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Criticisms of Neoliberalism

The three country case studies below all suggest that although neoliberal policies might promote economic development in the long run, in the case of Chile at least, there are some significant negative consequences of this pathway to development.

  • Chile in the 1970s
  • Boliva in the the 1990s
  • India – Contemporary

NB – If you’re here for a blog post about Neoliberalism in India – please click here (I moved it!)

Chile 

The following clip from ‘The Shock Doctrine’ outlines the ‘neoliberal experiment in Chile from 1973 onwards, the very first neoliberal experiment in development.

Following the overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically elected but Socialist President, the American backed Dicator Augusto Pinochet implemented neoliberal economic reforms.

These were written for him by by a group of American economists known as ‘The Chicago school’, headed by Milton Freedman.

Examples of neoliberal policies reforms included the cutting of taxes on imports to 10% (previously Chile had the second most protected economy in the world) and the privatisation of state owned companies.

In the short term – the policies increased unemployment and inflation and inequality and human misery which led to massive social unrest which Pinochet oppressed violently killing tens of thousands of people.

However, 40 years later… Chile is one of Latin America’s leading economies.

Neoliberals might argue tens of thousands of lives is a price worth paying for rapid wealth creation

Neoliberalism in Bolivia 

This video clip from ‘The Corporation’ summarizes the case study of water privatization in Bolivia in the 1990s.

  • In the early 1990s, one local administrative area within Bolivia was forced to privatise the previously state owned water supply as part of a ‘Structural Adjustment Programme’
  • A Multinational took over running the water supply for a profit
  • The poorest people couldn’t afford to pay for water.
  • This led to massive protests which the government violently suppressed.
  • In this case the government eventually renationalised the water supply due to popular demand.
  • Did neoliberalism help development?
  • If you define progress as the right to clean water then no.
  • If you define it as increasing profit for European Transnationals then yes.

Neoliberalism in India 

Arundhati Roy notes that  ‘Trickle down hasn’t worked in India, but gush up certainly has’

 

She notes the following three ways in which the Elite in India Benefit from Neoliberal Policies

  • Corrupt government officials sign a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) with a Corporation which privatises a chunk of publicly owned land, giving that corporation the right to use that land to establish a business – this either takes the form of mining the raw materials from under the land, or establishing a range of other projects such as Agribusinesses, Special Economic Zones, Dams, and even Formula One racing circuits.
  • Taxes are typically kept very low in these deals – often sow low in that local people see little of the financial benefit of the new business. This is especially true were mining is concerned. In 2005, for example, the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Jharkhand signed hundreds of memorandums of understanding with private corporations, turning over trillions of dollars of bauxite, iron ore and other minerals for a pittance – royalties (effectively taxes) ranged from 0.5% to 7%, with the companies allowed to keep up to 99% of the revenue gained from these resources. (Allowing people like Ambanni to build their 27 story houses, rather than the money being used for food for the majority of the Indian population.)
  • In a third strand of Neoliberal policy, companies are subjected to very little regulation. It seems that they are allowed to develop their projects without protecting the environment or paying any compensation to people who are negatively affected by these projects.

 

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Sociological Perspectives on Increasing Immigration to the UK

This post looks at the recent increase in net migration to the UK, and at some of the reasons for increasing immigration in particular, including push and pull factors. It also looks at some of the consequences of increasing migration and the relationship between globalisation and migration. 

Recent Patterns of Migration to the UK

The Office for National Statistics Net migration was actually negative during the 1970s and early 1980s, turning positive but at a relatively low level during the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1994, it has been positive every year and rose sharply after 1997.

migration to the UK

During the 2000s, net migration increased further, partly as a result of immigration of citizens from the countries that have joined the EU since 2004. Since the mid 2000s, annual net migration has fluctuated between approximately 150,000 and 300,000.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that net migration stood at 336,000 in the year ending June 2015. This is up from 254,000 in the year ending June 2014. This is a statistically significant increase.

Why are people immigrating to the UK?

The most common reason for migrating to the UK is work. This has been the case historically, with the exception of 2009 to 2012, when formal study was the most common main reason for migration.

In the year ending June 2015, a total of 294,000 immigrated for work-related reasons. This is a statistically significant increase from the previous year when 241,000 people immigrated for work-related reasons. Of those immigrating for work-related reasons in the year ending June 2015, 64% (187,000) came with a definite job to go to and 36% (107,000) came to look for work.

There were increases in immigration for work among EU citizens and non-EU citizens. Provisional estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) show that 58% (162,000) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens), which was not a statistically significant increase and 24% (67,000) were non-EU citizens, also not a statistically significant increase from the previous year. The majority of other sources also show that immigration for work has increased over the last year for both EU and non-EU citizens.

The second most common reason for immigrating to the UK was formal study. In the year ending June 2015, a total of 192,000 people immigrated to the UK for formal study. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (131,000 or 71%) were non-EU citizens while 47,000 (24%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).

In the year ending June 2015, a total of 80,000 people arrived in the UK to accompany or join others,this remains relatively unchanged from 82,000 the previous year. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (45,000 or 58%) were non-EU citizens while 23,000 (30%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).

Where are people Emigrating from? 

migrants to the UK
Immigration to the UK

 Refugees and Asylum Seekers Coming to the UK 

Migrants to Britain hoping to gain citizenship must get 75 per cent or more on the Life in the UK test, which was recently revamped to incorporate “British values” (whatever they are).

A survey has found that most young Britons would actually fail the test, however, which probably has Ukip supporters feeling very confused indeed.Try for yourself and see if you can pass!

The British Red Cross notes that far fewer people come to the UK to apply for asylum than you might think.

More than 50 million people throughout the world were forced to flee their homes last year. There are more than 13 million refugees worldwide – but developing countries host over 80% of people.

There are an estimated 126,000 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.19% of the total population (64.1 million people).

How many asylum seekers came to the UK in 2014?

The UK received 31,400 asylum applications. This was less than Germany (166,800), France (63,100), Italy (56,300) and Sweden (81,300). Just 41%of people applying for an initial decision were granted asylum and allowed to stay. Many are initially refused because it is difficult to provide the evidence needed to meet the strict criteria of a refugee.

Which countries do asylum seekers come from?

More than half of the world’s refugees (52%) came from just five countries in 2014:

  • Syria: 3 million
  • Afghanistan: 2.7 million
  • Somalia: 1.1 million
  • Sudan: 670,000
  • South Sudan: 508,000

What do the terms mean? 

Asylum seeker

  • flees their homeland
  • arrives in another country , whichever way they can
  • makes themselves known to the authorities
  • submits an asylum application
  • has a legal right to stay in the country while awaiting a decision.

Refugee

  • has proven to the authorities that they would be at risk if returned to their home country
  • has had their claim for asylum accepted by the government
  • can now stay here either long-term or indefinitely.

Refused asylum seeker

  • has been unable to prove that they would face persecution back home
  • has been denied protection by the authorities
  • must now leave the country, unless they wish to appeal the decision or there are legitimate reasons why they cannot yet return home.

Economic migrant

  • has moved to another country to work
  • could be legally or illegally resident, depending on how they entered the country
  • may or may not have a legal work permit.

Sources: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, Oct to Dec 2014; UNHCR mid-year report 2014; Office for National Statistics (mid 2013).

 

The Causes of Increasing Migration to the UK

The simplest level of analysis lies in explaining increasing migration to the UK in terms of push and pull factors:

Push Factors refer to problems which encourage a person to leave or emigrate from their country

Pull Factors refer to the real or perceived benefits of another country which attract people to it, or migrate towards it

You should be able to identify a number of  push and pull factors from the material above note down at least two push and pull factors which repel people from other countries and attract them towards the UK.

Increasing globalisation is also fundamentally linked to globalisation, which is covered below. 

The Consequences of Increasing Migration for Family Life 

The impact of migration on UK population structure

There are three main effects:

  1. Population size is increasing because net migration is increasing. If it were not for high net migration the UK population would be shrinking due to low birth rates, which on their own are below the fertility rate required to replace the population, which is 2.1. babies per woman.
  2. The age structure changes. Immigration lowers that average age of the population both directly and indirectly. Directly because immigrants tend to be younger by 10 years than the British born population. Indirectly because Immigrant women have a higher fertility ratio – they have more babies than British born women.
  3. The dependency ratio. Here immigration has three effects:
  • Immigrants are more likely to be of working age and this thus helps lower the dependency ratio.
  • However because they are younger, immigrants have more children and so the immigrants’ children add to the dependent population.
  • Finally, the longer a group is settled in the country, the closer their fertility rate comes to the national average, reducing their distinct impact on the dependency ratio.

Impacts on Public Services..

It is not possible to say with certainty what the implications of migration are for public services, and these impacts are likely to vary by area and depending on the type of public service. Migrants contribute to demand for public services. If foreign-born people in the UK used public services in the same way as demographically similar UK-born people, they would be expected to make less use of health and social care, but greater use of education. Migrants also contribute to financing and providing public services, and are over represented in the health care and social care work forces.

The Political Impact of Globalisation 

States now have policies that seek to control immigration, absorb migrants into society and deal with increased ethnic and cultural diversity. More recently policies have also become linked to national security and anti-terrorism policies.

Assimilationism was the first state policy approach to immigration. It aimed to encourage immigrants to adopt the language, values and customs of the host culture, to become ‘like us’. However assimilationist policies have mainly failed because of the desire of many migrants to retain aspects of their ‘culture of origin’.

Multiculturalism accepts that migrants may wish to retain a separate cultural identity. One consequence of multicultural policy is the emergence of multicultural education in schools. However,Eriksen criticises such education as encouraging ‘shallow diversity’ – so we accept the surface elements of other cultures such as Samosas and Saris, but it fails to address issues surrounding ‘deep diversity’ such as arranged marriages.

Since September 11th many politicians have demanded a return to assimilationsim

Two further consequences include –

  • A More Multicultural Society
  • A divided working class and the white working class backlash.

 

Globalisation and migration

A final aspect of this topic you need to know about is Globalisation and Migration…

Globalisationis the idea that barriers between societies are disappearing and people are becoming increasingly interconnected across national boundaries.

Globalisation is the result of many processes including the growth of communication systems and global media, the creation of global markets, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the expansion of the European Union.

Many see globalisation as producing rapid social changes. One such change is increased international migration – the movement of people across borders. We can identify several trends in global migration.

Acceleration

There has been a speeding up of the rate of migration. For example according to the United Nations between 2000 and 2013 international migration increase by 33%, to reach 232 million, or 3.2% of the world’s population. In the same year, almost a million people either entered or left the UK.

Differentiation 

There are many types of migrant. These include permanent settlers, temporary workers, spouses or forced migrants such as refugees. Before the 1990s immigration to the UK came from a narrow range of former British colonies and these migrants tended to form a small number of stable, geographically concentrated and homogeneous ethnic communities.

However, since the 1990s globalisation has led to what Steven Vertovec (2007) has called super-diversity: even within a single ethnic group individuals may differ in terms of their legal status, culture or religion and be widely dispersed throughout the UK.

There are also class differences among migrants. Robin Cohen (2006) distinguishes three types of migrant:

  • Citizens-with full citizenship rights such as voting rights
  • Denizens– who are privileged people welcomed by the state – such as billionaire ‘oligarchs’ or highly paid employees of Transnational companies
  • Helots– the most exploited group – states and employers regard them as disposable units of labour power, a reserve army of labour. They are found in unskilled, poorly paid work and include illegally trafficked workers and legal workers such as domestic servants.

The Feminisation of migration

Almost half of all global migrants are female and the types of job they do tend to fit patriarchal stereotypes such that there is a global gendered division of labour.

Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild (2003) observe that care work, domestic work and sex work in the UK is increasingly done by women from poor countries. This is a result of western women increasingly joining the labour force and the failure of the state to provide adequate child care.

The resulting gap has been filled by women from poor countries. For example, 40% of adult care nurses in the UK are migrants and most of these are female.

There is also a global transfer of women’s emotional labour. For example, migrant nannies provide care and affection for their employers’ children at the expense of their own children left behind in their home country.

Migrant women also enter western countries as ‘mail order brides’ and some as the victims of sex-trafficking.

Transnational Identities

According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen(2007), globalisation has created more diverse migration patters, with back and forth movements of people through networks rather than permanent settlement in another country.

This results in such migrants being less likely to see themselves as belonging to one culture or another and instead they may develop transnational neither/ nor identities and loyalties. The globalised economy means that economic migrants may have more links to other migrants than to their country of origin or the country they are currently settled in. Such migrants are less likely to want to assimilate into the ‘host country’.

Sources used to write the above include information from the ONS, British Red Cross and Rob Webb et al’s  AS level Sociology book for the AQA.

 

 

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People Centered Development

This post provides a brief summary of people centered development approaches to social development, including the work of Vandana Shiva.

Why are developing countries underdeveloped?

People Centered Development Theorists generally agree with Dependency Theory about why some countries are underdeveloped – because of a history of exploitation and extraction by western Nation States and TNCs.

PCD theorists are also very critical of the role of large institutions in development – international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF and both western nation states and developing nation states. They argue that big development projects aimed at macro level goals such as increasing GDP and neoliberal strategies of deregulation often do not improve the lives of people ‘on the ground’. In this sense, as Amartya Sen argues, development needs to be about giving people independence so they have real power and choice over their day to day situations, it shouldn’t be ‘top down’ coming from the west, via governments and then trickling down to the people.

People Centered Development theorists also have a much broader conception of what ‘development’ could actually mean. They don’t believe that development has to mean them becoming more like the West and development shouldn’t be seen in narrow terms such as industrialising and bringing about economic growth, development projects should be much smaller scale, much more diverse, and much more coming from the people living in developing countries.

Finally, PCD theorists reject Western Definitions of ‘underdevelopment’ – just because some cultures are rural, non-industrialised, and not trading, doesn’t mean they are inferior.

Doctor Vandana Shiva
Doctor Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is a good example of a theorist who comes under the umbrella of a People Centred Development approach to development.

She has spent much of her life in the defence and celebration of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.  Seed freedom is central to the idea of Shiva’s work (the rejection of corporate patents on seeds, and protecting the rights of local peoples to save their own seed).

Vandana Shiva has also played a major role in the global Ecofeminist movement. According to her 2004 article Empowering Women, Shiva suggests that a more sustainable and productive approach to agriculture can be achieved through reinstating a system of farming in India that is more centered on engaging women. She advocates against the prevalent “patriarchal logic of exclusion.”

How should developing countries develop?

  1. People centred development means ‘ground up development’ – empowering local communities. Because of this, there are potentially thousands of pathways to development
  • The thousands of small scale fair trade and micro finance projects around the world are good examples of PCD style projects embedded in a global network.
  • Bhutan is a good country level example of PCD principles – globalising on their own terms.
  • Indigenous peoples living traditional lifestyles, effectively rejecting most of what the west has to offer is another good example.
  1. At a global level, PCD theorists believe that any development projects embarked upon should embody three core principles –
    • Social Justice – they shouldn’t be based around exploitation (like tied aid is)
    • Inclusivity – they should be democratic, bottom up, not top down – they should be designed with communities living in developing countries, not by western experts.
    • Sustainable – Projects shouldn’t degrade local environments

Criticisms of People Centred Development

  • All the other theories argue that, eventually, if a poor country really wants to improve the lives of its people en masse in the long term, it needs money, this can only come from industrialisation and trade, is it really possible to improve standards of living through small scale projects?

  • Focussing solely on small scale development projects still leaves local communities in developing countries relatively poor compared to us in the West, is this really social justice?

  • In a globalising world it simply isn’t realistic to expect developing countries (such as Bhutan or groups living in the Rain Forest) to be able to tackle future problems if they remain underdeveloped – eventually population growth or climate change or refugees or drugs or loggers are going to infiltrate their boarders, and it is much easier to respond to these problems if a country has a lot of money a well functioning state and a high level of technology.

  • PCD is too relativistic – is it really the case that all cultures have equal value and diverse definitions and paths to development should be accepted? Do we really just accept that patriarchy and FGM are OK in places like Saudi Arabia and Somalia because that’s what their populations have ‘chosen’?
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The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development

According to neoliberalism big government and too much official development aid prevent economic and social development, while deregulation, privatisation and lowering taxation are required to achieve economic growth. This post outlines the neoliberal approach development and then briefly assesses the effectiveness of neoliberal policies.

What is Neoliberalsm?

Neoliberalism - The Dominant Ideology since Reagan and Thatcher
Neoliberalism – The Dominant Ideology since Reagan and Thatcher

While the usage of the term neoliberalism varies considerably, for the purpose of this post i use the term to refer to that set of economic policies which have become popular in economic development over the last 30 years (since the late 1980s) – namely increased privatisation, economic deregulation and lowering taxation.

Neoliberalism replaced modernisation theory as the official approach to development in the 1980s. It focuses on economic policies and institutions which are seen as holding back development because they limit the free market. The agreement by the World Bank and IMF that neoliberal policies were the best path to development is referred to as the Washington Consensus following a meeting in Washington by world leaders in 1989.

What prevents development?

Neoliberals argue that governments prevent development – When governments get too large they restrict the freedom of dynamic individuals who drive development forwards. Neoliberals argue that there is some pretty powerful evidence for this – Think of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, although these governments forced through industrialisation, they would not allow people enough freedom to bring about the kind of consumer culture (based on individual freedom of choice and expression) that emerged in Western Europe in the 1960s, so development stagnated in those countries because of governments having too much power. Similarly neoliberals argue that even in Capitalist countries where there is too much ‘red tape’ – or too many rules, regulations, taxes and so on, it’s harder to do business and so harder for economies to develop.

Neoliberals are also critical of the role of Western aid money – They point to the many corrupt African dictatorships which emerged in Africa in the 1960s -1980s – These were often propped up by aid money from Western governments and during this period billions of dollars were siphoned off into the pockets of government officials in those countries and not used for development at all.

How can countries develop?

Chile - The First Neoliberal Experiment
Chile – The First Neoliberal Experiment

Neoliberalism insists that developing countries remove obstacles to free market capitalism and allow capitalism to generate development. The argument is that, if allowed to work freely, capitalism will generate wealth which will trickle down to everyone. 

Another way of putting this is that neoliberals believe that private enterprise, or companies should take the lead in development. They believe that if governments promote a business friendly environment that encourages companies to invest and produce, then this will lead to exports which will encourage free trade. So encouraging ‘free’ trade is a central neoliberal strategy for development

The policies proposed are those that were first tried in Chile in the 1970s, then in Britain in the 1980s under Thatcher. They include:

  1. Deregulation – Removing restrictions on businesses and employers involved in world trade – In practice this means reducing tax on Corporate Profits, or reducing the amount of ‘red tape’ or formal rules by which companies have to abide – for example reducing health and safety regulations.

  1. Fewer protections for workers and the environment – For the former this means doing things like scrapping minimum wages, permanent contracts. This also means allowing companies the freedom to increasingly hire ‘flexible workers’ on short-term contracts.

  1. Privatisation – selling to private companies industries that had been owned and run by the state

  1. Cutting taxes – so the state plays less of a role in the economy

Neoliberalism and Structural Adjustment Programmes

Some countries willingly adopted these policies, believing they would work; others had them imposed on them as part of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). SAPs basically involves the World Bank or IMF agreeing a loan for a developing country (this might be to build roads/ hospitals/ industrialise/ mechanise agriculture/ build sewage systems/ schools etc.) as long as the country fulfills certain conditions. Since the 1980s these conditions have meant such things as deregulation and privatisation. 

Overall Criticisms of Neoliberalism12

  1. A report from the CEPR compared the period from 1960 to 1980, when most countries had more restrictive, inward looking economies to the period 1980 to 200 the period of neo liberalism and found that progress was greater before the 1980s on both economic and social grounds.

  1. Those countries that have adopted free market polices have developed more slowly on those countries that protected their economies

  1. Dependency theorists argue that neo-liberalism is merely a way to open up countries so they are more easily exploitable by Transnational Corporations. We will see this in the next handout!

  1. Transnational Corporations do not tend to invest in the poorest countries, only in LDCs and NICs

Global Development Revision Notes

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Global Development Revision Notes

 Global Development Notes Cover53 Pages of revision notes covering the following topics within global development:

  1. Globalisation
  2. Defining and measuring development
  3. Theories of development (Modernisation Theory etc)
  4. Aid, trade and development
  5. The role of organisations in development (TNCs etc)
  6. Industrialisation, urbanisation and development
  7. Employment, education and health as aspects of development
  8. Gender and development
  9. War, conflict and development
  10. Population growth and consumption
  11. The environment and sustainable development

1 http://www.stwr.org/globalization/the-failure-of-neo-liberalism.html – article on the failure of neo-liberalism

2 http://www.ncsu.edu/project/acontracorriente/spring_05/Postero.pdf – review of a book on the problems neo-liberal policies caused in Bolivia in the late 1990s.

Related Posts

World Systems Theory

Further Reading

The Guardian -Neoliberalism’s Trade not Aid approach to development ignored past lessons

The death of neoliberalism and the crisis in western politics – Guardian commentary (August 2016)

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World Systems Theory

Immanuel Wallerstein
Immanuel Wallerstein

A summary of Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory including the key ideas of Core, Semi-Periphery and Periphery countries, relevant to A Level Sociology Global Development Module. NB This is very much a summary designed to get an 18 year old through an exam, so may not suit higher level students.  

World systems theory is a response to the criticisms of Dependency Theory (and for the purposes of the exam can still be treated as part of Dependency Theory). World Systems Theory was developed by Immanuel Wallerstein (1979).

Wallerstein accepts the fact ex-colonies are not doomed to be forever trapped in a state of dependency; it is possible for them to climb the economic ladder of development, as many of them have done. However, he also believes that the global capitalism system still requires some countries, or at least regions within countries to be poor so they can be exploited by the wealthy at the top. Wallerstein’s theory has four underlying principles:

  1. One must look at the world system as a whole, rather than just at individual countries. Dependency Theory tended to argue that countries are poor because they used to be exploited by other countries. However focusing on countries (or governments/ nation states) is the wrong level of analysis – government today have declined in power, whereas Corporations are more powerful than ever. Global Corporations, and global capital, transcend national boundaries, and nation states (even wealthy ones) are relatively powerless to control them, thus in order to understand why countries are rich or poor, we should be looking at global economic institutions and corporations rather than countries. Global Economic Institutions form what Wallerstein calls a Modern World System, and all countries, rich and poor alike are caught up in it.

  1. Wallerstein believes that the MWS is characterised by an international division of labour consisting of a structured set of relations between three types of capitalist zone:

Core-Periphery and Semi Periphery Countries
Core-Periphery and Semi Periphery Countries
  • The core, or developed countries control world wages and monopolise the production of manufactured goods.

  • The semi-peripheral zone includes countries like South Africa or Brazil which resemble the core in terms of their urban centres but also have areas of rural poverty which resemble the peripheral countries. The core contracts work out to these countries.

  • Finally, there are the peripheral countries at the bottom, mainly in Africa, which provide the raw materials such as cash crops to the core and semi periphery. These are also the emerging markets in which the core attempts to market their manufactured goods.

NB ‘countries’ are used to illustrate the three different zones above, but technically you could have all three zones within one country – China and India contain regions which fit the descriptors for each of the three zones.

  1. Countries can be upwardly or downwardly mobile in the world system. This is one of the key differences between World System’s Theory and Frank’s Dependency Theory. Many countries, such as the BRIC nations have moved up from being peripheral countries to semi-peripheral countries. However, most countries do not move up and stay peripheral, and the ex-colonial powers (the wealthy European countries) are very unlikely to slip down the global order.

  1. The Modern World System is dynamic – core countries are constantly evolving new ways of extracting profit from poorer countries and regions. Three examples of new ways of extracting profit from poor countries include:

  • Unfair Trade Rules (we come back to this in the next topic) – World trade is not a level playing field – The best example of this is in Agriculture – Agriculture is Africa’s biggest economic sector. It has the capacity to produce a lot more food and export to Europe and America but it can’t because the EU and America spend billions every year subsidising their farmers so imported African products seem more expensive

  • Western Corporations sometimes use their economic power to negotiate favourable tax deals in the developing world. A good case in point here is the mining Company Glencore in Zambia – The company recently arranged a long term contract to mine copper with the Zambian government – it exports $6 billion a year in copper from Zambia, but pays only $50m in tax, while as part of the deal the Zambian government is contractually obliged to pay for all the electricity costs of mining – a total of $150m a year.

  • Land Grabs – These are currently happening all over Africa – Where a western government or company buys up thousands of hectares of land in Africa with the intention of planting it with food or biofule crops for export back to western markets. In such cases the western companies take advantage of the cheap land and gain much more than the African nations selling the land in the long term. In some case studies of land grabs thousands of indigenous peoples are displaced.

Evaluating World Systems Theory


  1. Wallerstein can also be criticised in the same way Dependency Theorists can be criticised – there are more causes of underdevelopment than just Capitalism – Such as cultural factors, corruption and ethnic conflict.Wallerstein puts too much emphasis of economics and the dominance of Capitalism – There are other ways people can be exploited and oppressed – such as tyrannical religious regimes for example. Also, there are some areas are still not included in the World System – some tribal peoples in South America and Bhutan for example remain relatively unaffected by global capitalism.

  1. Finally, Wallerstein’s concepts of Core, Semi-Periphery and Periphery are vague and this means his theory is difficult to test in practise.

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Changes to Marriage and Divorce – Infographic


I knocked up this brief ‘infographic’ in Skitch on the iPad – explaining the decline of marriage and the increase in divorce.

You might also like the more detailed posts on this topic (which should be linked below)

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Marxist Feminist Perspectives on Family Life

Marxists such as Engels and Zaretsky acknowledge that women are exploited in marriage and family life, but they emphasise the relationship between capitalism and the family, rather than the family’s effects on women. Marxist feminists use Marxist concepts, but they see the exploitation of women as they key feature of family life.

marxist feminism
Marxist Feminism

The reproduction of labour power

‘The amount of unpaid labour performed by women is very large and very profitable to those who own the means of production. To pay women for their work, even at minimum wage scales, would involve a massive redistribution of wealth. At present, the support of the family is a hidden tax on the wage earner – his wage buys the labour power of two people’ (Margaret Benston, 1972).

In other words, all of the chores associated with the traditional, expressive role, such as domestic labour, child care and emotion work are necessary to ‘keep the family going’ and so women’s unpaid work ultimately ends up benefiting the Capitalist class, because they only have to pay one person in the family– the male breadwinner a wage. The woman attends to the husbands needs and ‘keeps him going’ as a worker for free, and women also do most of the child care for free, thus reproducing the next generation of workers for free.

A related point here is made by Fran Ansley who sees the emotional support provided by men as a safety valve for the frustrations produced in the husband by working in a capitalist system:

‘When wives play their traditional role as takers of shit, they often absorb their husband’s legitimate anger and frustration at their own powerlessness and oppression.’

(NB This analysis is essentially a more critical view of Parson’s ‘warm bath theory’ – the theory of the stabilisation of adult personalities – in Marxist-Feminist terms this is not ‘different but equal’ roles, it is a case of different an unequal – and this inequality benefits capitalism)

Finally, because the husband has to pay for his wife and children he cannot easily withdraw his labour power even if he is exploited. This reduces his bargaining power in relation to his employer and makes it more likely that he will put up with a low wage rather than risk being sacked by striking for a higher wage.

As an economic unit the nuclear family is a valuable stabilising force in capitalist society. Since the husband-father’s earnings pay for the production which is done in the home, his ability to withhold labour is much reduced’ (Margaret Benston, 1972).

Ideological conditioning

The traditional nuclear family not only physically reproduces cheap labour for the the ruling class, it also teaches the ideas that the Capitalist class require for their future workers to be passive.

Diane Feeley (1972) argues that the family is an authoritarian unit dominated by the husband in particular and adults in general. The family has an ‘authoritarian ideology which teaches passivity, not rebellion and children learn to submit to parental authority thereby learning to accept their place in the hierarchy of power and control in capitalist society.

Evaluations of the Marxist Feminist Perspective on The Family

David Morgan argues that the traditional nuclear family is becoming less common and so this theory is less applicable today

They also ignore the fact that women have made progress in family life – life is better within families today for women, as Liberal and Difference Feminists point out.

Related Posts

Feminist perspectives on the family (which covers all three types of Feminism)

The Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

The Radical Feminist perspective on the family

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The Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

Jennifer Somerville (2000) provides a less radical critique of the family than Marxist or Radical Feminists and suggests proposals to improve family life for women that involve modest policy reforms rather than revolutionary change. She can thus be characterised as a liberal feminist, although she herself does not use this term.

Somerville argues that many young women do not feel entirely sympathetic towards feminism yet still feel some sense of grievance.

To Somerville, many feminists have failed to acknowledge progress for women such as the greater freedom to go into paid work, and the greater degree of choice over whether they marry or cohabit, when and whether to have children, and whether to take part in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship or to simply live on their own.

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The Gender Pay Gap – At least woman aged 20-29 have caught up with men!

The increased choice for women and the rise of the dual-earner household (both partners in work) has helped create greater equality within relationships. Somerville argues that ‘some modern men are voluntarily committed to sharing in those routine necessities of family survival, or they can be persuaded, cajoled, guilt-tripped or bullied’. Despite this, however, ‘women are angry, resentful and above all disappointed in men.’ Many men do not take on their full share of responsibilities and often these men can be ‘shown the door’.

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The gendered division of labour – still a source of tension!

Somerville raises the possibility that women might do without male partners, especially as so many prove inadequate, and instead get their sense of fulfilment from their children. Unlike Germain Greer, however, Somerville does not believe that living in a household without an adult male is the answer – the high figures for remarriage suggest that heterosexual attraction and the need for intimacy and companionship mean that heterosexual families will not disappear.

However, it remains the case that the inability of men to ‘pull their weight’ in relationships means that high rates of relationship breakdowns will continue to be the norm which will lead to more complex familial relationships as women end one relationship and attempt to rebuild the next with a new (typically male) partner.

What Feminists thus need to do is to focus on policies which will encourage greater equality within relationships and to help women cope with the practicalities of daily life. One set of policies which Somerville thinks particularly important are those aimed at helping working parents. The working hours and culture associated with many jobs are incompatible with family life. Many jobs are based on the idea of a male breadwinner who relies on a non-working wife to take care of the children.

Somerville argues that in order to achieve true equality within relationships we need increased flexibility in paid employment.

Evaluation of the Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

Sommerville recognises that significant progress has been made in both public and private life for women

It is more appealing to a wider range of women than radical ideas

It is more practical – the system is more likely to accept small policy changes, while it would resist revolutionary change

Her work is based on a secondary analysis of previous works and is thus not backed up by empirical evidence

Radical Feminists such as Delphy, Leonard and Greer argues that she fails to deal with the Patriarchal structures and culture in contemporary family life.

A Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family – Executive Summary

Causes of inequality in relationships – A combination of two things – (1) Mainstream working culture which requires long and inflexible working hours which are still based on the idea of the main breadwinner, (2) Men refusing to pull their weight in relationships.

Solutions to Inequality – Social Policies designed to make working hours more flexible.

Sources Used – Haralambos and Holborn – Sociology Themes and Perspectives 8th Edition

Related Posts

Feminist perspectives on the family (which covers all three types of Feminism)

The Marxist Feminist perspective on the family

The Radical Feminist perspective on the family

External sites which may be of interest 

An article from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2014) – Women put at particular disadvantage by the requirement to work full time

Workingmums.co.uk – A site which works with policy makers and employers to encourage more flexible working hours

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Is Marxism Still Relevant Today?

Eight possible ways in which some aspects of Marxist Theory and concepts might still be relevant today… Relevant to A2 Sociology Theory and Methods (details to follow)

  1. A class based analysis of global society is still relevant if you look at things globally.
  2. Exploitation still lies at the heart of the Capitalist system if you look at the practices of many Transnational Corporations.
  3. If you look at the recent bank bail outs it appears that those with economic power still have disproportionate influence over the superstructure.
  4. If you look at how individualised we have become it appears that many people are still under ideological control – but we don’t realise it.
  5. Work is still Alienating for many people.
  6. Economic crises are still inherent to the capitalist system and that in recent years these crises have become more severe and more frequent.
  7. Capitalist exploitation is so bad in some parts of the world that there is vehement resistance to it.
  8. In Britain there are tens of thousands of people who call themselves Communists and who sympathise with Marxism and the wider anti-capitalist movement. Left Wing criticisms and the anti-capitalist movement is still very much alive today.

 

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Marx: Key Ideas for AS Sociology

The Marxist Perspective is a central theory within A level Sociology. This post outlines some of the key concepts of Karl Marx such as his ideas about the social class structure, his criticisms of capitalism and communism as an alternative.

This is a slightly modified version of the AS Sociology intro handout on the basics of Karl Marx’s thought.

Karl Marx (1818- 1883) was alive in the middle of the 19th century, and it’s important to realise that his theories stem from an analysis of European societies 150 years ago.

Marx travelled through Europe during the mid and later half of the 19th century where he saw much poverty and inequality.  The more he travelled the more he explained what he saw through unequal access to resources and ownership of property, wealth. He argued that the working class (proletariat) in Britain (and elsewhere) was being exploited by the ruling class (bourgeoisie).

The ruling class paid the working class less wages than they deserved, made them work long hours in poor conditions, and kept the profit from the sale of the goods produced. Thus, the ruling class got richer and the working class became increasingly poor, and had no way of improving their prospects, unless… Marx argued, they all came together to overthrow the ruling class in a revolution. Equality for all in the shape of Communism would replace an unequal capitalist system. 

Because Marx’s theory is based on criticising Capitalism, you really need to understand what Capitalism is – see the separate Handout/ blog ‘what is Capitalism’?

   Key Ideas of Karl Marx

1.    Capitalist society is divided into two classes:

Marxism class structureThe Bourgeoisie or the Capitalist class are the ones who own and control the wealth of a country. These control the productive forces in society (what Marx called the economic base), which basically consisted of land, factories and machines that could be used to produce goods that could then be sold for a profit.

The majority, or the masses, or what Marx called The Proletariat can only gain a living by selling their labour power to the bourgeoisie for a price.

2.    The bourgeoisie increase their wealth by exploiting the proletariat

Marx argued that the bourgeoisie maintain and increase their wealth through exploiting the working class.

The relationship between these two classes is exploitative because the amount of money the Capitalist pays his workers (their wages) is always below the current selling, or market price of whatever they have produced. The difference between the two is called surplus value. Marx thus says that the capitalist extracts surplus value from the worker. Because of this extraction of surplus value, the capitalist class is only able to maintain and increase their wealth at the expense of the proletariat.  To Marx, Profit is basically the accumulated exploitation of workers in capitalist society.

Marx thus argues that at root, capitalism is an unjust system because those that actually do the work are not fairly rewarded for the work that they do and the interests of the Capitalist class are in conflict with the interests of the working class.

3.    Those who have economic power control all other institutions in society

Marx argued that those who control the Economic Base also control the Superstructure – that is, those who have wealth or economic power also have political power and control over the rest of society.

Economic Base(The Mode of Production) Consists of the forces of production (tools, machinery, raw materials which people use to produce goods and services)and the relations of production (social relations between people involved in the production of goods and services). Together these make up the mode of production
Superstructure All other institutions: The legal system, the mass media, family, education etc.

4.    Ideological Control

Marx argued that the ruling classes used their control of social institutions to gain ideological dominance, or control over the way people think in society.  Marx argued that the ideas of the ruling classes were presented as common sense and natural and thus unequal, exploitative relationships were accepted by the proletariat as the norm.

5.    The result of the above is false class consciousness

The end result of ideological control is false consciousness – where the masses, or proletariat are deluded into thinking that everything is fine and that the appalling in which they live and work are inevitable. This delusion is known as False Consciousness. In Marxist terms, the masses suffer from false class consciousness and fail to realize their common interest against their exploiters.

Commodity FetishismA fetish is an object of desire, worship or obsessive concern. Capitalism is very good at producing ‘things’. In capitalist society people start to obsess about material objects and money, which is necessary to purchase these objects. Material objects and money are worshipped in capitalist societies. Some people even need material objects to construct identities – this is partly responsible for keeping most of us in ‘false consciousness’

6.    Revolution and Communism 

As far as Marx was concerned, he had realised the truth – Capitalism was unjust but people just hadn’t realised it! He believed that political action was necessary to ‘wake up’ the proletariat and bring them to revolutionary class consciousness. Eventually, following a revolution, private property would be abolished and with it the profit motive and the desire to exploit. In the communist society, people would be more equal, have greater freedom and be happier.

Criticisms of Traditional Marxism 

  • Marx’s concept of social class has been criticised as being too simplistic – today, there are clearly not just two social classes, but several; moreover, most people don’t identify with other members of their social class, so it is questionable how relevant the concept of social class is today.
  • Clearly Marx’s predictions about capitalism ending and the ‘inevitable success of communism’ have been proved wrong with the collapse of communism.
  • Capitalism has changed a lot since Marx’s day, and it appears to work for more people – it is less exploitative, so maybe this explains why it still continues to this day?

Evidence that Marxism is still Relevant Today

Contemporary Marxist sociologists argue that Marxism is still relevant in many ways. For example:

1) Family = Parents want the perfect family and they compete with one another for the best house, car, holiday and the best dressed/most successful children etc. This is encouraged through advertising and TV programmes. Significant sums of money are spent in pursuit of the “perfect” family. This benefits the bourgeoisie in two ways 1) Parents work harder at work improving profits for their companies owners – the bourgeoisie 2) Parents spend more of their salary on providing this lifestyle – this benefits the bourgeoisie as they can make more profits by selling goods and services to the parents.  Furthermore, it makes parents feel “happy” about family life and society generally, even though they might work 13hr days for an average salary, rarely seeing their family. Lastly, children grow up watching their parents behave in this manner and then replicate it as adults with their own families.

2) Media = the mainstream media is controlled by few wealthy individuals who promote the ideas and beliefs that maintain the bourgeoisie’s wealthy position in society. This encourages people to accept beliefs which benefit capitalism and legitimise (justify) the exploitation of the proletariat (workers) as normal. The media justify exploitation and even make it into games shows.

3) Education = encourages people to accept hierarchy and to be obedient. This is good for capitalism as it creates students who will later become good workers. Also, schools emphasise high achievement and high flying jobs – implicitly this means highly paid jobs, better profits for company owners and more exploitation for the workers. Schools also encourage the idea people get what they deserve in education, when in reality educational achievement is primarily a result of the chance circumstances of your birth i.e. who your parents are.

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The Marxist Perspective on the Family

The Marxist Perspective on Education

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