So What If Capitalism is Oppressive?

This is the question I have had trouble with while taking this Feminist Theory class. I’m learning about how I’m oppressed by this economic system that has become a political system and now I’m unsure of how to even fight back.

I have a lot of power and resources behind my words now. I can make a statement or ask a question such as “why is capitalism good?” and then proceed to form an argument against their answer. While I have been successful at this, I loose my success when they ask in exhaustion “what else do you want us to do?”

This is where I lose my stride and become flustered. It’s as if they’ve unearthed my dirty little secret. I can complain about capitalism all I want, but then when they ask for an alternative economic system, I become flustered and unsure of what I should say.

I obviously have a problem with my core argument at this point. I can complain about something, but I can’t offer a change. My solution was to ask for help. This is something I’m not good at. I’ve been brought up to be an individual and to “figure out things myself” (something capitalism continues to promote) and going to ask somebody for their opinion is terrifying because I don’t want to look stupid or like I haven’t been following the conversation.

So it was terrifying to bring it up with my professor, but after a story I told her from break, I led into the question. She was great.

I feel like I go on about this professor so much, but I can’t enough. While she doesn’t have a lot of time to talk to students, she makes the time and is willing. She is ready to put up an argument and even better, let people fight back and learn from their responses. I’m sure we’ve all had teachers who hear something against their opinion and that student is just shut down. They’re not shut down with legitimate reasons either. It makes sitting in a class awful. She doesn’t do this and that’s why she’s great. If somebody has something to say that she doesn’t agree with, she’ll back it up and always appreciate the opinion. If a student says something she doesn’t agree with and will lead into a different topic, she moves on. She doesn’t do it in a way where it feels like she’s ignoring the student, but instead leading the discussion back to the point.

It’s safe to say, she’s pretty awesome.

So, to my point. I talked to her about this and I came out with some more ideas and responses. I just wanted to let you know that this was due to talking to her, so a lot of this is her idea and my response to it. I just didn’t want everybody reading this and going “oh look at you and your great ideas” because they were shared. Also, I’m not directly citing her because there was some thoughts I had and it all merged together and there was some collectivism going on, so that’s all good. To the actual response!

People want an ideology as a response to “what can we do” or “what economic system should we move to.” It’s easy to do this because we speak in the abstract all the time without coming to realize how it directly affects us in the concrete way. When people assume I’m talking about communism they go straight to Russia and give examples of the whole system. While examples are important, we have to make sure that these examples can extend to what we’re working towards. There was more than communism, dictatorship was also included. Communism means anti-freedom and anti-democracy in the eyes of the typical American it seems. Communism doesn’t mean anti-American nor does it mean anti-freedom. Actually in the criticism of capitalism, we can see how our freedoms are being taken away (I should write a post on the downside of capitalism and I will, but currently that would take a lot of work and a lot of reference to Marxist theory…I’ll get there). These ideologies are great to say, but they don’t mean anything to the average worker. What’s important is the concrete examples and the needs and wants of a group of people. Examples are to follow.

Let’s say I stayed in the Education path I was on. Currently, common core is being put in classrooms. Common Core is a standardization of teaching. There are modules to follow and then tests to take. It pulls the system of education at a standardized level where there is no difference in the ways children are being taught. There has been an uproar about this. Why? Well, we should know that children are not all the same and they shouldn’t be taught the same way. The common core takes away individuality and creativity. It wants students to be at the same level and considering there are so many ways people learn, it makes no sense. This is also creating teachers who have to follow a lesson and not move away from the suggestions and directions. It takes away creativity as a teacher. Maybe it does take away bad teachers, but it also takes away good teachers who love their job and care about their students. So what do we do? Well the way things are now in a capitalist society, we don’t do anything. It’s the product of capitalism, we accept it. OR we pull together. All of the teachers start working together and refusing to accept this common core. This is something that could happen nationally. They all work together and say NO without any room. 

Wait a minute…

Is this familiar?

UNIONS! Unions bring workers in the same field to work together and fight for any rights they deem necessary. This is the capitalist’s worse nightmare. They have to realize their dependency on the laborer and submit to what they need because their business can’t function without those workers. Unions have been going down when they should be on the rise. There are still inequalities in the work force, but we are brought up to be atomized and not individuals. No individual thinking, but separation from one another. We are told to compete and to not work collectively when by working collectively we would be getting much more done. (If you read any Dystopians, you can see this theme running through them. The people are always atomized to prevent an uprising).

Wait this doesn’t serve to bridge the gap between the bosses and the workers.

CO-OPS! These are mostly seen in grocery  stores, but they are great for workers and the boss. WHY? If I’m a worker for a Co-op, I don’t have to create a union because I work with my co-workers and bosses to figure out hours and pay. The CEO isn’t making a ton more than me (there’s an actual number for this and it’s ridiculously high…something like 236% more) and s/he doesn’t have to worry about me leaving or going on strike due to communication. And you can’t argue against communication. It’s one of the best skills to have.

So I didn’t explain another economic system, I just explained a way to fix an inequality I saw. How does this transform into feminism? Well, I haven’t sorted it out quite yet, but I know I have wants. I want to be able to be a woman and get the same jobs and the same pay as a man, I want to have to same opportunities as a man, I want people of other races to be able to get those rights as well, I want to be able to go to college without collecting an immense amount of debt, and I want to feel equal to those around me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody has wants *and I want to get a million dollars!* (mocking voice right there), but why should you get what you want?

Well, because they’re understandable wants. They are ones I could gain if there wasn’t this inequality. This transfers to feminism in the way that there is a gender gap that can be seen and recognized in the capitalistic system that we have in the United States today. No, I’m not quite sure how to change it, but I know what step number one is. Working collectively. We need to throw away this idea that we can’t have the same experiences and come together and realize how people place these stereotypes and expectations on us. These will be different for certain women of course: racially, economically, and even in the position they hold in the family. Working collectively and bridging those differences as well as realizing our similarities will pull us closer to a change.

Capitalism can’t exist without some group being oppressed. It’s impossible. What I’m calling for is a different type of economy. No, I’m not sure which one I support, but that’s much more unimportant than the concrete needs. A word on an economic system is just an ideology. Everybody has wants and needs and if there’s a way it can be done that brings back balance between people, why not? 

Any comments are reactions are more than welcome! Is there anything you would like to see changed?

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5 thoughts on “So What If Capitalism is Oppressive?

  1. When talking about economic systems there is one and only one type of economic system that has ever existed anywhere. From Ancient Rome to the USSR to Modern America one and only one type of economic system has ever existed. This is a mixed market system. The mix changes place to place and over time, but every one with out exception was a mixed market system. No economy can even in theory exist without capitalism. No economy can exist even in theory with out socialism.

    Having a functioning economy is good, therefor capitalism is good. Having a functioning economy is good, therefor socialism is good. If you want a truly coherent and cohesive argument “Capitalism Bad” just won’t cut it. We need to not end capitalism, but the incentives to behave against the public good and workers well being.

    • Definitely. I think there needs to be a call for the end of some parts of capitalism since it’s now taking over all parts of the US. What’s happening is that money is more important that anything in most people’s mind. Money controls the US government and any decisions that are made. It’s not the workers anymore, but the capitalists that call the shots.

  2. Yvonne says:

    I like your ideas on the Co-op sort of thing. I do question why as a feminist; your so worried about being equal to men re: pay etc..? I think it’s the same as teaching all children the same way- the common core. It won’t work because every child is different. Women have grown up trying to battle with men about wages, job titles, equality in the home, etc… If men and women all become equal then we will form a common core for men and women: all equal and alike? How we live is not so much about the system we use; its more about being ourselves. I am a women; I like myself & it took me a long time to get to this point. I had more issues with men’s behavior than their income or job title over the years. I fully admit that I am prejudice against men in many areas. That’s just my feelings because of how I was raised & treated by the males in my life. I’m proud to say I have gotten over most of those feelings & realized they were a waste of my time & emotions. I am 62 yrs old & I can finally see my own personal reality. As I said before I like myself; I am an individual human being. What we need to do is see ourselves as individuals; not female or male. I’ve been in a relationship for 43 years: with the man I love but don’t always like. I have reached the point where that doesn’t bother me. We love our families and some of our friends (male or female); we don’t have to like them and they don’t have to like us.

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