Author Topic: Capitalism and the Breakdown of the American Family  (Read 1818 times)

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Lee Li

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Capitalism and the Breakdown of the American Family
« on: January 19, 2014, 06:52:08 PM »
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Marxian Class Analysis Theory and Practice 2/5 on Vimeo


Notes/Summary:

From the 1870s to the 1970s, employee wages rose with their productivity, resulting in a rising standard of living. Wages rose because there was a shortage of workers; they were in demand. Other factors for increased worker demand included emancipation of the slaves after the Civil War, and the self-employed class, e.g. family farms, being competed almost out of existence.

Then in the 1970s, a great change occurred, yet was never talked about: wages of American workers stopped rising, and stayed the same, while productivity continued to increase. The effect was traumatic, but Americans perceived it as personal, individual failure. This was rationalized as: work fundamentally stinks, but there is a reward for work -- going to the mall and buying stuff. It's an interesting thing to decide that the bulk of your life stinks.

So Americans were attached to consumption. Economists attached to labor the value, "disutility", and to consumption, "utility". And where they criss-crossed, that was ideal. Work = negative, consumption = positive. Translation: Accept it and look for your satisfaction at Walmart.

But the demand for workers shrank. This is due to the advent of computers, and companies from other countries became competitive. Also, the supply of workers increased when women went into the workforce by the millions to rebel from their feudal family relations, and also when swaths of immigrants came to work in America.

Because in the 1970s and since there was no public discussion, the American working class went through this traumatic change as if it were a personal, individual experience, explained by personal, individual qualities. It wasn't a social change, it was an individual failure.

With the husband no longer able to get rising wages when he works, a number of things happen: 1) he can't secure his feudal household. The unspoken agreement with the wife was he provides the vacuum cleaner, the range, the dishwasher, the refrigerator... He can't even replace the worn-out one with the new one. He can't afford it, and so the the conditions of the feudal household begin to break down. Starting in the 1970s, the divorce rates go through the roof!

Committed as the American working class family was to consumption, they sent their teenagers and retired grandparents to work part time jobs. Women are now expected to work and then come home and do the homemaking. (And that stretches the woman beyond endurance. Fact: the largest consumer of drugs are the adult American women.) Of course, this decreased worker demand and in some specific ways even increased costs so that it ate up the extra income.

And so that marked the end of the American family. The fastest growing household in the U.S. now is the single adult household.

The only group in the American culture that addressed this issue was the right-wing Christians and Republicans. They analyzed it as a loss of morality, as a failure to value the family. Unfortunately, the Left has an excellent class analysis that could provide better explanations and solutions...

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Omega

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Re: Capitalism and the Breakdown of the American Family
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2014, 06:47:54 PM »
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I guess problem is more that there is too much of consumption and to little of investment.
what causes this stagnation.



Prodigal son

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Re: Capitalism and the Breakdown of the American Family
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2014, 08:57:35 AM »
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I guess problem is more that there is too much of consumption and to little of investment.
what causes this stagnation.

I wonder whether the lack of investment is related to the extremely low interest rates that Western governments are imposing on the financial market in order to protect their own debt, which is, from my limited understanding, a direct result of the huge money transfer from the general public to the banking industry that we witnessed in the recent bail-outs.

Omega

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Re: Capitalism and the Breakdown of the American Family
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2014, 09:20:49 AM »
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You may be right about money transfer however this trend is continuing for very long time already, much longer than these ridiculously low interest rates.

My logic is that when you work and get paid, you spend some of your money on consumption(same as setting it on fire) and you invest some amount too, which generates you some profit in future.
if you just consume all you got, you situation will not improve.
investing is facilitated by high interest rates, when it becomes profitable to save and reduce spending.

Mad economists asume that consumption is good for economy, while it is opposite,
consumption is killing economy.