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Posts Tagged ‘section 004’

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels explored the struggle and inequality between social classes in The Communist Manifesto as on of the major faults of capitalism.  The Manifesto focus on the distinction between the upper-class, capital-owning bourgeoisie and the working-class proletariat – two classes sustained by a capitalist society.  The inequality encompasses the exploitation of the proletariat as they work for minimal wages to make the rich bourgeoisie even richer. The land and capital remain with the bourgeoisie, and are passed down through inheritance; this means the proletariat is trapped in its exploited, low-wage position with no way to escape and move up.

I thought the ideas that The Communist Manifesto addressed were similar to some of the problems and inequalities of globalization and world trade businesses have faced over the last few decades.  In Thomas L. Freidman’s book, The World Is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, the argument is made that 10 aspects of technology (called “flatteners” by Friedman) have leveled the metaphorical “playing field” of world trade in the global economy. His 10 “flatteners” that have helped give businesses everywhere a chance to be internationally competitive are:

  1. The collapse of the Berlin Wall
  2. The launch of the Netscape browser in 1995
  3. Workflow software (programs that perform medial tasks such as computations and data entry)
  4. Uploading – the ability to share information with others
  5. Outsourcing
  6. Offshoring
  7. Supply-chaining
  8. Insourcing – company’s employees perform services for another company
  9. In-forming – search engines such as Google
  10. “The Steroids” – tech bits that help make the other “flatteners” that much more effective; texting, smart phones, videoconferencing, voice over IP, instant messaging, etc.

(For more details on and explanations of the “flatteners”, please see Freidman’s book.)

Marx and Engels suggested revolution was the only way for the underprivileged and exploited to escape their class role and have new opportunities; new technology systems could be thought of as the modern equivalent of revolution.  While certainly less drastic or rapid than a violent overthrow, these technologies have a global impact and affect millions of firms.

While these 10 “flattening” technologies have aided capitalist systems, the focus of this post is about distributing market power and the ability to compete to all kinds of firms, regardless of their size, age or geographic location.  For example, when Netscape launched in 1995, anyone, anywhere with a PC and an internet connection could communicate with anyone else with the same (relatively cheap, easy-to-use) equipment.  This meant that if you were looking to sell a product, but were in a geographically-isolated area, you could still compete with other, larger booksellers by having your own website and sharing the product information with consumers all over the world.  While a small bookseller certainly does not have the market power of a giant such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, the internet and email communication allow a small company to compete for a market share that was previously dominated by larger firms who were able to simply have more, larger stores in the most heavily-populated locations.

There are some caveats: while technology can help level the playing field, adopting it can be troublesome at times.  The cost of being an “early adopter” and learning how to use the technology and dealing with the kinks can be time consuming and potentially costly, and being late the show and failing to start using technology that all of one’s competitors are using can be dangerous for one’s business.  However, when done right, the benefits are prolific.

The Communist Manifesto describes the problems of inequality of a class-based order brought about by capitalism, and suggests that a revolution by the proletariat was the only way that (temporary) equality could be brought about.  Friedman uses his 10 “flatteners” to describe the leveling of the global playing field and the reduction of some of the inequalities between companies/countries that have existed for hundreds of year. These “flattening” uses of technology are contemporary equivalents of what a revolution would have done in the past; society becomes shaken up as there is no clear division of who has the power and control of the resources and who doesn’t.  Everyone has a somewhat equal opportunity to learn and master the new technology, and put it to good use for economically bettering themselves. While it may be somewhat ironic that I am equating a Marxist theory to equality brought about through primarily-capitalist systems, the revolutionizing roles technology innovations play in global trade can very much help level the playing field.

References:

Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat, A Breif History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche Second Edition, Edited by David Wooton (Hackett Publishing, Inc. 2008)

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Ever since I was born in the United States of America I have had to abide by the laws the nation has set forth in front of me. However, since I was born within the country and am a natural citizen, I never directly made a contract with the nation expressing that I wanted to be a part of it, and its rules. Therefore, the question of whether or not I am truly subject to the nation’s laws arises. The short answer to this question is yes, but on a deeper level it is merely expressive consent that makes me a U.S. citizen. I express my desire to live under the commonwealth of the United States by accepting any benefits it offers.  Due to this one condition, I am subject to its laws and rules.

To reinforce this condition of receiving benefits, let us examine the works of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.  What can be gathered from these philosophers is that all people in a commonwealth form an unspoken social contract to benefit from something the commonwealth provides. One major benefit, in both men’s interpretations, brings humans out of the state of nature through a form of protection.  Human’s join under commonwealths to gain the security the state of nature lacks. Naturally, the cost of this benefit is merely the agreement to live by the social contract or law of the commonwealth.

In Hobbes work The Leviathan, the major benefit a commonwealth provides is protection “from an untimely death.”  In Hobbes’ state of nature there is utter chaos. To relieve this chaos, people join commonwealths because, “if there be no power erected, or not great enough for security; every man will, and may lawfully rely on his own strength for caution against other men” (Hobbes, 173). Therefore in Hobbes’s commonwealth, if people receive protection, they are expressively agreeing rules of the power erected mentioned in the quote. In summarization, security is benefited when one abides by the commonwealth’s laws.

 Similarly, the major benefit Locke’s commonwealth provides is protection of one’s property.  Locke states in his work The Second Treatise of Government, “The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealth, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property” (Locke, 320). Based on this quote, the commonwealth protects one’s property, and if the protection is accepted, one is expressively agreeing to unite under the commonwealth. Overall, both Hobbes and Locke believe that, accepting any benefits from a commonwealth, expressively binds you to the rules of that commonwealth.

 In conclusion, the major condition that makes any person part of a commonwealth is through receiving benefits.  As a result, one becomes subject to the rules that the commonwealth creates. Furthermore, there is a clear connection between receiving benefits and expressively agreeing to live under a commonwealth in my situation. I expressively agree to live under the law of the United States by receiving the provisions of law enforcement, paved roads, and other things of this nature.

Hobbes, Thomas. “The Leviathan.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche.   2nd Edition. David Wootton. Indianapolis, IN. 2008.

Locke, John. “The Second Treatise of Government.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd Edition. David Wootton. Indianapolis, IN. 2008.

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The question of whether or not we live in an “enlightened age” in our country is an interesting topic when thinking about the internet and mass media.  In politics, the internet and web media is used by politicians as a tool to help spread their messages. These messages do not necessarily contain truths, and are often misconstrued, but nonetheless spread to millions and millions of citizens across the country.  Immanuel Kant would see the media as an extremely negative force – one that puts immense pressure on individuals to not seek out answers for themselves, instead relying on websites, forums and videos on the internet to tell them what to think.

Kant addresses the topic of enlightenment in his short essay, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?”  Kant argues that enlightenment is attained by having the courage to use reason and understanding to pull oneself out of the lazy habits of following others’ guidance. He affirms that while we can use this reason to exceed immaturity, we must do so not just in private life, but more importantly in public life, so that others may be affected by our actions and expressions. While most occupations require duties and obligations to be obeyed and not questioned, one is allowed to and should publically “express [their] thoughts regarding the impropriety or even injustice” of anything they feel necessary, even if it is related to their job.

The public aspect of both observing and speculating on information has become incredibly relevant in modern times as it is extremely simple to turn on the computer for news or opinions. Even if you are online and not trying to hear others’ opinions, one is often force-fed politics—be it via commercials, pop-up ads, or friends’ status updates on Facebook.  While this technology can often quickly and broadly help expose inconsistencies or false information, it can also magnify the effect of such spurious info.

Admittedly, there are examples of online media types that can facilitate enlightenment, such as certain discussion forums, blogs (such as this one), and news sites that present truthful information with minimal biases.  These forums and blogs provide a straightforward way to get one’s opinion out there for everyone else to see and respond to.  In addition to being easy to use, many of these sites connect people from many different backgrounds from all over the world; a diverse group of opinions can be brought to the table.  However, the vast majority of internet websites and forums are not for the purpose of pure learning and understanding; many are motivated by either self-interest or profit, and therefore are not valid tools for reaching enlightenment.  Many of the forums are centered on certain hobbies or interests, meaning the users often have very similar views and do not learn from one another.  If someone comes online and posts an opinion that goes against the beliefs of many forum members, they are often shot down by the majority and not given a chance to explain their point and have others try to understand it.  The general lack of policing on the internet means that while there is the opportunity for open, intelligent discussion and a chance for everyone’s voice to be heard, these freedoms are often abused and the lack of policing means that it can be hard to sort the useful discussions that could be enlightening from the inadequate ones.

This situation is somewhat of a paradox, as our contemporary society is thought of as one of the most tolerable places in the world to practice free speech and exercise one’s freedoms of expression. These freedoms are what Kant states as the tools towards achieving enlightenment, yet the media has become such a powerful force that it can easily counteract the available freedoms by allowing individuals to remain lazy and simply follow everything that is said by others.

As technology continues to advance, will modern and future forms of media put an even more serious constraint on the next generation’s path towards enlightenment, as it becomes easier and easier to hear the opinions of others?

Reference:

“An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” by Immanuel Kant

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