There are numerous aspects of society and life that intertwine on a daily basis. Everyone faces similar problems on a daily basis, whether it is one’s social class, the risks experienced, or morality. The essay looks into three resources that touch on different aspects of societal life. The first book, ‘Living in the world risk society’ by Beck delves into the issue of risk, while the second book, ‘The Marx-Engels reader’ by Tucker, looks into class divisions. The last book, ‘What money cannot buy: The moral limits of markets’ by Sandel discusses money and morality.
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Beck, U. (2006). Living in the world risk society. Economy and Society, 35(3): 329-345.
Beck (2006, p. 332) argues that modern society can also be described as a risk society, as it has produced many risks. Moreover, society tries to mitigate the risks it has produced most of the time. The same risks that are observed and mitigated crop up from the very same dangers that people in the twentieth century faced. It suffices to mention that although the dangers are the same, the risks are very different.
2007 to 2008 financial crisis can also be explained using Beck’s argument. The crisis started with a booming economy. The business was booming, and many investors bought stock all over the world. All through the centuries, investors have been looking for opportunities to make more money; thus, 2007/2008 situation presented a similar challenge. However, the risks changed. Before, the risk would involve a few hundreds of people. However, thousands of people recorded losses in the 2007/2008 period. Moreover, multinationals and banks went bankrupt. Governments had to bail out these institutions in order to avoid sinking deeper into the financial crisis.
Beck (2006, pp. 332-344) gives a very detailed explanation of why similar dangers have led to new risks, and I am in agreement with the majority of his reasons. People in the eighteenth and nineteen centuries still suffered from diseases, and other conditions, similar to the diseases and illnesses witnessed and experienced today. Thus, the same dangers that threatened human life in the early centuries are still threatening human beings today. However, the risks are very different. Currently, living is a risk because there are more odds than before. Even though the earlier centuries had diseases, they were not as many and complex as the diseases today.
The current society is a society of risk because the apparatus that were set aside for providing security is now providing risks, as well (Beck, 2006, p. 336). For example, science, religion, and philosophy were initially trusted to provide answers to some of the most complex discussions in the world. The likes of Socrates and Plato thrived because of the importance these three concepts were given. Today, the same concepts still provide answers to problems in society. However, they also provide some of the biggest threats in society. For instance, religion has been used to cause terror. It should be mentioned that terrorism is not a new concept because it has been present for hundreds of years. In the Bible, the attack of a village to secure land can be perceived as terrorism. Therefore, the world is still facing the same difficulties it was facing hundreds of years ago, but with different risks.
Another example that can be cited apart from terrorism is globalization. Pollution has been a big threat since time immemorial. However, the risks associated with globalization today are very different from the risks people in the early centuries experienced. For example, fish have moved away from the North Pole due to globalization. In turn, the human civilizations that were living there had to move out because of a lack of food. Additionally, other animals in the region had to move due to starvation. All these changes have affected the ecosystem in the region. Polar bears are now having a very difficult time living in the North Pole due to the changes.
Tucker, R. C. (Ed.) (n.d.). The Marx-Engels Reader. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Tucker (n.d., p. 475) argues that the modern bourgeoisie is the product of a long course of development caused by a series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange. In analyzing this statement, Tucker appears to argue that the division of classes was made more complex by the Industrial Revolution.
It is true that social and economic classes based on the economy have changed. Previously, societies only had the noble families and the layman families. However, this developed further to form the other classes that were derived from duties and responsibilities. Later on, the economic classes were based on wealth and the number of lands a family-owned. Today, these classes are purely based on wealth.
Drawing from the 2007/2008 financial crisis, the division of society into economic classes can be blamed for many of the losses recorded. The middle and lower classes suffered the most, as the top class tried to save as much money as possible. A majority of the multinational corporations, banks, and mortgage providers went bankrupt. The Lehman Brothers is an example of a mortgage provider that went bankrupt and had to shut down as it did not get a bailout from the government. The middle and lower class people, who were depending on loans and mortgages, lost their homes and their sources of income. According to Tucker’s argument, the financial crisis was the fault of the economic systems put in place by industrialization. If everyone was equal, then the market would not have collapsed; even if it did, a select few would not have been bailed out, and the rest left to struggle with financial debts.
Tucker (n.d., pp. 475-477) argues that all the change was propagated by the Industrial Revolution. Even though he gives a solid argument, Tucker fails to show how communism and capitalism affect social division. Whether the Industrial Revolution would have supported communism or capitalism, class divisions would still persist. An example can be drawn from the Mesopotamian Empire, which was present before industrialization. The empire practiced communism, as did the very early human civilizations. Despite this, they still had class divisions that defined the noble and the laymen. It is arguable that the modes of production and exchange, which were also present before industrial in the form of barter trade, shaped the economic system. It had absolutely nothing to do with industrialization because there was no ‘industrialization’ at that point.
However, the argument that industrialization led to the development of more complex class division suffices. Industrialization and capitalism for that matter have encouraged the development of new sub-divisions within the class divisions. For example, the initial class divisions were the top, middle, and lower classes. However, currently there are also the middle middle-class, top middle-class, and lower middle-class. It is assumed that different people in the middle-class also have different statuses. There are those who have more wealth than others; thus, they cannot be put in one economic class.
Sandel, M. J. (2012). What money cannot buy: The moral limits of markets. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Ciroux.
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Sandel (2012, p. 13) argues that the failure of the degrading nature of capital markets is due to the encroaching of the same markets in aspects of life that they do not belong. Market and profit making have been adapted in every aspect of life, making it harder to differentiate between morality and profit making. For example, a salesperson will lie to the client that the product they want to buy is the best in the market. This lie is told in an attempt to record profits, yet lying is immoral.
The financial crises of 2007/2008 is an excellent example of how market encroaching has destroyed the society. Life was literally unbearable in the two years because a majority of the services and goods needed were not affordable. Many people lost their homes after the housing bubble burst. They were unable to afford other critical services like health care due to the rise in value of such services. If these services could be bought, then the financial crisis would not have led to the massive loss it did. People would not have lost homes, because houses would have been afforded. Additionally, lives would not have been lost due to a lack of money or insurance for health care.
I agree with Sandel (2012, p. 6), that today money can buy anything, if not everything. However, ensuring that there are some things that money cannot buy will curb the fast growth of markets and uphold morality at the same time. For instance, the privatization of health care has been debated since time immemorial. There have been numerous cases where hospitals have refused to treat patients, until payments are made. When profit comes first and human life comes second, then the morality of the society should be questioned.
Sandel (2012, p. 12) argues that the best way to solve the issue of morality is through declaring that there are some services that cannot be bought. Imagine a man in the hospital suffering from kidney failure. The man is put on a list that claims that the kidneys are given on a ‘first come first serve’ basis. However, another man in the hospital who has more money buys a kidney from the hospital staff and gets a successful surgery. Meanwhile, more people are added to the list, and some die as they wait for kidneys they never get. In such a scenario, who is to blame? Is it the hospital staff that is just trying to make profits because it is a for-profit organization? Is it the man who had more money than the rest and decided to save his life by using the money to purchase a kidney? After all, he wanted to live. Or is it the economy that allowed people to be unequal?
It can be argued that even if the kidney was not sold, there are some people who would still die due to bad timing and lack of enough kidneys. So, would it be worth it? The man who bought the kidney might have been the last in the list; therefore, the most likely to die while waiting for a kidney. Whereas this argument is solid, it does not consider the issue of morality. To the man who bought the kidney, saving his own life, is important. However, it also means that he put another person on death row. It can be assumed that his action will haunt him.
The three authors, Beck, Tucker and Sandel, are linked by the idea that society produces its own problems. Beck explains that society is risky, and it brings upon itself the difficulties and the risks experienced. On the other hand, Tucker argues that society is to blame for the division between the rich and the poor, while Sandel suggests that allowing the society to put a monetary value on everything has led to increased unethical behaviors. In conclusion, there are numerous arguments that can be made for and against each of the arguments presented. However, the bigger question is: Can the reshaping of ideologies and aspects of societies passed down from one generation to another really help in solving society’s problems?
Beck, U. (2006). Living in the world risk society. Economy and Society, 35(3), 329-345.
Sandel, M. J. (2012). What money cannot buy: The moral limits of markets. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Ciroux.
Tucker, R. C. (Ed.) (n.d). The Marx-Engels reader. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.