Since prevailing as the dominant world paradigm at the end of the Cold War, the economic system of capitalism has been adopted by many countries worldwide. Unfortunately, along with the benefits of capitalism there are also shortcomings. Capitalism is a game of winners and losers. Much effort is focused on praising capitalism and little effort is directed into exposing the dark side of it. The problems of capitalism are widely ignored in the developed world, although much of these problems have been caused by the developed world.
As Fletcher (2002) notes, “Sweatshops are an instrument for capitalist development”. Sweatshop workers – which sometimes include children – are subjected to oppressive exploitation and harsh working conditions. Capitalism thrives off the oppression of low-paid workers, this is how profit is accumulated.
The combination of poor working conditions and extremely long work-hours have resulted in workers looking to suicide as the only escape option. Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, is just one of many companies which is notorious for its shameful record of working conditions. In 2010, the company witnessed a ‘suicide cluster’ in which 18 workers attempted suicide from the roof of the company’s building, resulting in 14 deaths (Moore, 2012). Since the incident, Foxconn has installed safety nets to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Some may argue that the worker’s actions were a cry for help from the developed world, help which is yet to be received.
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Had this been the case in a Western developed state, it would feature in every national newspaper and media outlet. So what is it about the developing world that doesn’t seem to grab our attention as much? Capitalism and economic globalization has resulted in an interconnected world, so we can only succeed through co-operation and unity. So should we not view the developing world as our equals rather than just as a means to our own success?
Another company which has gained negative press over recent years, due to its treatment of workers in foreign countries, is Primark. It has been reported that British shoppers have found notes of ‘calls for helps’ from sweatshop workers in clothing (Moran, 2014). It is believed the messages have been attached by oversea factory workers, as they all refer to sweatshop conditions and exhausting work-hours.
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Closer to home, the problems of capitalism we notice are inequality and poverty. Inequality is becoming an inescapable issue for world politics. As the rich continue to get richer, the poor are only getting poorer. Hodgson (2016) notes that today in the US, the richest 10% own 74% of the wealth and in the UK, the richest 10% own 44% of the wealth. Is this really the form of capitalism we want steering the free world?
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Although capitalism has provided a stable economic system over the years, we cannot continue to ignore the social and moral issues it produces or we will find ourselves stuck in a never ending poverty cycle which will only worsen in the future. There needs to come a time where we stand up and there is no time like the present!
By: Rina Kastrati
Fletcher Jr, B. (2002) ‘Sweatshop Labour, Sweatshop Movement’, Monthly Review, 53(10), Available at: http://monthlyreview.org/2002/03/01/sweatshop-labor-sweatshop-movement/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Hodgson, G.M. (2016) How Capitalism Actually Generates More Inequality. Available at: http://evonomics.com/how-capitalism-actually-generates-more-inequality (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Moore, M. (2012) ‘Mass suicide’ protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Moran, L. (2014) British shoppers find ‘call for help’ messages from sweatshop workers in clothing. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/shoppers-find-notes-sweatshop-workers-clothes-article-1.1844730 (Accessed: 14 December 2016).