The American dream and the fantasy portrayed in its rhetoric has prevailed throughout decades. One is made to believe that through hard work and perseverance one can achieve success and wealth. It has created a clear division within the United States. It has become even more idealised within the neo-liberal ideology, which promotes the belief of individual struggle that when overcome culminates in fortune and happiness. However, the reality paints a grim picture. As stated by Standing (2001), the neo-liberal ideas implemented in a capitalist democratic state in fact cause unemployment and inequalities because of the system itself. Wealth inequality in the US and worldwide has seemingly increased throughout the years. In an Open Democracy article, Graham Peebles (2014) wrote that worldwide the richest 10% amount to 85% of household wealth and that if combined, the assets of the three richest people in the world would equate to 47% of the worlds wealth. The US Atlas of Global Inequality stated that in 2006 close to half of the world’s population lived on less than $2.5 a day. In 2007 the top 1% of the USA accounted for a little over 50% of the total income, while the bottom 90% made up for less than 20%. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development the gini coefficient in the USA increased from 0.376 in 2007 to 0.389 in 2012. Yet, what is curious is that even though many people in MEDCs and NICs may know these facts none seem to be truly phased. What makes us accept such statistics as inevitable or inherent?
As said by Van der Pijl (2009) the Marxist analysis is that in the capitalist mode of production there will be an emergence of two poles, one of wealth and the other of poverty. When neo-liberalism was introduced in the early 1980s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher this was exacerbated. The concept that the individual is responsible for their own wealth and success conceals the failure within the system. Instead, the hobbesian idea of human nature was adopted and ingrained into people’s minds. As said by Paul Verhaeghe (2014), neo-liberalism has generated and enhanced a constant feeling of anxiety among its citizens, which has expanded into social fear where one views everyone as a threat. It has become an inherent fact that people who do not succeed do not do so because they did not try hard enough. (Seabrook, 2009). A lack of compassion has overtaken societies and a blissful ignorance towards the faults of the system have become evident.
The facade of the American dream has been unfolded, nonetheless it continues to perpetuate throughout the “Land of the Free”. Maybe this is because people would feel too hopeless were they to accept the truth. Or, maybe it is because believing in a fantasy may seem easier and more comfortable than taking a stand and demanding change.
Luisa H Castro
Graham Peebles. (2014). Worldwide Inequality. Available on: https://www.opendemocracy.net/graham-peebles/worldwide-inequality. [Accessed on: 19 October 2014]
Kees Van der Pijl (2009) From Classical to Global Political Economy: A Survey of Global Political Economy [online]. University of Sussex: Centre for Global Political Economy. Available at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/ir/documents/091theories.pdf. [ Accessed on 16th October 2014]
Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (2014) Available on: http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=IDD [Accessed: 18th October 2014].
Seabrook, J. (2009) The poor and the unequal. In D. Utting (ed). Contemporary social evils. Bristol: The Policy Press, p 203-212
Standing, G (2011) The precariat: the new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury Academic
Strachan, M. (2014) The U.S is even more unequal than you realized. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/income-inequality-charts_n_5241586.html [Accesssed: 20 October 2014]
UC Atlas of Global Inequality (2006) Available at: http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/income.php [Acessed on: 22nd October 2014].
Verhaeghe, P. (2014) ‘Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us’. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/neoliberalism-economic-system-ethics-personality-psychopathicsthic [Accessed on: 18 October 2014]