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Modernization Theory

The classic text of Modernization Theory

By the end of the Second World War many of the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America had failed to develop and remained poor, despite exposure to capitalism. There was concern amongst the leaders of the western developed countries, especially the United States, that communism might spread into many of these countries, potentially harming American business interests abroad and diminishing U.S. Power.

In this context, in the late 1940s, modernisation theory was developed, which aimed to provide a specifically non-communist solution to poverty in the developing world – Its aim was to spread a specifically industrialised, capitalist model of development through the promotion of Western, democratic values.

Modernisation theory thought the ‘third world’ should develop like the ‘first world’

 

There are two main aspects of modernisation theory – (1) its explanation of why poor countries are underdeveloped, and (2) its proposed solution to underdevelopment.

Modernisation theory explained the underdevelopment of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America primarily in terms of cultural ‘barriers’ to development’, basically arguing that developing countries were underdeveloped because their traditional values held them back; other modernisation theorists focused more on economic barriers to development.

In order to develop, less developed countries basically needed to adopt a similar path to development to the West. They needed to adopt Western cultural values and industrialise in order to promote economic growth. In order to do this they would need help from Western governments and companies, in the form of aid and investment.

Modernisation theory favoured a capitalist- industrial model of development – they believed that capitalism (the free market) encouraged efficient production through industrialisation, the process of moving towards factory based production.

Industrial –refers to production taking place in factories rather than in the home or small workshops. This is large scale production. (Think car plants and conveyer belts).

Capitalism – a system where private money is invested in industry in order to make a profit and goods are produced are for sale in the market place rather than for private consumption.

Modernisation theory thought industrialisation could drive development in poorer countries

 

There are alternative systems of production to Capitalism – subsistence systems are where local communities produce what they need and goods produced for sale are kept to a minimum; and Communism, where a central authority decides what should be produced rather than consumer demand and desire for profit. (Need drives production in Communism, individual wants or desires (‘demand’)  in Capitalism)

Modernisation Theory: What Prevents Development?

According to Modernisation Theorists, obstacles to development are internal to poorer countries. In other words, undeveloped countries are undeveloped because they have the wrong cultural and social systems and the wrong values and practices that prevent development from taking place.

The Caste System in India is a good example of an ascribed status system based on traditional values

Talcott Parsons (1964) was especially critical of the traditional values of underdeveloped countries – he believed that they were too attached to traditional customs, rituals, practices and institutions, which Parsons argued were the ‘enemy of progress’. He was especially critical of the extended kinship and tribal systems found in many traditional societies, which he believed hindered the geographical and social mobility that were essential if a country were to develop (as outlined in his Functional Fit theory).

Parsons argued that traditional values in Africa, Asia and Latin America acted as barriers to development which included –

  • Particularism – Where people are allocated into roles based on their affective or familial relationship to those already in positions power. For example, where a politician or head of a company gives their brother or someone from their village or ethnic group a job simply because they are close to them, rather than employing someone based on their individual talent.
  • Collectivism – This is where the individual is expected to put the group (the family or the village) before self-interest – this might mean that children are expected to leave school at a younger age in order to care for elderly parents or grandparents rather than staying in school and furthering their education.
  • Patriarchy – Patriarchal structures are much more entrenched in less developed countries, and so women are much less likely to gain positions of political or economic power, and remain in traditional, housewife roles. This means that half of the population is blocked from contributing to the political and economic development of the country.
  • Ascribed Status and Fatalism – Ascribed status is where your position in society is ascribed (or determined) at birth based on your caste, ethnic group or gender. Examples include the cast system in India, many slave systems, and this is also an aspect of extreme patriarchal societies. This can result in Fatalism – the feeling that there is nothing you can do to change your situation.

In contrast, Parsons believed that Western cultural values which promoted competition and economic growth: such values included the following:

  • Individualism – The opposite of collectivism This is where individuals put themselves first rather than the family or the village/ clan. This frees individuals up to leave families/ villages and use their talents to better themselves ( get an education/ set up businesses)
Individualism should promote competition and drive economic growth

 

  • Universalism – This involves applying the same standards to everyone, and judging everyone according to the same standards This is the opposite of particularism, where people are judged differently based on their relationship to the person doing the judging.
  • Achieved Status and Meritocracy – Achieved status is where you achieve your success based on your own individual efforts. This is profoundly related to the ideal of meritocracy. If we live in a truly meritocratic society, then this means then the most talented and hardworking should rise to the top-jobs, and these should be the best people to ‘run the country’ and drive economic and social development.
Modern education systems embody universalism and meritocracy

Parsons believed that people in undeveloped countries needed to develop an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ if economic growth was to be achieved, and this could only happen if less developed countries became more receptive to Western values, which promoted economic growth.

Rostow’s five stage model of development

Modernisation Theorists believed traditional societies needed Western assistance to develop. There were numerous debates about the most effective ways to help countries develop, but there was general consensus on the view that aid was a good thing and if Developing countries were injected with money and western expertise it would help to erode ‘backward’ cultural barriers and kick starts their economies.

The most well-known version of modernization theory is Walt Rostow’s 5 stages of economic growth. Rostow (1971) suggested that following initial investment, countries would then set off on an evolutionary process in which they would progress up 5 stages of a development ladder. This process should take 60 years. The idea is that with help from West, developing countries could develop a lot faster than we did.

Stage 1 – Traditional societies whose economies are dominated by subsistence farming. Such societies have little wealth to invest and have limited access to modern industry and technology. Rostow argued that at this stage there are cultural barriers to development (see sheet 6)

Stage 2 – The preconditions for take off – the stage in which western aid packages brings western values, practises and expertise into the society. This can take the form of:

  • Science and technology – to improve agriculture

  • Infrastructure – improving roads and cities communications

  • Industry – western companies establishing factories

These provide the conditions for investment, attracting more companies into the country.

Stage 3 – Take off stage –The society experiences economic growth as new modern practices become the norm. Profits are reinvested in infrastructure etc. and a new entrepreneurial class emerges and urbanised that is willing to invest further and take risks. The country now moves beyond subsistence economy and starts exporting goods to other countries

This generates more wealth which then trickles down to the population as a whole who are then able to become consumers of new products produced by new industries there and from abroad.

Stage 4 – The drive to maturity.

More economic growth and investment in education, media and birth control. The population start to realise new opportunities opening up and strive to make the most of their lives.

Stage 5 – The age of high mass consumption. This is where economic growth and production are at Western levels.

Variations on Rostow’s 5 stage model

Different theorists stress the importance of different types of assistance or interventions that could jolt countries out their traditional ways and bring about change.

  • Hoselitz – education is most important as it should speed up the introduction of Western values such as universalism, individualism, competition and achievement measured by examinations. This was seen as a way of breaking the link between family and children.

  • Inkeles – media – Important to diffuse ideas non traditional such as family planning and democracy

  • Hoselitz – urbanisation. The theory here is that if populations are packed more closely together new ideas are more likely to spread than amongst diffuse rural population

Strengths of Modernisation Theory/ Examples of it (sort of) Working

ONE – Indonesia – partly followed Modernisation theory in the 1960’s by encouraging western companies to invest and by accepting loans from the World Bank. But, their President Suharto (Dictator) also maintained a brutal regime which a CIA report refers to as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” comparable to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. However, the World Bank praised Suharto’s economic transformation as “a dynamic economic success” and called Indonesia “the model pupil of the global economy,” while Bill Clinton referred to Suharto as “our kind of guy.”

Two further examples of where western expertise has helped solved specific problems in a number of developing countries are the green revolution and the eradication of smallpox, but neither of these lead to ‘the high age of mass consumption’ as Rostow predicted

TWO – The Green Revolution: In the 1960s, Western Biotechnology helped treble food yields in Mexico and India.

THREE – The Eradication of Smallpox… In the early 1950s 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year, by the early 1970s smallpox had been eradicated because of vaccine donations by the USA and RUSSIA

Criticisms of Modernisation Theory 

Firstly, there are no examples of countries that have followed a Modernisation Theory approach to development. No countries have followed Rostow’s “5 stages of growth” in their entirety. Remember, “Modernisation Theory” is a very old theory which was partly created with the intention of justifying the position of western capitalist countries, many of whom were colonial powers at the time, and discrediting Communism. This is why it is such a weak theory.

Secondly, Modernization Theory assumes that western civilisation is technically and morally superior to traditional societies. Implies that traditional values in the developing world have little value compared to those of the West. Many developed countries have huge inequalities and the greater the level of inequality the greater the degree of other problems: High crime rates, suicide rates, poor health problems such as cancer and drug abuse.

Is the collectivist culture of Anuta really inferior to the individualised culture in the West?

Thirdly, Dependency Theorists argue that development is not really about helping the developing world at all. It is really about changing societies just enough so they are easier to exploit, making western companies and countries richer, opening them up to exploit cheap natural resources and cheap labour.

Fourth, Neo-Liberalism is critical of the extent to which Modernisation theory stresses the importance of foreign aid, but corruption (Kleptocracy) often prevents aid from getting to where it is supposed to be going. Much aid is siphoned off by corrupt elites and government officials rather than getting to the projects it was earmarked for. This means that aid creates more inequality and enables elites to maintain powe

Fifth, Post-Development thinkers argue that the model is flawed for assuming that countries need the help of outside forces. The central role is on experts and money coming in from the outside, parachuted in, and this downgrades the role of local knowledge and initiatives. This approach can be seen as demeaning and dehumanising for local populations. Galeano (1992) argues that minds become colonised with the idea that they are dependent on outside forces. They train you to be paralysed and then sell you crutches. There are alternative models of development that have raised living standards: Such as Communist Cuba and The Theocracies of the Middle East

Sixthly, industrialisation may do more harm than good for many people – It may cause Social damage – Some development projects such as dams have led to local populations being removed forcibly from their home lands with little or no compensation being paid.

In the clip below, Vandana Shiva presents a useful alternative perspective on the Green Revolution, pointing out that many traditional villages were flooded and destroyed in the process:

Finally, there are ecological limits to growth. Many industrial modernisation projects such as mining and forestry have led to the destruction of environment.

Post-Script: Neo-Modernisation Theory?

Despite its failings Modernisation theory has been one of most influential theories in terms of impact on global affairs. The spirit of Modernisation theory resulted in the establishment of the United Nations, The World Bank and the IMF, global financial institutions through which developed countries continue to channel aid money to less developed countries to this day, although there is of course debate over whether aid is an effective means to development.

Would we have the Millennium Development Goals without Modernisation Theory?

Furthermore, the ‘spirit of Modernisation theory may actually still be alive today, in the form of Jeffry Sachs. Sachs (2005) is one of the most influential development economists in the world, and he has been termed a ‘neo-modernisation theorist’.

Sachs, like Rostow, sees development as a ladder with its rungs representing progress towards economic and social well-being. Sachs argues that there are a billion people in the world who are too malnourished, diseased or young to lift a foot onto the ladder because they often lack certain types of capital which the west takes for granted – such as good health, education, knowledge and skills, or any kind of savings.

Sachs argues that these billion people are effectively trapped in a cycle of deprivation and require targeted aid injections from the west in order to develop. In the year 2000 Sachs even went as far as calculating how much money would be required to end poverty – it worked out at 0.7% of GNP of the 30 or so most developed countries over the next few decades.

Related Posts/ Sources:

Steve Basset has produced an excellent series of vodcasts introducing Modernization Theory and other theories of development:

I’d also recommend this this useful article on Walt Rostow from The Guardian as some further reading.

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Analyse the reasons for social class, ethnic and/ or gender differences in society

Analysis Grid Sociology.pngThe issue of why differences in life chances by class, gender and ethnic differences exist forms a major part of any A level sociology syllabus, and I would say the analysis of the reasons behind these social differences is fundamental to sociology’s very self-identity.

Within A level sociology, students need to be able to a very general ‘macro’ analysis the ‘general reasons’ behind differences in life-chances by class gender and ethnicity, and they need to be able to focus in and analyse more specifically the reasons why there are specific variations. For example, across the A level syllabus you might reasonably ask students to do any of the following:

  • Analyse the reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
  • Analyse the reasons for differences in educational achievement by social class(education)
  • Analyse two reasons for differences in conviction rates between ethnic minorities (crime and deviance, AND this was an actual question in the AQA’s 2017 paper 3.

The point of this post is to provide a general framework to help students analyse why there are variations in class, gender and ethnicity in so many areas of social life.

A framework for analysing in A level sociology

To analyse the any social difference by class, gender or ethnicity I’d recommend simply looking at the following:

  1. (Functionalism) Socialisation (@home) differences – material versus cultural
  2. (Marxism/ Feminism) Society – Power/ Ideology/ Blocked Opportunities/ Patriarchy/ Capitalism/ Racism
  3. (Labelling Theory) Micro processes, especially labelling.
  4. (Postmodernism) – Individual Freedom….

The picture below shows the prompts I use to get students to analyse the reasons for gender differences in child care….

Analysis A Level Sociology

The above is a ‘BIG VERSION’ so it shows up here, I actually provide my students with the following blank A3 grid (prompts are the same as on the big version)

Analysis Grid Sociology

And I Include the following instructions either on the back of the A3 ‘grid’ or on a PPT…

Developing Analysis Skills in Sociology—Instructions

  1. Write in/ place the cards/ discuss the concepts and research evidence you could include in each bubble.
  2. Try to be logical— demonstrate how each ’broken down’ concept forms a ’causal chain’ to answer the question.
  3. You COULD add in evaluation outside each bubble.
  4. If you like ‘subvert the bubbles’ by analysing differently (see below)

Alternative ways of doing it!

  • Analysing this question from four broad perspectives is only one way of doing it—you could adopt a purely Marxist/ Feminist analysis and analyse using Marxist. Liberal, Radical and Difference Feminism.
  • You could also analyse this by using different institutions… focus on the family, education, work and the media.
  • And you could even analyse by research methods—simply macro versus micro….

The idea is that students can develop analysis within each bubble, but also across each bubble, the bubbles on the left and right (as you go down the template) should be especially easy to link together.

Essentially, students need to be able to analyse the reasons for any difference (within education/ families/ crime/ religion/ work, depending on options chose) by any of class/gender/ ethnicity (or two or three of these). This means there are a lot of possible combinations – in other words, there is a limitless amount of fun to be had with developing analysis skills.

Analysis questions in the A level sociology exams

All three of the A level sociology exam papers will have one 10 mark ‘analyse two reasons why’ questions. For example:

  • Analyse two reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
  • Analyse two reasons for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity (education and research methods

These questions will have an item which will fundamentally limit what reasons students can choose. I’d recommend a different template for specific exam preparation.

More of that later, personally I think it’s better to encourage ‘open analysis’ early on, as this also helps with the ‘outline and explain’ questions as well as any of the essay questions.

Ironically (not surprising for the AQA) the above template is probably better preparation for the 10 mark ‘outline and explain questions’, because good explanation also requires analysis!

Comments welcome!

As far as I see it, the above structure works for any combination of class/ gender/ ethnicity for any topic within A level sociology, although it doesn’t apply as well to Global Development.

Of course you might disagree, if so, do lemme know, and keep analysing!

 

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The Capitalist Mode of Production

Understanding the Capitalist Mode of Production is crucial to an understanding of both Modernisation Theory and Dependency Theory – I thought the passage below did a nice job of summarizing what the ‘capitalist mode of production’ is.

A a special treat for my American readers, I have used the correct, British spelling of ‘labour’.

‘Today we think of Capitalism as the normal way of organising economic activity and tend to take it for granted, but it is a very different mode of production to previous feudal economies and hunter gatherer livelihoods…

Capitalism is based on private ownership of enterprises such as factories, plantations, mines, offices or shops and the operation of these assets for profit. Other elements of the means of production such as labour, land, technology and capital are also privately owned and can be bought and sold.

Labour is the most important input for production. Under capitalism, labour, the work of men and women, has become a special type of commodity which is sold in the marketplace. Capitalists use their money to buy labour and combine this commodity with other inputs, such as land, raw materials etc. to produce new goods and services. In profitable businesses, the economic value of these new goods and services are greater than the other inputs required to produce them.

Workers’ labour generates a surplus value greater than the workers’ wages. When the capitalist sells the finished commodities on the market they extract surplus value from the labour of the workers by paying them less than the value of the work they have completed. Capitalists are able to profit from the labour of others because they control the means of production.

The capitalist mode of production was different to earlier feudalism because of the role for waged labour and the importance of capital and markets for acquiring wealth. The important transition which lead to the expansion of capitalism around the globe through colonialism was the concentration of capitalist power through the fusion of state authority and capital.”

Source – Brooks, Andrew (2017) The End of Development 

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No Future for Millennials?

A recent report by the Resolution Foundation based on a survey of 2000 people aged 16-75 found that the vast majority of people are pessimistic about the prospects for young people.

In total, 21% of respondents believed Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) could expect to enjoy a better standard of living than their parents.

Opinion Polls Millennials

However young people are less pessimistic than older people: around 33% of young people think they will have a better life than their parents, while only 15% of older people said they’d rather be a young person growing up today.

The main points of the report include:

  • There is widespread pessimism about young people’s lives compared to those of their parents
  • Graduates, unemployed people and Labour voters are among the most pessimistic
  • Housing, jobs and retirement living standards are the areas of greatest concern
  • People believe that housing and jobs market failures are the key causes of this situation, with relatively little blame placed on the actions of generations themselves
  • People believe that government actions can make a difference, with addressing broad economic challenges and improving public services the top priorities

Analysis

It’s important to remember that these are just the opinions of people – this data actually tells us nothing about the ACTUAL life chances of Millennials compared to their parents. However, what the last two findings suggest is that there is not such support for small state neoliberal policies – people seem to want government assistance to maintain living standards.

But then again the population go and vote the Tories in – which suggests either that the public is very confused about politics or that these opinion polls aren’t especially valid!

 

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Social Class and Inequality Visualizations

Here a few visual updates and links which highlight the extent of class inequality in the UK today…

1. In Education… 3 year olds from the richest fifth of households are twice as likely to be ‘school ready’ than 3 year olds from the poorest fifth of households

education

2, by health – This is a nice, if dated article which reminds us that Based on 2007-2009 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.6 years and a woman aged 65 another 20.2 years. This graphic demonstrates that men and women from routine manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die before the age of 64 than those from professional backgrounds(my title is clearer than that in the picture!)

c

 

3. The chances of being a victim of violent crime (available from the ONS and the Home Office Annual crime stats reports)

bh

4. Births outside of wedlock (not that I think the decline in marriage is a bad thing!, unlike the author of the post where I got the info!

The chart below shows the proportion of kids who are born outside marriage by social class in Britain. Its quite a short period of time, but you get the general idea. At the top, things haven’t changed much. At the bottom, having children inside marriage is not the norm, and increasingly rare.

121109-coming-apart

 

More Sources to follow…

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Are developed nations in decline?

Developing Countries Optimism

I found this fascinating Infographic in a recent report by the Resolution Foundation – which shows how people in rich countries tend to be pessimistic about their children’s futures, while people in poor countries tend to be optimistic.

These are only indications of how people feel, and feelings don’t necessarily reflect the actual prospects for children having a better life, but they do capture something of the ‘public mood’ or maybe even the ‘collective conscience’ in these countries, or do they?

Three related questions you might like to think about are:

  1. How valid are these data? Are people in France really THAT pessimistic? And are people in China really that optimistic?
  2. If you believe these stats to be valid, then why the differences? (Are we witnessing the rise of the developing nations and the decline of the developed world?)
  3. Are people in poor countries right to be optimistic, and are people in rich countries right to be Pessimistic>?
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Evidence of Increasing Globalisation

Just a quick round up of some of the evidence/ news items I’ve stumbled across which suggest that globalisation is happening. It’s up to you to decide how valid, reliable and representative this evidence is. 

NB – this is also my first experiment with a long-term time-release system for posting ‘shorter’ news-items – I’m going to schedule this just ahead of the time I teach globalisation in the college year) 

According to The Week (July 2017) 7/10 British children have their first experience of foreign travel before the age of five, and by the age of eight, 1/10 of them own their own smart phone (which will connect them to global media flows).

By contrast, just 12% of over-50s had been abroad by the time they were five: on average, they were 14 when they first went abroad.

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Basic Question Types in A-Level Sociology (AQA focus)

There are three main types of ‘question’ in A-level sociology exams:

  • Outline and explain questions
  • Analyse questions
  • Evaluate questions

This (hopefully) raises the question (is that a pun?) about what you’re likely to be asked to outline and explain/ analyse or evaluate….

If you read to the AQA’s specification carefully, which I’ve done (I couldn’t sleep the other night, it did the trick nicely), then you’ll find that there are 7 ‘core themes’ in A level sociology that examiners are likely to wrap these three basic question types around.

 

Seven basic types of outline (and explain) questions 

Outline simply means give a reason and explain how….

  1. Outline and explain three ways in which a concept ‘manifests itself in society.
  2. Outline and explain the effects of various social policies/ social changes
  3. Outline and explain the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  4. Outline and explain the reasons for various social changes
  5. Outline and explain all of the five perspectives on education/ families
  6. Outline and explain a positivist/ interpretetivst approach to social research
  7. Outline and explain the strengths and limitations of any research method

Seven basic types of analyse question

Analyse means picking something apart into its component parts…. basically it involves outlining and explaining and then ‘digging deeper’ to explain even further…

  1. Analyse how a concept relates to other concepts/ perspectives
  2. Analyse the reasons for social changes
  3. Analyse the impact of social policies/ social changes
  4. Analyse the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  5. Analyse the functions which institutions perform in society, using any of the perspectives
  6. Analyse how globalisation has affected social life.
  7. Analyse any social problem quantitatively or qualitatively…

Seven basic types of evaluate question

Evaluate means to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of something….you typically do this by considering a claim from another perspective, or by using evidence to support or refute it. 

  1. Evaluate the usefuleness/ relevance of a concept in explaining social phenomena today.
  2. Evaluate how significant a certain factor is in explaining changes in society
  3. Evaluate the view that a particular social policy/ social change has had a negative or positive impact on society.
  4. Evaluate the view that a particular reason is the most significant reason for class/ gender or ethnic differences in society.
  5. Evaluate the usefulness of any perspective for helping us to understand the role of institutions in society.
  6. Evaluate the view that globalisation has had a positive/ negative effect on any aspect of social life.
  7. Evaluate the usefulness of quantitative/ qualitative approaches to social research (possibly applied to a particular topic)

Thoughts on using these question types to teach A-level sociology

It’s relatively easy to differentiate teaching according to whether you’re asking students to ‘outline’ (easy) or analyse/ evaluate (more difficult), but I also think teachers need to be VERY AWARE of the which of the seven types of question they are getting students to think about, as each has a different kind of ‘flavour’ which influences the way it should be approached. 

NB – the question types above are not meant as an exhaustive account of all the possible question types students might be asked about in the exam, but if you focus on getting students to think about these questions you’re covering most of the bases.

Two other types of basic sociology question…

There are other ‘action words’ for sociology questions, such as define and apply, which students also need to be able to answer, but I really wanted to keep the above focused on the three main types of exam style question…

Define questions

Define any sociological concepts (and give example to illustrate)

Apply questions 

  1. Apply a perspective in order to explain any social phenomena/ media event/ social trend.
  2. Apply a research method to a particular topic.
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What is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is the idea that less government interference in the free market is the central goal of politics.

Neoliberals believe in a ‘small government’ which limits itself to enhancing the economic freedoms of businesses and entrepreneurs. The state should limit itself to the protection of private property and basic law enforcement.

Neoliberalism is most closely associated with Thomas Hayek and Milton Friedman, and the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Milton Friedman.png

Neoliberals advocate three main policies to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society: privatization, deregulation and low taxation.

Some examples of Neoliberal Policies include:

  • Lowering taxes on income, especially high income earners. When Thatcher came to power in 1997 she reduced income tax on the very highest earners from 83% to 60%.
  • Lowering Corporation tax – The government reduced the main corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to just 21% in 2014.
  • Privatising public services – Privatisation began under the Thatcher government of 1979 and continues today (2017). Britain’s rail, energy and water industries all used to be run by the state, but now they are run by private companies. Education and Health services are also being ‘privatised by stealth’, as more and more aspects of these services are contracted out to and run by private sector companies.
  • Reducing the number of rules and regulations which constrain businesses: This involves national and local governments monitoring private businesses less: by reducing the number of ‘health and safety standards’ businesses need to conform to and doing fewer health and safety and environmental health inspections for example.
deregulation UK.jpg
The ‘Red Tape Challenge’ offers some good examples of deregulation…

Further Background on Neoliberal Thought 

Neoliberalism emerged in the 1950s as a reaction against ‘Keynesianism’ – the idea that nation states should play a significant role in managing free market capitalism through high taxation in order to provide public services such as unemployment benefit, free health care and education (‘the welfare state’).

Keynsianism itself was a development of the earlier doctrine of ‘Liberalism’ which believed that individual freedom was the central goal of politics. Obviously the question of what kind of society allows for the most or best freedom is open to debate, but by the 1950s a consensus had emerged that ‘liberty’ was best guaranteed if the state provided a high degree of regulation of the economy and investment in social welfare.

Neoliberals such as Friedman believed that this ‘Keynesian’ model of organising the economy was inefficient, one of the reasons being that it restricts the freedoms of successful economic actors to reinvest their money as they see fit, because the state takes it away from them through taxes and gives it to the less successful, which in turn can create a perverse situation in which society punishes success and rewards laziness.

Evaluations of Neoliberalism

Arguments for neoliberalism

  • What right does the state have to tax money earnt through individual effort, innovation and risk?
  • Neoliberals argue that the private sector run services more efficiently than the state sector.
  • The argument for deregulation is that red-tape stifles business.

There are many critical voices of neoliberalism, mainly from the left and from within the green movement. Some of the main criticisms can be summarised as follows:

  • Cutting taxes on the rich has resulted in greater inequality and a lower standard of public services, especially for the poor.
  • Privatisation of public services has resulted in a massive transfer of wealth from the majority to the rich –
  • Deregulation has made society less safe and stable – critics blame deregulation of the finance sector for the 2007 financial crash and the deregulation of health and safety legislation as being linked to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Critical Points

It can be difficult to evaluate the impact of neoliberalism because the term is so broad, and there is actually quite a lot of disagreement over what it actually means.

Even if we just focus on the policy aspect of neoliberalism – and try to evaluate the impact of lowering taxation, privatisation and deregulation, you would almost certainly need to break these down and look evaluate the impact of each aspect separately, and maybe even subdivide each aspect further to evaluate properly.

Selected Sources used to write this post…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch37-thatcher.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

http://www.slobodaiprosperitet.tv/en/node/847

https://fee.org/articles/what-is-neoliberalism-anyway/

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20150326105407/https://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/themehome/rtc-results-2/

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Cultural Capital, Practical Intelligence and Success

Being an analytical genius is not necessarily enough to achieve success in life – it also helps if your parents have sufficient cultural capital to provide you with ‘practical intelligence’. 

In this post, I continue my summary of Malcom Gladwell’s most excellent ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ (chapter 5: the trouble with geniuses part 2).

Chris Langan started talking at 6 months, and taught himself to read at the age of 3. He was born with high levels of analytic intelligence, and and as a child he always wanted to be an academic, but he never managed to make it.

Langan came from an incredibly disadvantaged background and him and his four brothers endured severe material deprivation. Despite this, Langan won a scholarship to Oregon University at 18, but had the scholarship removed when his mother didn’t complete the appropriate forms for its continuation: he dropped out and returned to Montana to do manual work.  He later enrolled in Montana State University but again had to drop out due to poverty related issues (his car broke down so he couldn’t get to class).

Gladwell contrasts Langan’s  life course to that of the nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer:

Oppenheimer managed to complete his PhD in physics despite attempting to poison his tutor half way through because they didn’t get on: he talked the board into sending him to a psychiatrist rather than to jail); years later Oppenheimer managed to talk his way onto the Manhattan Project  – despite not being the best qualified person for the job.

The difference between Langan and Oppenheimer is their respective amounts of  ‘Practical Intelligence’  which Robert Sternberg says includes ‘knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it to maximum effect’.

Where does Practical Intelligence Come From?

Perhaps the best explanation comes from sociologists Annette Lareau who conducted a study of third graders.

Laureau selected a sample of both black and white children, from both rich and poor backgrounds, zeroing in on 12 families and the research team visited each family at least twenty times, for hours at a stretch, following them as they went about their daily routines.

Lareau found that there were only two parenting philosophies, and they divided almost perfectly along class lines: the wealthier parents raised their kids one way, the poorer kids were raised another way.

The wealthier parents were heavily involved in their children’s free time: shuttling them from one activity to the next and quizzing them about their teachers.

This kind of intensive scheduling was almost entirely absent from the lives of the poor children. Play for them involved making up games with their siblings.

The middle class parents talked things through with their children, reasoning with them. They didn’t just issue commands, they expected their children to talk back to them, to question adults in authority.

One child Lareau followed just missed qualifying for a gifted programme, so the mother had her re-tested privately, petitioned the school and got her a place on the programme, whereas poor parents are much more reluctant to take on authority.

Lareau calls the middle-class parenting style ‘concerted cultivation’ – an active attempt to foster and assess child’s talents, opinions and skills, whereas working class parents engage in a strategy of ‘accomplishment of natural growth’ – they see it as their responsibility to care for their kids, but to let them grow and develop on their own.

Lareau states that these two parenting styles are morally equivalent, and in fact the working class kids are often better behaved, less whiney and more independent and creative, but concerted cultivation has enormous practical advantages – it helps them deal with authority, to speak up and gives them a sense of entitlement.

Although ‘entitlement’ has negative connotations – Lareau means it in the best terms – middle class kids know the rules and they know how to pursue their self-interest within institutions – they have ‘practical intelligence’, they have the attitudes they need to succeed in the modern world…..