An Investigation of Globalization and the Structure of Power in the United States
Sociologist Karl Marx spent much of his focus on the progression of societies and what factors enabled and maintained power and poverty. Through his work, he explains this construction and further digresses into the different components of class and status within society, which ultimately led society to where it is today. Although his theory was founded in the 1840’s, his ideologies are still applicable to the modern day society. America’s development, in particular, has a direct correspondence to Marx’s theory centered around the bourgeois and proletarians. His illustration of the advancement of these class status’ and their ever changing power within society paints a clear picture of how America and its capitalist system were executed. On the other hand, because his theory was introduced turning a time period that had no rendering of technology, his theory does not consider any technological dependency that is now present in society. The complicated, present day that consists of the use of many mediums of technology was unable to be predicted. Yet, its increasing prevalence has created a shift in power within society. By analyzing the structure and power of American society using Marx’s theory, the unanswered aspects of his theory will be unveiled.
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The history of all societies is the history of class struggles. In earlier historical time periods, complicated arrangements of society were not uncommon; there is a manifold gradation of social rank. Karl Marx’s theory insinuates that the modern capitalistic societies generated from the ruins of feudal society. It has but created new conditions of oppression, new classes, and subordinate hierarchies. He claims that this has simplified class antagonisms (Engels and Marx, 1848: 74). As a whole, society ventures down a path that splits into two great classes that which directly face each other, the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.
The discovery of America created a whole new breeding ground for the rise of the bourgeoisie. The increase of exchange and in commodities revolutionized the unsteady feudal society and monopolized industrial production, which no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets (Engels and Marx, 1848: 75). Yet, the manufacturing middle class pushed the guild masters and the division of labour between various corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour. This did not stop the growth of markets, the demand became ever rising. Because of the demand, the introduction of steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the modern bourgeois. The modern industry has established the world market, which gave an immense development to commerce, navigation, and communication by land. This development resulted in an extension of industry through commerce, navigation, and railway expansion. At the same time, the bourgeoisie developed, increased capital, and pushed into the background of every class (Engels and Marx, 1848: 75). This in turn resulted in the development of the bourgeoisie being accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class.
The bourgeoisie has played a revolutionary part in ending all feudal, idyllic, and patriarchal relations. Marx believed that the bourgeoisie were to blame for the ties that bound man to his natural superiors and left as nothing else but ‘cash payment’ (Engels and Marx, 1848: 76). It has uproared “the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation” (Engels and Marx, 1848: 76). It has converted men into paid wage labourers and has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. Through the bourgeoisie’s exploitation of the world market, cosmopolitan character has been given production and consumption in every country (Engels and Marx, 1848: 77). !!!!!
The bourgeoisie cannot continue without dramatically altering the tools of production and the relations of production with the whole of society. This need to stay consistently on top and expand the market urged the bourgeoisie to establish connections all over the globe. While trying to build up the modern approach to society, the bourgeoisie knocked down old, established national industries (Engels and Marx, 1848: 77). By their rapid improvement in means of production and the extremely facilitated means of communication, compels all nations to adopt this mode of production and become bourgeois themselves. Modern society has conjured up huge means of production and exchange of property. As capital is developed, the modern working class developed. This class of labourers live so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital (Engels and Marx, 1848: 79). However, Marx claims that with the development of the industry, the proletariat increases and becomes concentrated in greater masses.
Collisions between classes of old society persist in numerous ways. The bourgeoisie is involved in a constant battle with the aristocracy whose interests have become opposed to the progress of industry. They are trying to appeal to the proletariat and drag it into the political arena (Engels and Marx, 1848: 82). In these battles, the bourgeoisie gives the proletariat its own features of general and political education, which can in turn be used to fight the bourgeoisie.
The most important condition for the existence and the power of the bourgeois class is the formation and increase of capital. According to Marx, the condition for capital is wage-labour (Engels and Marx, 1848: 84). Wage-labour relies solely on competition between labourers. Advancement of industry replaces the isolation between labourers because of their competition and association. The development of modern industry cuts the ground from under its feet on which the bourgeoisie allocates and produces products, as well as the inevitable fall and the victory of the working class.
Marx’s theory of the bourgeoisie and the proletarian can be understood as constituents in the development of America. The structure of America and it’s capitalist economy has become one of the most powerful in the world. Yet, its origin of power lies in the power of the government and of the state. While Marx’s theory coincides with the beginning and the progression of the United States, it does not cover the consequences of its development.
Power comes from the decisions that men make in the current conditions under which they live, as well as the events that make up the history of their times. According to author Charles Wright Mills, the last resort of power is in the form of coercion. In the modern world, power is not always authoritative as deemed in previous times. Ideas that justify rulers are no longer necessary in order for them to exercise their power (Mills, 1958: 30). Those ideas are often neither taken up or used. This new form of ideology arose as a response to an effective debunking of power.
A situation has presented itself in which many who have lost faith in prevailing loyalties have not gained new ones, therefore not paying attention to any politics. These individuals are called inactionary; they are completely out of it. This is where many modern troubles of political intellectuals stem from. The prevalence of mass indifference and frequent absences are two major facts about western societies, like America, today.
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The history of modern society can be understood as the story of the magnification and centralization of power in economic, political, and military institutions. The growth of industrial society has implemented these developments in the means of economic production. The rise of the nation-state has involved similar developments in violence and in those of political administration (Mills, 1958: 31). America and other western societies have made these transformations gradually, with many cultural traditions restraining and shaping them. Now, the means of power have become international in scope. The facilities of power have become incredibly enlarged and centralized by the power of the elites. As previously introduced, the power to make decisions, nationally and internationally, is seated in political, military, and economic institutions. Nonetheless, these institutions are increasingly shaping religion, education, and family (Mills, 1958: 32). These orders have incorporated this technology and now guide it, even as it shapes and measures their development. As each changes with this continuous ‘guidance,’ the effects become greater and the traffic between all three institutions has increased. The institutions are no longer run separately, but are now linked; there is now an economy linked with military order and decision. This is how to understand American society today.
The economy that once contained small, high-yielding units has become dominated by a few hundred corporations which are administratively and politically interrelated in economic decision. The most important relations of the corporation to the state rest on the accordance of military and corporate interests (Mills, 1958: 33). This is defined by the military and corporate rich, which are then accepted by politicians and the public.
In America, military order has become the largest and most expensive attribute of government. As a result, the high military have gained political and economic decisiveness. In order to understand this unity of powerful elites, it is important to assess their origin. Their power is comprised of men of similar origin, education, career, and lifestyle. This kind of unity reaches a new level of prestige because it creates a solid culmination in the institutional orders. The corporate rich and the high military now preside (Mills, 1958: 34). The relations between the rich and military determines the relations of their rulers. The unity of the elite is not simply understood as a simple reflection of the unity of institutions, but men and institutions are always related. That is how the development of institutional trends can be realized. Their unity relies on the liaisons among these institutions, which then trickle down and effect the middle and lower levels of power.
These middle levels of power are the political journalists and scholars of politics that provide the content of political news and various types of information. Now, liberal interpretations of what happens in America are now the only interpretations that are being widely distributed (Mills, 1958: 35). The actions of middle level powers can definitely enable consequence for the top-level policy. The expanded and centralized hierarchies have encroached on the balance and delegation of the middle levels. As more people are drawn into the political arena because of the power of the middle levels, their associations become mass in scale, and the power of the individual becomes consequently dependent on them (Mills, 1958: 37). In a society of publics, discussion and means of communication grow and animate discussion.
In American society, the dominant type of communication is the formal media. The United States is living through one of the most sweeping technological innovations in its history and has led to the betterment of life like science, scholarship, and medicine (Bagdikian, 2014: 2). America’s most sacred principle has been government by consent of the governed, but it has been in a state of constant change. Five global-dimension firms, operating with many of the characteristics of a cartel, own most of the newspapers, magazines, book publishers, motion picture studios, and radio and television stations in the US. Each medium they own, whether magazines or broadcast stations, covers the entire country, and the owners prefer stories and programs that can be used everywhere and anywhere (Bagdikian, 2014: 3). There are 5 conglomerates, The Walt Disney Company, Murdoch’s News Corporation, based in Australia, Viacom, and Bertelsmann, based in Germany. Their strategy has been to have major holdings in all the media, from newspapers to movie studios (Bagdikian, 2014: 3). This gives each of the five corporations and their leaders more communications power than was exercised by any despot or dictatorship in history (Bagdikian, 2014: 3). The leaders of the big 5 are american and foreign entrepreneurs whose corporate empires control every means by which the population learns of its society, they find ways to cooperate so that all 5 can work together to expand their power, a power that has become a major force in shaping contemporary American life. The ‘big 5’ have similar boards of directors, who jointly invest in the same ventures, and lend each other money and swap property when it is mutually advantageous (Bagdikian, 2014: 4). The completion of media companies aspiring to command market control fueled expansion towards a new and more powerful goal, a small group of jointed corporations that now have control over the media in which the American public says it depends.
New technology has expanded the commercial mass media’s unprecedented power over the knowledge and values of the country. The ‘big 5’ have become major players in altering the politics of the country and have been able to promote new laws that increase their corporate domination, as well as permit them to abolish regulations that inhibit their control (Bagdikian, 2014: 10). In the history of the US and in its Constitution, citizens assume the right to determine the shape of their democracy (Bagdikian, 2014: 10). Yet, the concentrated media power in news and commentary, together with corporate political contributions, have diminished the influence of voters over which issues and candidates will be offered on Election Day.
As Marx claims, the elite, which are still prevalent in modern America, still remain on top. His claim that the elites give power to the lower class individuals is applicable to the present day distribution of information. However, technology provides individuals with many outlets and sources of information. This in turn creates a bias, giving people the ability to only be exposed to the perspective and type of news that they are interested in, turning a blind eye to the rest of the news distributed. Not only was this not ventured or predicted in Marx’s further development of the US, but the monopoly that is situated in these news sources was not as well. The ‘big 5’ hold incredible power and rule over the majority of news outlets that run through American society, only revealing what they deem fit. This type of journalism stems from the capitalist system that America runs on. The intermingling of those in politics and the rich corporations still have a viable relationship. Marx’s theory perfectly captures the change in man as he develops and becomes a commodity in the American, capitalistic economy. However, the power of technology has expedited this process.
- Bagdikian, B. ‘Common Media for an Uncommon Nation’, (2014) The New Media Monopoly. Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 1-10.
- Marx, K., Engels, F., Lukes, S., Bronner, S. E., Tismaneanu, V. and Sassen, S. (2012) The Communist Manifesto. Yale University Press.
- Mills, C. W. (1958) ‘The Structure of Power in American Society’, The British Journal of Sociology, 9(1): pp. 29-41.
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