This semester’s interview project was enlightening and made me question where my own thoughts about capitalism came from. By conducting my own interviews and then reading how others were going, it was hard to determine where the differences sourced from. Was it generational? Did it come from the media? Did their educational background have any impact on their understanding of how this economical system worked? Did they just defend it because that is all that we have known as Americans? This project revealed that many people do not understand what the definition of capitalism really is. My interviewees, who were all around the same age, all had different ideas of what capitalism was and how it affected their lives.
One theme that I noticed was that many people associated capitalism with consumerism and did not see a difference between the two. I believe that this is due to how prevalent marketing and the media is in our everyday lives. There are so many influencers that impact opinions and decisions. Companies are constantly promoting their goods and services to attract business, so in turn, consumerism is associated with our capitalist society. The internet was also brought up in relation to consumerism because that is where they viewed the advertisements and have conducted business transactions from far away.
Another interesting theme that I discovered was that socialism is misunderstood as well. When I asked if capitalism benefited their lives, they compared capitalism to the socialism alternative to determine their answer, which essentially came down to the thought that capitalism was better. One interviewee mentioned the benefit of universal healthcare and housing, while another did not want to contribute to those systems because it would be too expensive. None of them discussed the government’s role in a socialist society or what that would mean to regular businesses. It is funny to me that most people view socialism negatively when our public schools, police departments, and fire departments are all socialist entities. Many would be outraged if those were privatized. Could you imagine not having enough money to have the fire department come to extinguish a fire at your house? My sister and I were talking about my interviews, and she brought up how expensive a ride in an ambulance is now. Those are privatized businesses that are contracted through hospitals, so they can charge whatever they want. Many people would rather drive themselves or pay for an Uber or taxi to take them to the hospital to avoid that expensive cost for an emergency service. Wouldn’t everyone benefit if that was not privatized? It is interesting to see how polarizing this topic can be depending on someone’s understanding of capitalism.
The last theme that I noticed was that my interviewee’s economic standing also had a role in how they felt about capitalism. The struggling single mother did not view this system as highly as the insurance office manager did. People who benefit from capitalism the most will defend it, while people who are not benefiting see the benefits of socialist programs. Greed has a lot to do with that and that is understandable. The land of opportunity is great for those who are not born into this system with a disadvantage. They want to hold onto their wealth and use it for their own gain in society. The correlation between capitalism and corruption among the rich is something that was evident throughout history and still remains relevant today.
In conclusion, the idea of capitalism is different for everyone and there are many factors that contribute to this idea. Your political views, social or class standing, career, or family can all impact your views on capitalism. People who share their ideas of capitalism through the media also contribute to the differences in views as well. The definition of the economic system has become fuzzier and more political and objective over time.