A Personal Story with Capitalism.

Concluding this interview project, I found that the interview process was a good experience and led to some interesting ideas presented by each person interviewed. While the last two interviews were very similar in their perspective and conclusions, the first interview varied the most. One of the most prominent threads was the concept of consumption being one of the biggest facets of capitalism which gives a differing perspective from the more business-oriented discussions in class. The other notable one is that each interview demonstrated a pointed critique of capitalism but all come to different conclusions on the state of capitalism.

The first interview with DD was the most critical of capitalism and most willing to condemn capitalism as a system. Her answers showed the generational divide with her family but also a divide with the other interviewees who are much older. The answers she gave in regards to the consumerist aspect of capitalism placed emphasis on how it is how she most experiences capitalism but presents it as a negative effect of the system.

The second interview with BP was very interesting because unlike the first interview her perception of other systems, specifically communism, was informed by personal experiences with people who claimed to represent a communist revolution. Her general distaste for the idea of communism seems to also inform her conclusion that despite its failings capitalism is the only system that could exist. Her answers also bring back the concept of consumerism but from a more positive perspective. She explains how her life changed from poverty in a country in Central America to a middle-class one in the United States and this change in economic status seems to inform her conclusions as well. One aspect that connects to the first interview is that both point specifically to people in the higher classes being partially responsible for the issue with capitalism today.

The third interview with EP is similar to the second interview in the sense that both do not outright condemn capitalism but so critique it in small ways. He was the most unsure of his answers and debated what his stances were throughout the interview but presented interesting answers. Notably, he also brings in consumerism as a facet of capitalism he sees often and expressed that he moved up in economic status which made him feel unsure of his criticism of capitalism. While he does not go into depth about it, EP also points to the people of a higher economic status being potentially bad actors in the system.

Overall the project provided an interesting insight into how people perceive capitalism and how they relate it to their personal lives. Notably, each of these interviews provided some insight on consumerism which we hadn’t discussed in depth in class. Unlike much of the academic material, we read these interviews felt as though there was insight into how people react to living in the system and how for some they have no experience with other systems, and others only had negative experiences with other systems. Between these interviews, there is also a generational divide because the youngest interviewee had the most outright negative opinion while the older ones had a generally more neutral opinion.

All of my interviewees expressed discomfort to some degree for various reasons but mostly in regard to the idea of being interviewed about a subject they felt uninformed on. When I asked further on certain answers they gave there was hesitancy to elaborate further or a pause to further think about their answers. This was an understandable response and I encouraged the interviewees to give their answers as they saw them. It was a good experience interviewing these people but I do wish that I had provided a bit more variety given that my last two interviews were similar in some ways.

An Unsure Member

EP is a 39-year-old construction worker for a small company. He is an immigrant who came to the country when he was 19 and has been a part of the American working class since then. He considers himself financially secure and comfortable in his current economic status.

When asked to define capitalism, EP described it as “money, buying and selling” but he admits that he isn’t very familiar with any formal definition of capitalism.

EP was then asked if he considered capitalism as a natural system and replied “I’m not sure, maybe, I know that there are rich people who earn their way, but, I don’t know, there are probably people who don’t.”

He was asked if he ever considered a different economic system. He explained that he never thought of another system, “it’s not something I think about, I know communism exists but I know that it’s not good, it has hurt my family.” EP explains that he isn’t necessarily interested in thinking in another system and that he would rather work in the system they are in.

Afterward, he was asked how he saw capitalism in his daily life. He said that he especially sees it at work, explaining that “I go to work every day and do what I do to earn money. I guess that’s what it is in my life.” He adds that he might also consider actions like purchasing things or working with his cryptocurrency wallet part of capitalism.

He was then asked how he thought capitalism was preserved and replied that he didn’t know. Expanding on that he described that “I don’t know how something like that would work. It works on its own, doesn’t it? Maybe people with money keep it going?”

Following that EP was asked what he thought about the system as a whole. His response was mixed and expressed that he benefitted from the system but he understood that it wasn’t perfect. He further explained “I know that there are bad things to it but I can’t complain, I live fine and better than I used to. There are people who don’t deserve what they have but I live good and it’s getting better for me.”

Throughout the interview, EP expressed that he wasn’t completely in tune with what capitalism is and at various points explained that he doesn’t have a complete answer for many of the questions. He was unsure of many of his answers to more technical questions but was more comfortable connecting the concept of capitalism to his own experiences.

He never directly gave a positive or negative description of capitalism and even when asked if liked it as a system he seemed unsure because he benefited from the system and is quite comfortable. However, he also says that he has lived through what would be considered the negative aspects of capitalism.

This conversation was interesting. EP’s perspective was unsure but was insightful as a perspective from someone that is a part of the working class. It is notable how EP doesn’t know how to consolidate the positive and negative of the system but overall is happy with his current situation.

“Its better now, I had nothing before.”

BP is a 44-year-old woman who currently works at a fast-food chain at a managerial level. Her family is middle-class and she works, along with her husband, to pay for the costs of living. During most of her childhood, she lived in extreme poverty in a Central American country and immigrated to the United States at 18.

When asked to define capitalism, she was apprehensive and stated several times that she isn’t sure what it is. She finally pinned down her definition as “Rich people”. This connection to people who participate in the system and the system itself appears throughout the interview.

BP was then asked if she believed that capitalism is a natural order and said, “It is what it is, and there’s not much we can do about it. Everybody who has money probably earned it in some way, not all of them are fair but some of them are.”

She was then asked if she had ever considered another economic system and said no. As a follow-up, she was asked if she had ever thought about communism in the same way and was very confused. She explained her perspective as “they are not the same, what’s the relationship between capitalism and communism? There isn’t. To me, Communism is the guerilleros and that has nothing to do with capitalism.”

Her perspective on how she plays a role in capitalism and explained that “I’m a person that buys things. I participate I work at my job and they take from my hard work and I would love if they paid more for my hard work.”

When talking about the generational divide between her and her parents, she believed that there was no difference in her beliefs with both sides believing that they “went through hell in poverty.” Focusing on the concept of poverty she expressed that she does believe that poverty is an outcome of capitalism and that “the ones who had money never helped anyone.” She further elaborated that she did believe that those upper-class people were a creation of the system, and not necessarily the outcome of moral failings.

Focusing on the preservation of capitalism, BP explained that “there have always been people higher and people lower and I have always been lower and I am very tired of being lower.”

Closing out the interview she was asked if she liked capitalism and was quite enthusiastic about it; “It’s better now, before I had nothing . . . yes I am very appreciative of where I am and the economy I’m in.”

BP’s interview is interesting while she at times does not appreciate aspects of her position in capitalism, she firmly expresses that those problems are nothing compared to the extreme poverty she lived in before. She expresses that she hated the position she grew up in but also appreciates that she was able to move up economically.

Interestingly throughout her interview, she mentions people in higher economic classes and the inherent class divide between her and them. The focus of her answer was about the people who participate in the system rather than how the system functions. This was an interesting insight as it expresses how capitalism is still a system where people’s actions play into the existence and preservation of it.

It is interesting to talk with someone who lived in poverty for a large part of her life and is appreciative of her economic movement later in life. While she is at times critical of capitalism, especially when it comes to her work, she still expressed that she enjoyed purchasing what she wants and living in a secure living situation. As we closed the interview, she explained that she wanted was to move up higher economically but despite everything, she was very happy in capitalism.

An Awareness of the System

The person being interviewed, DD, is an 18-year-old student who has been working in the retail space since the age of 16. DD does not have a set career path yet and seems to be interested in the sciences over the humanities. From what she has explained her family is tentatively middle-class.

When asked about how she defines capitalism she describes it as “money, the cycle of buying things, paying for things and earning money to continue buying and paying for things.”

Following that she was asked how capitalism impacts the economy and explained that “not in a good way, there’s a lot of people who are poor and are starving while people like Jeff Bezos are very rich, I don’t think that is very good for an economy to have someone hoard money.”

She was asked how she viewed herself in a capitalist system and she explained that she viewed herself as a “target” because “they want to sell me everything and anything, sometimes it works but sometimes not, I feel like I’m just there to work if I don’t work I don’t get paid and then I cant take care of myself.”

The follow-up question was how her parents viewed this system compared to her: “They care a lot about it, I think they think that the system only works if you try to earn money” When asked to elaborate she said, “they think that the only way to get by is to work hard, they think people are just lazy, I don’t know, I don’t argue with them.”

When asked if she think that capitalism was beneficial, she said, “how do we know? I mean, something else could work but no one wants to try,” and responded to the question of if capitalism is good for the community with “it makes people greedy, it can’t be good if it makes people worse.”

She was asked at the end of the interview if her experiences shaped her understanding of the topic and she said she wasn’t sure but that it likely did. At various times she talks about how economic instability can ruin a person’s life and it is likely that her experience in the workforce informed this notion.

The answers that DD gave seem indicative of awareness of capitalism and how it functions. Her answers were succinct and showed a more colloquial understanding of the topic at hand. What was notable was how often she would argue that the system was not beneficial for people’s well-being and harmful to a majority of people. Her answer about how she fits into the system was interesting as she seems to view it as cohersive in some way and ultimately a negative relationship. It is clear in her answers that she has some knowledge of the perceived damage of the economic system and holds some contempt for the people who are meant to be in control of the system.

Her opinion on capitalism also seems to heavily contrast her parents’ opinions on the system. This could be indicative of how younger generations may have a more negative view of the system and are more informed on its negative outcomes over other aspects of capitalism.

Overall, the interview may give credence to the idea that people have become more aware of the system that they currently live in. DD talks about how this system negatively affects people and how from her perspective people arent doing enough to stop these effects. While she admits that she is largely uninformed on political and economic concepts, it is evidenced that she is aware that she is living in an economic system that has a direct impact on her life.