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The Ganges and Urbanisation

Taking a trip down the Ganges in India turns out to be a great way of exploring the relative advantages and disadvantages of urban living compared to rural living in India, and a great way of exploring the advantages and disadvantages of urbanisation, a topic in A-level sociology’s international development module.

Thankfully for us plebs, you don’t need to have to go on a gap yah to experience such a trip, you can just settle for watching the recent BBC documentary – ‘The Ganges with Sue Perkins‘ in which she explores various villages, towns and cities along India’s longest river.

India Urbanisation.png

I can thoroughly recommend the first 15 minutes of episode three of this documentary – in which Perkins visits the rapidly developing city of Patna  – she hooks up with half a dozen young Indian women learning trades, and seeming to be undergoing the whole ‘female empowerment’ thing, which seems in line with modernisation theory’s idea that urban settings break traditional values, and these women certainly seem to be looking forward to future lives of work based on a solid education, which would not be the case for them had they stayed in their villages.

India women.png

However, where marriage is concerned, it turns out that their parents will still be choosing their husbands for them, so this isn’t modernisation theory writ large… it seems gendered traditions are still strong in India, at least in this example.

NB – there’s a lot more observations which demonstrate the complex interplay between modernisation and tradition in India all the way through this documentary – all in all, a very entertaining way to explore the non-linear ways in which ‘development’ occurs in India today.

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The Rise and Fall of Detroit

The history of Detroit, USA from 1900 to the present day present offers an interesting case study in the benefits of industrial modernity in the early 20th century, and the problems caused by modernity’s decline from the 1960s.

Detroit underwent a rapid process of industrialization in the early part of the 20th century, which led to enormous prosperity and wealth being generated which was, by and large, shared by the majority of the city’s population. Detroit is synonymous with Henry Ford, and the particular model of industrial-capitalism which he basically invented – mechanized production and decent wages and benefits for his workers.

However, the second half the century saw Detroit spiral into a decline of de-industrialization, state-bankruptcy, inequality, and social unrest.

Detroit – linked to East and West coast USA via river and rail.

The Rise of Detroit: Industrialization from the 1900s to the 1950s

In its hey day, Detroit represents one of the most successful case studies in Industrialization in world history. The case of Detroit helps us to understand why Modernization Theorists in the 1940s and 50s were so keen on exporting Capitalist-Industrialization as a model of development for other countries: basically industrialization brought about many positive developments and so it seemed logical to export it. 

By the late 19th century Detroit’s industry included leading shipbuilding, pharmaceutical and railway businesses. Detroit was successful because it was strategically located near to natural resources and markets via railroads and steamboats, and from the mid 19th century there was no place that better represented American progress and power.

Detroit was the Motor city that helped drive the United States forward,  and the most well-known company which was based there was the Ford Motor Company – in 1932, its Rouge River industrial complex was the largest integrated factory in the world, with its own docks, railway lines, power station and plant, and over 100 000 workers, and 120 miles of conveyor belt.

Raw materials including iron ore and coal arrived by barge and rail and completed for Model Bs rolled off the end of the vertically integrated production lines.

Ford’s River Rouge Industrial Plant

In 1932 Henry Ford’s son commissioned the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera to paint scenes of the nearby Ford factories, which can today be viewed in the Detroit Institute of Art. Rivera’s murals captured the heat, energy and dynamism of the factories, but also the political and social tensions of time. Rivera was a communist, while Ford was a staunch opponent of labour organisations, and Rivera’s murals show workers working in harmony with machines, but also hint at the struggles between management and employees, which would become much more marked in the following decades.

One of Rivera’s murals commissioned by Ford

Through industrialization, both the human bodies of the workers and the landscape came to serve the needs of industrial capital, and women and men experienced this in very different ways, with men working in the factories, and women, by and large, staying at home, restricted to the private sphere.

The Ford family grew incredibly wealthy through their mastery of technology and production lines and their extraction of surplus value from the labour of workers. Mass production was perfected by Ford – his famous Model T was launched in 1900, and by 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts.

Ford not only transformed the economic organisation of society, he also helped transformed its social organisation – he invested much of his profit into social welfare – by establishing an art institute and the Henry Ford Hospital, for example, while the relatively high wages he paid to his workers helped them to increase their consumption and enjoy new leisure opportunities, helping to forge a new consumer culture. This compromise between capital and labour is known as Fordism.

The Henry Ford Hospital

In the 20th century, Detroit became a booming metropolis. The Ford Factory was only the largest of 125 motor factories in the city in the early 20th century, and there were many other industries to. The population of Detroit soared from under 80 000 in 1870 to over 1.5 million in 1930, making it the fourth largest city in America at that time.

The assembly lines and the rhythms of work gave new arrivals a purpose and set in motion a relentless movement towards modernity and progress. Mass production would lead mass employment and in turn enable mass consumption. Detroit was the world’s greatest working-class city in the most prosperous nation on earth. The automotive industry and the giants such as Ford and General Motors and Chrysler that dominated Detroit were what California’s Silicon Valley and the tech monopolies of Apple, Google and Twitter are to today’s era of smartphones, software and social media.

The Great depression of the 1930s struck a devastating blow as automobile sales fell rapidly, but the city was revitalized by the Second World War as car factories were rebooted to produce tanks and planes for the US military and its allies. Detroit became the ‘arsenal of democracy’.

Following victory the whole American economy was booming and a second great period of Fordism surged forwards as mass automobile ownership spread across the United States. Great chrome Cadillacs and luxury Lincolns sailed off the production lines in the 1950s like polished ocean cruisers….

Cars manufactured in Detroit in the 1950s transformed America

However, from the late 1960s onward, a combination of the growth of industrial competition from abroad and underlying social and ethnic tensions in Detroit would lead the city into a spiral of de-industrial decline…..

The Decline of Detroit 

Beneath the gloss of mass consumption Detroit always hid inequalities.

On July 23 1967 police busted an illegal after-hours salon in a black neighborhood. 85 people were arrested and tempers rose between the detainees and the officers. A five day riot ensued which was quashed by 17000 police, national guard and troops resulting in over 7000 arrests.

Black people were expressing their resentment over limited housing and economic opportunities and a history of racial discrimination and violence. Detroit increasingly became a black majority city as the white working classes moved to the suburbs (80 000 left in 1968 alone), leaving Detroit city in a decline of mass unemployment and rising crime.

A downward spiral continued into the 1970s as American manufacturers faced increasing competition from abroad and moved production to cheaper locations to cut cost, leaving further unemployment in their wake.

Downtown Detroit 1991

Detroit city further suffered because remaining managers and workers moved out to the suburbs or smaller towns just outside of the city – because tax revenue was heavily reliant on property taxes, Detroit city lost a considerable amount of its tax revenue, while the administrative centers around Detroit were well funded by the relatively well off workers who had moved to them. Detroit became a divided city – with wealthy, well funded suburbs and a declining, underfunded central city authority with massive social problems.

The 2007/08 financial crisis shook the auto industry to its core – but companies such as Chrysler and General Motors were bailed out by the Federal government, and have since recovered – Across metro Detroit half a million people still work in manufacturing, 130 000 in the auto industry, and they earn 75% above the state average salary.

Detroit city, on the other hand, did not fare so well during the financial crisis and in 2013 underwent the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

To emphasize the inequality in Detroit:

  • In Livingstone county, which is 96% white,  the median household income is $73000
  • In Detroit City, which is 82.7% black, the median household income is $26, 000 and nearly 40% of people live in poverty.

Detroit south of the 8 Mile boundary – made famous by Eminem’s 8 Mile movie, is considered to have one of the highest murder rates in the country, and there are over 100 000 empty properties.

 

There are some positive development projects going on in Detroit, but the stark difference between rich and poor in the wider region is plain for any observer to see.

Lessons from Detroit 

Detroit is important because it is a signal case for what is happening in many industrialized countries around the world – across the rust belt in America and mirrored in Southern European countries and northern England as well.

It reminds us that impoverishment is not just limited to the global south.

Sources: 

Modified from Andrew Brooks (2017) The End of Development (I’d classify this as alefty take on development!)

 

 

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Industrialisation and Development

What is Industrialisation?

Industrialisation is where a country moves from an economy dominated by agricultural output and employment to one dominated by manufacturing. This will usually involve the establishment of factories in which things are produced in a rationally organized (efficient) manner. Below we look at perspectives on ‘industrialisation’ as a means of development.

Quick brainstorm to illustrate how reliant we are on industrialisation – Think of all the products you have come into contact with today. Make a list of everything that you think was made in a factory somewhere and anything that was ‘hand-made’

Industrialisation should promote economic and social development in the following ways.

  1. Industrialisation means a country can produce a wider range of higher value goods – both for sale at home and for export abroad….
  2. Industrialisation encourages the emergence of other businesses to meet the needs of factories – coal mining to provide power for example.
  3. Industrialisation eventually means a country will be less dependent on manufactured imports from abroad
  4. Industrialisation requires workers – who will be paid wages – which gives them more money and stimulates demand in the economy and further economic and social development
  5. Industrialisation requires an educated workforce (at least some workers – management – need to be educated) which encourages the government to invest in education.
  6. Industrialisation leads to urbanisation – as workers flock to factories to find work….

Arguments for the view that industrialisation leads to development

Modernisation Theory

Modernisation Theorists argue that Industrialisation lead to the West developing and this is what developing countries should do. In the 1950s and 60s, Modernisation Theorists suggested that the West should provide assistance in the form of Official Development Aid to developing countries – providing them with an initial injection of capital and expertise to enable them to build factories and power stations (hydro-electric dams were particularly favoured),  and infrastructure to kick start industrialisation. Another form of ‘industrial development’ achieved with help from the west involved providing tractors and pesticides to ‘industrialise agriculture’ – which involved the setting up of large scale farms which could produce food more efficiently than numerous subsistence small holdings.

Supporting evidence for Modernisation Theory

There are a couple of examples of countries which have successfully (at least partially) industrialised with the support of Official Development Aid from the West – the most obvious examples being Indonesia, Botswana and to a lesser extent India.

Criticisms of the idea that industrialisation results in development

Dependency Theory and Industrialisation

Dependency Theorists (Classical Marxists) argue that Industrialisation is crucial for ‘independent development’ – but it is just as crucial that developing countries control the process of industrialisation, not the West.

Supporting evidence for Dependency Theory

This was the position adopted by Russia in the 1920s and 30s, China in the 1960s – where two communist governments controlled the industrialisation process. Even though tens of millions died during these respective periods of forced industrialisation, today these two countries make up 2/4 of  the BRIC nations.

World Systems Theory and Industrialisation – Not every country can industrialise in the Global Capitalist System

Emmanuel Wallerstein argues that countries only industrialise if it benefits the West and that it isn’t in the interests of the West for every country to industrialise and grow economically.

Wallerstein sees the World Economy as being is split into 3 main regions –

The Core – Who consume high tech ‘end products’ such as cars, computers, processed foods, holidays (planes) – these are also ‘post-industrial’ service economies – mainly Europe, America, some of Asia and parts of Latin America.

The Semi- Periphery – The ‘industrialising, sweat-shop manufacturing areas – who turn raw materials into the high end products that the ‘top billion consume’ – Most of Asia and Latin America.

The Periphery – These are the poorer countries and regions who export raw materials (most of Africa but also huge swathes of Asia and some of Latin America) to the semi-periphery, who then make the products that the Core consumes.

The last half century has witnessed much of Asia and Latin America industrialise because this has benefitted the core – we can afford cheap manufactured goods because of cheap labour. However, our present model of high-consumption also requires cheap raw materials – for example minerals for mobile phones and computers, cheap cotton for clothes, and cheap grains for meat – and these will only stay cheap if the countries in the periphery stay peripheral – i.e. we require them to stay stuck at the bottom as non- industrialised exporters of cheap raw materials.

Further to this most advanced western nations are now post-industrial – only about 10% of jobs in the UK are now in the industrial-manufacturing sector. As a result, we now have more jobs in the service sector and still massive unemployment and social problems in the de-industrialised north.

 

People Centred Development – Countries don’t need Industrialisation to be socially developed

People Centred Development theory argues that the whole idea of industrialization being essential to development is very Eurocentric – this is how most Europe developed and thus modernization theorists assume that every other underdeveloped country now needs to do the same.

The two case studies of Bhutan and Anuta both remind us that Industrialisation is not the only path to development. Both of these countries have not industrialized and both populations have very good standards of living when measured by the HDI and more subjective measures of happiness. Having said this, both of these countries make use of goods that have been produced by industrialized countries.

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Food Inc – A Summary

This is a Superb documentary which demonstrates the downsides of the industrialisation of the food system in the USA.

It is relevant to the following areas of Global Development within A level Sociology.

  • Illustrating the downsides of Industrialisation

  • Illustrating unfair trade rules (corn is subsidised in America)

  • Illustrating the downsides of forced neoliberalisation

  • Illustrating the incredible power of Transnational Corporations in America and the negative consequences of them controlling the food chain ‘from seed to supermarket’.

  • There is also one example (the local farmer guy) of People Centred Development

  • Illustrating the limitations of western models of development

Scene One – Food Inc.

The Film starts by outlining the unrealities of the modern American supermarket, where there are no seasons and the meat has no bones. Then a bold statement – there is a deliberate veil drawn over the realities of the food production chain, which is basically a factory system, an industrialised system. The rest of the documentary is devoted to outlining the downsides of this system.

Scene Two – Fast Food for All

It’s suggested that the move towards an industrial food system started with McDonalds – when the McDonald brothers got rid of their waitresses and invented the drive through to cut costs, it caught on massively and McDonald’s and other fast food outlets expanded, and so did the mass demand for standardised food products.

McDonalds is now the largest purchaser of Beef in America and one of the largest purchasers of potatoes, tomatoes and even apples, and of course corn-syrup (and hence corn). It was the demand for large volumes of standardised food goods that led to a concentration of food production into massive farms and factories.

Such is the concentration that only four companies now control 80% of the beef packing market, with similar concentrations in other food sectors, so even if you don’t eat in a fast food restaurant you’re probably eating products produced by the same system, by the same food companies. One company name to look out for in particular is Tyson!

Tyson, which is the largest food production company in the world has redesigned the chicken – so it grows in half the time it used to, and has larger breasts. It has also redesigned the chicken farmer and the whole process of chicken farming.

The video now takes the inevitable trip to the battery farm – where hideous abuses take place, most all IMO for the chicken farmers who are kept in debt by Tyson because Tyson keeps demanding they upgrade to new systems. Keeping chickens in abusive conditions is very actually very expensive!

Scene Three – A Cornucopia of Choices

Starts with an interview with the most excellent Michael Pollen – ‘The idea that you need to write a book about where our food comes from shows you the scale of the problem’.

There are only a few companies involved and only a few food products involved, and much of our industrial food turns out to be clever rearrangements of corn… Ketchup, Peanut butter, Coke, and even batteries contain corn derivatives.

So important is corn that even though yields have increased from 20 to 200 bushels of wheat an acre, 30% of the US land base is planted to corn – which is subsidised which in turn leads to over production. Subsidies are in place because the big food TNCs (Tyson and Cargill) want cheap corn, and they have the ears of the government (no pun intended).

There is a transport network which transports corn to CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Farming Operations) where thousands of cattle are kept standing in their own manure until they are slaughtered.

The fact that cattle are now fed corn rather than grass has created the conditions in their stomachs for e.coli to breed, this comes out in manure, and because cattle in CAFOs all live close together shit is transferred between them and it spreads and gets in the food chain and to the consumer

Scene Four – Unintended Consequences

Which ends up with children dying.

In the movie we are persistently shown how food is farmed along factory lines – we go to the inevitable battery chicken factory and processing plants, massive corn fields and CAFO’s – or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – where thousands of cattle are farmed together, literally standing in their own shit all day, before being slaughtered.

NB this is very different to how food is marketed to Americans – It is marketed in a very misleading way with images of small scale farmers out in the open air with their free range animals. (NB if you’ve never thought of the concept of ‘industrialisation’ as being applicable to food production as well as to the manufacturing of goods then this shows how good a job the food industry has done with its marketing!).

The reason given for this industrialisation/ rationalisation of the food system is the profit motive – It’s cheaper to mass produce things, which is something demanded by the handful of companies who control the entire food chain in the US and require standardised food products for mass distribution.

Costs are further kept low because the American government subsidises corm production so that it can be sold for less than the cost of producing it. Corn is the main constituent of animal feed today, so cheap corn = cheap meat.

This industrialisation of agriculture has several downsides:

  1. EXPLOITATION and ABUSE of animals – we see several images of animals being kept in atrocious conditions and dying.

  2. Exploitation of workers – battery farm owners are paid very little, and the often illegal migrant workers who pack chickens even less.

  3. The spread of diseases and health problems linked to animals being kept in appalling conditions. Includes children dying of E.coli, and the companies responsible being allowed to carry on producing.

  4. Environmental damage – when cattle and pigs are kept in mass enclosures excrement becomes a pollutant rather than a fertiliser (which would be the case if they were kept in open fields with enough room to graze. Also because corn rather than grass has become the main feed for factory ‘farmed’ animals we have a situation where corn is shipped to meat growing houses, then the meat shipped to consumers, with all the attendant petrol costs, which you wouldn’t have with local food production systems.

Scene Five – The Dollar Menu

Starts off with a low income family shopping at Burger King – they in fact buy lots of junk food over healthy fresh vegetables because the former is cheaper. The biggest predictor of obesity is income level –

The industry claims a ‘crisis of individual responsibility’ for obesity – but the problem is that we are biologically hard-wired to seek out three tastes – salt, sugar and fat, which are very rare in nature, but are everywhere in modern society thanks to the industrial food industry, so this claim is clearly disingenuous.

The father of poor family has diabetes (his pills cost something in the region of $200 month) and 1 out of 3 people born after the year 2000 in the US will develop early onset diabetes.

Scene Six – In The Grass

Featuring Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms – basically a farm where their livestock eat actual grass and they slaughter them by hand– and have much conditions than your average meet factory – the livestock also manure the fields automatically – basically a sensible, truly efficient farm.

As a contrast, we now take a trip to Smithfield Hog Processing Plant, the largest in the world in North Carolina, where over 30K hogs go through every day, where they treat their workers like their hogs – the workers are drawn from the poorest people and work in a conveyor belt system, sometimes getting covered in feces and blood and developing infections to the extent that finger nails separate from hands.

They effectively use up workers – few of the local population work at the plant, workers are now bused in from 100 miles away, and they also employ illegal immigrants from Mexico (ie people desperate for the money) – who have come to America because of NAFTA which led to cheap US corn flooding into Mexico, putting 1.5 million Mexican corn farmers out of business, who now work illegally for giant meat multinationals under appalling conditions. US meat companies actually actively recruited these workers from Mexico, with adverts and buses laid on.

Of course the government response is to crack down on the illegal immigrants rather than the meat companies.

Scene Seven – Hidden Costs

You wouldn’t want to buy the cheapest car – so why do we apply the same principle to food?

In any case, once you add up the environmental, social and health costs of industrial food, it ends up being far more expensive than locally grown, ethical, organic food.

Back to Joel Salatan who says that although some people make a round trip of 500 miles to get to him, he has no desire to upscale and argues that he can’t do so without compromising the integrity of his business.

This is then contrasted to Stonyfield yoghurts, who are the third biggest yoghurt brand in the states, run on ethical principles.

Like many other ethical companies, these are now owned by a massive international corporation and deal with companies like Walmart – who are stocking more ethical products for economic reasons. The argument for this is simply the impact.

Scene Eight – From Seed to the Supermarket

Back at the turn of the century, the average farmer could feed 6-8 people, now it’s 120 people. The change to farming has been profound – I mean, who sees a farmer anymore.

We now take the inevitable trip to Monstanto Land – who developed both Round Up (a pesticide) and then the Round Up Ready Soya Bean.

In 1996 – 2% of Soya beans grown in the US for Monsanto’s

By 2008 – this had risen to 90%.

Since the 1980s its now legal to patent life, there are now prohibitions on saving seed – when the concept first came about farmers were appalled now it’s just accepted and Monsanto effectively control 90% of Soya production in the US.

Monsanto as a team of private investigators (sometimes ex-military) who visit farmers who save their own seed.

We now take a trip to a farmer who didn’t switch to Monsanto’s GM seed, but his fields are contaminated by Monsanto’s seed because of cross-contamination.

We’re also shown the case study of Monstanto suing a certain ‘seed cleaner’ (used by the 10% of farmers who aren’t GM and save their own seed) who is already in debt to the tune of $25 000 and he hasn’t even been in a court room, and friends of 50 years no longer talk to him for fear of coming under Monstano’s wrath.

The end result is that Monsanto effectively own the Soya Been and they control it from seed to the Supermarket – you have to be in bed with Monstano to be a soya farmer

Scene Nine – The Veil

Covers the revolving door between the Justice Department, the development of seed-patenting law and Monsanto’s Corporate executives – its seems that for the past 25 years the US government has been dominated by people who work for food multinationals.

This is a case of centralised power being used against workers, farmers and ultimately consumers.

This has resulted in legislation which prevents the labelling of GMO products and also criticism of the food industry.

There is now an outline of the legal protections the meat industry has – The most famous case being when Oprah said Mad Cow Disease had meant she didn’t want to eat another Burger – the industry sued her for lose of profit and the case spent 6 years in court and a million dollars in fees – sometimes the industry will sue just to send out a message even if it knows it can’t win.

Scene Ten – Shocks to the System

Basically the food system is precarious – fewer food substances, fewer companies and heavy dependence on petroleum.

The cracks are definitely showing, and every time the public get a glimpse of the truth, they tend to turn their backs on this industry.

The battle against the tobacco industry is the perfect model that illustrates the possibility of breaking monopolistic controls over a system by a few powerful corporations.

Credits

You can vote to change this system three times a day.

Buy from ethical companies who treat workers and animals humanely.

Choose foods that are organic and grown locally and in season, shop in Farmers Markets

Tell the government to enforce food safety standards….

‘You can change the world with every bit’.

See the Food Inc documentary for more information…