Commercial capitalism was supplanted by industrial
capitalism in the process of the great industrial revolution that began after 1750.
Once the Industrial Revolution began, the consumption rates rose. A good
example of the damage that has been done to our environment as a direct result
of an increase in consumption can be seen with example of sugar.
In order to refine sugar, we must use a lot of land, exploit laborers, and
pollute our environment with the burning of the cane fields in the refining
process. It used to be that sugar was considered a luxury and was used by only
the rich. Eventually, with the help of politicians, the reduction of tariffs on
importing sugar, capitalism, and governments, sugar has become a commodity
that everyone uses. It is found in almost everything you consume. Michael
Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, spoke at a conference with regard to
sugar consumption: "Sugar consumption has been going through the roof. It has
increased by 28 percent since 1983, fueling soaring obesity rates and other
health problems" (America: Drowning in Sugar). Even though sugar in such
amounts is unhealthy, each person in the United States consumes 66 pounds of
sugar a year.
The increase of sugar production brings about a great change in our
environment. Forests are leveled in order to plant sugar, the burning process of
the cane fields utilizes fossil fuels or wood, thereby contributing to the depletion
of natural resources. Even more fuel is burned when refining sugar, and waste
water is produced when extracting sucrose from the cane. To date, we have
destroyed forests, marine environments and in Florida, where the sugar industry
is called "Big Sugar," it is responsible for contributing to the pollution and the
destruction of the Florida everglades. "Sugar is the biggest industry in the
Everglades, producing more raw sugar than California or Hawaii and
employing almost 20,000 people. In the Everglades Agricultural Area, sugar
cane covers 400,000 of 700,000 acres and is the leading cause of phosphorus
pollution" (The Florida Everglades - The Sugarcane Industry).
The third most important effect of the culture of capitalism on people
around the world since 1400 is disease. The world is filled with infectious
diseases. These diseases and organisms can prove deadly when we come in
contact with them and we can contract these diseases in many different ways.
While some are sexually transmitted, others are airborne. Some diseases are
transmitted from person to person and still some require a host such as a
mosquito or tick to be transmitted to humans. With the onset of the culture of
capitalism after 1500, and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, people were
driven from their land and rural areas to large cities in search of work and
wages. Consequently, people found out the hard way how much easier it
became to pass infectious diseases on to one another. With the building of
roads and the explosion of the travel industry, this also helped to bring people
into new areas that they have never been in before. This helped to increase the
susceptibility of new diseases that are carried into the new environments that
people traveled into as well as their home environments in which they would
Today's signature disease AIDS is a worldwide epidemic. Originally
thought to be a homosexual disease, we now have mostly women and children
infected with the disease. Haiti and Thailand both played an important role in
thespread of AIDS as they were targeted by the tourism industry as having "sex
tours." Labor migration has also played an important part in spreading disease
and is considered to be the major cause of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
According to Robbins, "Malawi may have the highest rate of infection in the
world, with over 30 percent of the adult population infected. The highway
between Malawi and Durban, South Africa is know as the 'Highway of Death,'
truckers having an infection rate of 90 percent." (Robbins, 89). This scary
statement shows that commercial and business travel also plays an important
role in the contraction of AIDS.
It is important to learn about what has helped to shape the world and our
society into what it is today. Certainly,the culture of capitalism has had
significant impacts upon our world. The culture of capitalism has had a direct
impact on our world as a whole in areas such as a rise in the population, the
devastating impact it has had on our environment due to increased
consumption, and in the area of diseases.
"America: Drowning in Sugar". Center for Science in the Public Interest. 3 Aug
1999. 3 June, 2003. <http://www.cspinet.org/new/sugar.html>.
The Florida Everglades. "The Sugarcane Industry". 5 May 2003.
Robbins, Richard. "Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism". Allyn &
Bacon Publishers. 2001.