The Current Global Paradigm: Obsession with Production
Author: Elizabeth Callister
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 08/08/2010
The Current Paradigm
Socio-economically speaking, the current paradigm is one of consumption. The analogous sentence, “For the rich to live on the backs of the poor, the poor need to have backs that will not break,” accurately sums up this obsession with production. And what exactly is the current economic paradigm? Noted MIT linguist and social critique, Noam Chomsky, might argue that it is an ideology based on obsession and consumption: “This consumerism is based on the fact that we are a society dominated by business interests” (SPIEGLE, 2008). Chomsky goes on to confirm that there is massive propaganda for rich countries to consume the products manufactured in poor countries, because consumption is “good for profit” (SPIEGLE, 2008). The “backs of the poor must remain unbroken” because it is in the interest of the rich to exploit them without limit. Cheap labor can be found in the jungles of third world countries where the masses are uneducated, underworked, overpopulated, and economically speaking, a gold mine. Like a machine to fill the demands of the rich, the poor must continuously supply their bodies for cheap labor and poverty ensures the scales are always tipped in favor of the interests of the rich. The adage of society’s current economic paradigm is “demand more, supply more.” It just so happens that the demand is for human bodies to supply the rich with extravagant lives maintained by the cheap production of the poor.
If socioeconomic advantages of exploitation are large, so too are the sociopolitical implications. The analogous sentence, “For the rich to live on the backs of the poor, the poor need to have backs that will not break,” accurately reflects the social stratification that has taken place in our global society. The rich, through consumption and stratification, become more powerful than the poor. What is created is what Karl Marx would call a “bi-polarization of conflict” which is defined as “a reduction of conflict to two parties” (Allan, 2006). These “bi-polarized” parties employ government policy, law, and judicial strategies to interact more efficiently with each other’s divergent interests (Allan, 2006). Unfortunately, at the same time, the rich have more power and more influence than the poor, thanks to their insatiable appetite for indulgence. The political agendas of the rich have superseded those of the poor masses. The current global sociopolitical paradigm is one of “control and distraction”, posits Chomsky (SPIEGLE, 2008). I argue that the exact same sentiment is reflected quite frankly in our sentence of discussion: the rich consume at the sake of the poor, and the poor continue unheeded, their futures suspended in ignorance and poverty.
I have illustrated that our current global ideology is one of alienation, exploitation, and consumption. This is caused by the demand for cheap labor, to supply the rich with comfortable lives, i.e. the analogues topic sentence that introduced this paper. We have discovered how this sentiment is shared by the socioeconomic and sociopolitical interests of the rich and powerful. The one thing left to discuss are the alternatives. Are there alternatives to this paradigm? Is there a way for the rich to live comfortably without continuously exploiting the poor? Could a global paradigm exist that can assist everyone, unite rich and poor, economically and politically?
Possibly “Yes”. Plato would have called it the ideology of the Republic, Karl Mark would have called it the means to “Utopia” (Allan, 2006), Noam Chomsky might just refer to it as a “better world” (Chomsky, 2003), but in anyway, it would look a bit different than the one based on consumption and exploitation. According to these and other social theorists, it is possible, in theory, to create an alternative economy that is maintained for the benefit of all people, but to apply these alternative perspectives proves to be another question all together. In another interview with Noam Chomsky about global economy, he surmised, “[World Powers] have education, training, resources, opportunities and in [these countries], virtually no repression, so we just have that much more responsibility than people who lack those opportunities, like most people in other countries…including those under the boot of the United States… After that it’s just a matter of choice” (Chomsky, 2003). I think society has made a critical mistake. The paradigm that they have created, however economically and politically efficient, is lacking in what Émile Durkheim calls, “solidarity” (Allan, 2006). In other words, the rich and poor must take theory and apply it into action, for the equal benefit of the rich and the poor.
To change the current paradigm, both rich and poor agencies would need fundamental, applicable solutions to create a “good economy” that is based on a global agenda that benefits all. Unfortunately, the paradox that is created by a paradigm is that surrounding it is a prevailing, subjective assumption, which is why researchers in many different fields, including sociology and literary criticism, often see themselves as either working in or trying to break out of paradigms. The way that Newton’s breakthrough of physics superseded the false but widely held notion put forth by Aristotle, or when it was “discovered” the Earth was not flat but round; both are great examples of paradigm shifts. We need a social theory that can help us make the jump from hypothetical to applicable. A shift from a paradigm of consumption to one of compassion should occur. As of yet, I believe that sociology has not discovered the approach to such a paradigm.
This paper is not about what measures we need to take to change our current economic exploits and governmental agendas. Many more pages would be needed than what has been allotted for this paper. Instead, I hoped to at least emphasize the argument that we should change our current global paradigm. Yes, it is economically efficient, production is consumed, and a few lives are benefited. I argue that this paradigm doesn’t offer enough. It leaves the global society morally wanting for an equal economic and political system based on the benefit of all.
Overall, our current global society is one of consumption and exploitation. Like a machine, the rich consume the riches of the poor. However efficient this machine may be, the paradigm that it is based upon is lacking in one structural element, morality. Maybe a need for moral regulation should be a start. Maybe the current global economic policy needs a revamp in ethical policy and I believe we have the means. Human rights organizations, unions, and political watchdog groups exist that can bring awareness to which I might coin as “mechanical indiscretion.” Awareness is needed to create the boundaries for a new ideological frame shift. We should do something to make it possible for global prosperity to function for all global lives. We have the potential to bring humanity back into the economic prerogative. We have the opportunity to apply a new slogan and replace that of our earlier critique. The new statement for a new paradigm might read: “For the lives of the poor to benefit the rich, the lives of the rich must benefit the poor”; in other words, global unity. I believe there is potential for change, and for peace, but it will take a shift in current economic policy and political ideology to create it.
Allan, K. (2006). Exploration in classical sociological theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Chomsky, N. (2003, October, 8). Corporate journalism. Radio Havana, Retrieved from http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20031028.htm
Cohen, B. (2008, November 3). My interview with Noam Chomsky on the economy. The Huffington Post, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-cohen/my-interview-with-noam-ch_b_140323.html
SPIEGLE. (2008). Interview with Noam Chomsky. Spiegle Online International, Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,583454,00.html
Bio: Elizabeth Callister is a sociology major at the University of Colorado at Denver.