Reflection on 2022 Interviews

The assignment to interview three people about their views and interactions with capitalism was really stimulating. Economic history is not my strongest section of history, and while not only reading books and discuss them about the history of capitalism for class, actually talking to people and hearing their thoughts really helped me understand the concept of capitalism as a whole. There were a few patterns that I could find in my interviews, but the most prominent pattern I found with all three of the interviewees was the concept of “freedom of choice.” All three interviewees brought up the idea that capitalism gives people the freedom to spend money how they choose or the freedom to start their own business. There was also discussion about what opportunities were available to those living in a capitalist society, as well as opportunities when it came to a generational standpoint. 

When it came to who I chose, I tried to choose people that I knew and knew some about their life. But my favorite person to talk to was Shay, the second interviewee. She is a close friend to who I really relate but we don’t often talk about political or economic topics, so getting to learn more about her through this interview and talking about how capitalism affects her and the way she lives was really interesting. I also really enjoyed the interview as a whole because, in the end, we ended up researching topics relating to capitalism that we wanted to learn more about and having a long discussion about different topics relating to capitalism. 

Lou, the third interviewee, is a distant relative and we discussed how he was raised to be cynical about capitalism and to believe that if you worked hard enough you could get what you wanted. In comparison to the other two interviews, the way he talked about his experience with capitalism was deeper. Capitalism and the economy were something that had always been prevalent to him since childhood. As a child, he lived in poverty and had to start working at a young age to help his family, but as an older adult and father, he realized that his goal in life was to not live paycheck to paycheck, and for his kids to not have to work until they were ready. He also saw that as an adult he found luck to be a bigger factor in the success of hard work than he was raised to believe.

The first interviewee, Ian, is a friend of my parents and it was interesting to talk to because he came into the interview with certain beliefs, but the more we talked he realized that capitalism did not have as much of a negative effect on his life as he had thought. Still, his answers seemed to be very straight and forward.

Lou and Shay were both really willing to discuss their thoughts, while Ian was more closed off at the beginning of the interview, and even at the end he still seemed more reserved than the others. While Lou had a stronger understanding of capitalism, Shay fully admitted that he only knew so much, and Ian had many of his thoughts on what capitalism was and how it affected the economy mixed in with his political views. I really enjoyed getting to understand how capitalism is seen (in America) by people today, and how different lifestyles greatly affect their thoughts and opinions.

Common Threads

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this assignment throughout the semester. Instead of just reading and posing questions about capitalism and its impact to class members who were learning the same things, we actually got to put in practice what we were learning to those outside of our classroom community. When deciding who I would interview, I chose a variety of people who were different ages, genders, socioeconomic standing, etc. in order to try to get a full view of what people believe capitalism to be. I come in contact with each of these individuals on a regular basis, so I was fairly sure I could understand the basics of what each person would say, but some surprised me more than others. The interview I enjoyed doing the most was the second one; the interviewee intertwined each answer about capitalism in connection to Christian faith which was interesting to hear about. There were also a few themes that I saw that were woven between each of the interviews: all focused at one point on consumerism, all interviewees had general views that capitalism was beneficial to society, and all of the interviewees had benefited themselves from the capitalist system that exists in the United States. 

Another theme that was brought up throughout these interviews, whether spoken or unspoken, was politics. As discussed in class, I believed that each of my interviewees aligned capitalism and its ideas to a specific partisan political party and let that be the lens the interview was given through. Prior to this class, I would agree with this mindset, but following the many readings and interviews, I know that there are so many more factors than politics when thinking about capitalism and its ripples. 

My first interviewee was very well versed in the world of capitalism, and I would say that she had the best balance of talking about the benefits of capitalism while still acknowledging the downsides of it as well. As an economics major in college and a small-business owner, I think she was trained to notice these things in the everyday, which made her a very interesting person to interview. Her definition of capitalism was textbook, her idea of where she fits into capitalism society was well thought out, and she was also aware of other economic systems that exist. One thing that she was very quick to bring up was consumerism and how she affiliates capitalism and this idea of the free market to the accumulation of stuff. I thought this was interesting because a lot of times when thinking about capitalism, it is about the production of goods, but the consumption is just as important.  

My second interview, like I said, was the one that was most interesting to me. This interviewee was definitely less knowledgeable about the capitalistic principles, but still created an exciting and thought provoking interview. The interviewee was a minister, which definitely influenced the way that he sees this capitalistic world. The quote that I think really stood out to me and encompassed what this interview was all about was this: To people of faith, let’s consider how capitalism can be a good thing that we get to be for. There has to be an interconnectedness between faith and business/economics. Is capitalism good… yes; you just have to know what’s in your hand and think justly about it. These views were ones that I had never encountered before, and even as a person of faith, I have never thought about how interconnected beliefs about economic systems and faith could be. Interconnectedness was a common thread among all of these interviews whether it be politics or otherwise. He discussed consumerism as a “symptom” of capitalism as well, which was similar to the first interviewee. 

The third interviewee in my opinion had the least knowledge about the capitalist system, and it showed throughout the interview. I felt as if this interviewee knew what he knew because of what he had hear from others or the media, but did not personally have very strong opinions on the topic. In order to elevate capitalism, I feel that he pushed down other forms of economic systems that do have positive sides to them. 

All of the interviewees created and wove very different narratives when talking and thinking about capitalism, and one of the most interesting parts to me was that even though each person had the same level of education and were generally close in age, they all had such different views about capitalism based on their life experience. When talking to the second and third interviewees, I felt that they were both trying to make themselves seem smarter and more well versed about capitalism than they actually were. The first interviewee definitely had the best and most knowledgeable thoughts about capitalism. Overall, this process of interviewees helped to widen my own view and opinions on capitalism and I loved being able to put some of the thought provoking questions I’ve learned in class into these interviews. 

2022 Capitalist Reflections

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.

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.

Clambering to Be Content under Capitalism

Based on the interviews my classmates and I conducted throughout this semester, I gained a greater perspective of the average person’s qualms with capitalism. The public perception of the capitalist system focuses mainly on its weaknesses. A few individuals found capitalism unquestionably successful, however, the majority believed the system needed fixing. Respondents shared concerns over greed, inequity, and the lack of a social safety net within a capitalist economy. Although the participants in the interviews generally shared negative attitudes concerning capitalism, they were reluctant to embrace alternative economic systems. Though participants all had strong ideas surrounding their position in a capitalist society, they suggested that changing the operations of capitalism is well beyond their control, and they kept their focus on just getting through the workday.

The subjects I interviewed expressed that capitalism is an imperfect system, though they had mixed interpretations of the best ways to remedy the ideology’s flaws. Many interviewees alluded to Karl Polanyi’s theory of the double movement: when economic situations worsen- people tend to push for better conditions- and the government typically responds with solutions. Similar to Polanyi’s description of the free market as a utopia, participants expressed that although a free market economy sounds like a good system, in theory, there are concerns of inequity and instability that plague capitalism. Perspectives on whether or not government involvement in regulating the market was a good thing were mixed. Participants generally noted that the government had the power to look out for the average person. But, similar to the political-capitalist figures who shaped the economic development of New York, discussed in Brian Murphy’s Building the Empire State, interviewees noted that the government and the economy are almost inseparable actors.

In my interviews, the participant with the fewest years of education had more fears of the concept of government interference. I believe the working position of the respondents also affected how they viewed capitalism. Of the three people I interviewed, the one in retirement seemed to have a generally positive view of government intervention in the economic sphere, while the interviewee working at a big box store held a more negative outlook. How much control people feel they have over their lives impacted their thoughts on the government’s interactions with the economy. The box store worker, who noted he felt used and overlooked in his daily life, spoke about how owners of big businesses influenced political decisions. Continuing, he brought up religion in the context of discussing how capitalism impacts his everyday life. He noted that gods word is more important than the powers at play within the economic and political sphere. His incline toward religion showed me how capitalism can feel like something so beyond the average person, it feels like we are all predestined to the roles the system assigns us and that our only hope is that whoever oversees us has our best interest. Though this respondent was particularly firm in his thoughts on government in capitalism many interviewed individuals echoed similar ideas. Interviewed subjects explained that government officials care more about lining their pockets and winning elections than looking out for the interests of the public. Respondents viewed concerns over their safety and health as collateral in the political game.

My interviews revealed a pattern where people recognized the falsehood that capitalism is a system based on merit and hard work. Participants described the economic system as one designed so the rich get richer. Respondents also expressed that many opportunities are not available to all people and that being born into favorable conditions typically granted a more comfortable future. The majority of participants did not describe what comprised favorable situations other than being a part of a privileged few, though some noted that being white gave an advantage. However, two participants claimed that capitalism was a color-blind system where people of all races could find success. It is important to note that both participants who viewed capitalism as color-blind were white. Many interviewees noticed and condemned the racial and class factors instilled in America’s capitalist economy but did not express having a knowledge of the deep history of racism embedded into the capitalist system. Though, the idea of racism being a prevalent factor in who gets advantages in today’s economy only highlights the ideas expressed in Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism. This acknowledgment that capitalism is not just a system affected by racism, but one created in racist ideologies that serve as a means to maintain racial status-quos.

Along with recognizing the concept of inequities imposed by capitalism, participants noted a lack of a social safety net. Interviewees worried about access to quality health care and corporate greed. They saw that uncontrolled capitalism leaves some people off much worse than others. Many claimed that the government should be responsible for distributing funds to help people pay for things like health care and education. A few interviewees believed that anyone could obtain security by working hard enough and that the government should not be involved. Though other participants contested this viewpoint, accounting for factors such as disability or poverty that could prevent a person from obtaining a steady job.

Though most participants held criticism toward capitalism, they also expressed they were grateful for the freedoms the system provided. Many interviewees said capitalism gave them the freedom to choose things like how to spend their money and what career path they followed. Although many also expressed that these freedoms come at a cost to the greater good and the environment. Perhaps the privilege of freedom to choose is worth more than other people’s safety or environmental conservation. Though most participants did have genuine concern over capitalist greed and its impact on American politics, they reflected that the ability to choose is enticing. My interviewees also noted that they did not ponder the effects of capitalism daily.

Conversing about the system made most participants uncomfortable. All three people I surveyed feared saying something insensitive. Discussing the impacts of capitalism is difficult for people who feel they have little control over the system. Interviewees looked to different modes of escapism such as religion, their families, their hobbies, or even the kind of occupation they pursue to combat the loss of individualism imposed by a system that expects hard work with little reward for the average person. Respondents expressed that they either do not have the time to ponder the negative aspects of capitalist ideology or that doing so is too overwhelming. Most people try to take life day by day without thinking of the intricacies of capitalism. Maybe not paying it too much mind is the only way to rationalize living under such a system.

Corruption In Our History

Throughout the interview process this semester, I was expecting to have various answers and opinions on the history of capitalism. My interviewees were all from different backgrounds and generations. I expected them to have different understandings of the history of capitalism that would show a generational divide. However, I discovered that no matter what generation and background my interviewees were from, there was a common theme throughout: corruption. Some were more blunter in their answers, but all my interviewees agree that the history of capitalism is a history of corruption.

For my first interview, I expected her to be a little critical of capitalism. She is a history major, and I figured she would use her prior knowledge of different events in American history to come up with her understanding of the history of capitalism. She says, “Without safety nets, some citizens will fall through the cracks. Profits are more important than people in pure capitalism.” She also states, “It’s so corrupt these days. Corruption is rampant in capitalism, and without some government oversight, it runs amok. Therefore, pure capitalism can’t benefit society.” The first interviewee sees capitalism as corrupt. She has seen this throughout her life and the history of our country. We saw this throughout the course. In our history, government officials sided with different kinds of capitalists, all in the name of money. Whether railroad managers, insurance companies, or even religion, government officials have followed a theme of corruption in American and capitalism’s history.

The second interviewee was not as blatant about corruption as the first interviewee. His answers showed more of a positive outlook on capitalism and its history as a whole. He says, “Positives of capitalism are that everyone has an opportunity to be successful from hard work and opportunities as well.” This positive outlook is very similar to the “American dream” that capitalism promoted throughout our country’s history. However, he also saw how that “American dream” is a dream. He states, “There are certain people, classes of people, different situations, race, economical circumstances, that capitalism limits opportunities for. Opportunities are not fair across the board.” This is a common theme that we have looked at throughout the semester. Many people throughout our history have been victims of corruption when it comes to capitalism. Factory workers, enslaved people, and the poor have all fallen victim to the corruption of capitalism in our country.

My last interviewee was the most critical of the history of capitalism. This did not surprise me; given that he is much younger than my first two interviewees. He does not think that capitalism has changed much and was always corrupt. He states, “I’ve seen it in rich people getting really rich, with oil and railroads.” He also states, “More money in our economy is centered around a few wealthy people as opposed to having the money spread out throughout the country.” He believes that corruption lies at the feet of the rich who get richer and the poor get poorer throughout capitalism’s history. In our readings this semester, we have seen many instances where rich people get richer at the expense of poorer people. Capitalists like factory owners, railroad managers, and government officials have gotten richer. In contrast, other people get hurt in the process.

My interviewees have shown what we have learned about this semester. There has been a level of corruption throughout the history of capitalism in our country. We have read about railroad managers mistreating their workers by cutting wages and benefits, factory owners abusing workers’ lives for profit, and government officials siding with capitalists that abuse the little guy for their profit. The interviewees see that corruption has always been there, and it still is today.

Interview Project Reflection

Before doing each of the interviews, I had some preconceived notions about what the people I was interviewing were going to say, and I had already subconsciously predetermined how I thought the different interviewees were going to differ from each other. I think in some ways this was a drawback of how I conducted the interview process because when picking people to interview I had an idea of what I thought they were going to say to an extent or the perspective that I wanted them to specifically give me, instead of picking people who I would learn from (because of a unique perspective I have not experienced or been exposed to by other individuals) or be surprised by. All three of the interviewees were either college educated or currently in college, white, from Northern Virginia, and identified currently as upper-middle class. Furthermore, two of the interviewees were in their 20s (choosing to interview someone who was in their 50s was my attempt at getting a different perspective into the mix- but reflecting now I think I could have done this more effectively). I think that it would have been interesting to interview people who do not fit into all these categories because it would give a wider perspective on what people know about Capitalism and what they think about different things relating to Capitalism. While I was very interested to hear from the people that I interviewed, I did know them all personally, so I think that it would have been more interesting to broaden my scope and interview people that I knew more from an academic and/or professional environment that I was less familiar with. 

 I thought that the interviewees, especially CA and AL, would not agree on much of anything and I thought that JT would align more with CA than AL. However, while there are differences that I have discussed in the various interviews CA, AL, and JT do have some similarities in thoughts towards the subject of Capitalism. One of the biggest similarities that I did not discuss much during the interview posts, were the interviewees’ discussions on political alignment and their relationship with Capitalism as a result. All three of the interviewees backed up a large portion of what they believed in with a discussion of their political beliefs.For example, during  the first interview with AL, right from the beginning she discussed how she had a negative feeling towards Capitalism because of her liberal views and how Capitalistic ideals do not often match up with her views. CA also shared a similar sentiment, discussing how because he had conservitive political views related to the economy he supported a more Capitalistic 

JT did not express a correlation between his political views and opinions on Capitalism in as straightforward as a way as CA and AL did (he seemed more reserved on discussion of politics than the other two interviewees) but he did mention at one point during the interview that he was more conservative economically because he was worried about how his money was being impacted by the government. I think that it is really interesting how all three interviewees discussed political alignment in their discussion of Capitalism because that was not a discussion that we had during our class or a big concern throughout the books that we read for the class, but seemed to be of concern to the people that I was interviewing, and a concern to people that other students in the class interviewed. 

Another similarity that all three interviewees had was their concern about how different people are treated differently under Capitalism, and how it often hurts those who are economically disadvantaged. CA discussed how he was concerned about how those with “low-skilled labor” were being impacted by the Capitalist system because the system benefits those those with “high-skilled labor” more, and often rewards “high-skilled labor” with certain privileges. AL also discussed how the system makes it so that those who are not economically advantaged are often stuck in that low economic place and are not often able to get out. JT shared a similar opinion, and he discussed how there is often a poverty cycle under Capitalism. 

Out of the three interviews only one of the people seemed comfortable discussing Capitalism, while the other two seemed very intimidated by having to define what Capitalism was and its various attributes. CA was who seemed the most comfortable discussing Capitalism, and I think this is because he noted that he enjoys economics, has taken classes that discussed Capitalism, and has done personal research on it. Meanwhile, AL and JT specifically told me when I asked if I could interview them, that they were not very familiar with explaining Capitalism and did not feel like they knew enough to discuss it. I was very interested when they said this because I was intrigued to see how they would explain a topic that they did not feel like they could explain well. Both AL and JT  basically told me that they felt like their schooling did not prepare them to full understand or explain all the complexities of what Capitalism is and how it functions. Personally I felt very similar to AL and JT before taking this class, and still do in some ways. Capitalism is a very complex topic and can feel very intimidating to someone who has not received education on it or has done their own personal research. However, I think that it is a beneficial conversation to have and I have really enjoyed interviewing people on the topic and reading classmate’s interview posts. 

Final Reflection

I think this project has been a very good educational study of what individuals think of capitalism. Over the semester, we discussed what capitalism is and what scholars have thought about it throughout history. Taking the definition of capitalism, breaking it down, and analyzing it has made it clear how it has changed throughout history. I think it was important to take others, scholars or not, opinions on what capitalism is and how it has affected them. Going into the interviews I did not have an idea how people would respond to the questions. I was not sure if these individuals knew capitalism or not. It was a surprise when all the women had similar definitions. I think if I was to do this project again I would have included a larger variety of people to get opinions. However, in one aspect it was a good idea because I interviewed women around the same age who had similar experiences with capitalism.

My first interview was with a woman who is in her mid-twenties and pursuing a job in medical career. Her understanding of capitalism was a basic definition, she has not had an education or a full understanding of what it is. She tried her best to define it and decipher how it applied to her life. Though, one of the points she did make stood out. As she has a future in medicine, she believed the struggles regarding the costs of medicine are ridiculous. It is not fair for those who can’t afford or do not have insurance to become victims to dept because medicine has become too expensive.

In the second interview, I interviewed another female college student. Like the first, she did not have an in-depth knowledge of what capitalism was besides a textbook definition. For most of the interview, she focused on how capitalism was affecting her. As a woman who is going into the field of counseling, she had to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Capitalism has affected her due to the amount of college debt she has due to how expensive college is to get a degree. She believed it was not right to have to pay so much for something that is needed to make it in the world and survive in the economy we live in now. This point is very relevant to many students today, falling into debt just for the required education.

My last interview, was another female college student who wants to go into the education field. Like before, she did not have a background in capitalism and had a hard time defining the term. Her experience of capitalism has been mainly shown tMy last interview was with another female college student who wants to go into the education field. Like before, she did not have a background in capitalism and had a hard time defining the term. Her experience of capitalism has been mainly shown through social media. She made good points on how companies these days can advertise their products on social media and how the algorithm works through the individuals’ likes and interests, she is then more inclined to buy products. Social media is a trap for all ages and companies know how to use the system to their advantage.

I think my findings over the course of the three interviews are similar in the respect that these individuals had only a basic definition of what capitalism was. It is not surprising about the definitions, many younger individuals have not been taught wI think my findings throughout the three interviews are similar in the respect that these individuals had only a basic definition of what capitalism was. It is not surprising about the definitions, many younger individuals have not been taught what capitalism is and how it plays a role in our society unless one was actively participating in capitalism. All three participate in capitalism in different ways, throughout the interview it seemed as though each understood more what capitalism was and how it played a role in their lives. I think recognizing what contributions they played in capitalism and how it has influenced their lives is an important factor in one’s life.

Interview Reflection

This interview project was very interesting to do. I enjoyed collecting all of the opinions from different age groups and seeing how they differed from one another, and there were definite differences between the generations that I interviewed. While interviewing my first two individuals I expected to hear similar answers to one another because they were in the same age group and generation. While they differed slightly, the main points were very similar. For my third interview I expected it to be different than my first two due to the difference in age group and events that happened in her life, (COVID-19, Graduate school, etc.)

My first interviewee explained how there are different perspectives of capitalism across generational lines when saying, “Well my parents grew up in a completely different world than I did but I believe that there was a different capitalistic society. I think that growing up in times of war shaped their views on capitalism. I came from a family of eight siblings so my parents had to support us all and money was very important.” I expected this answer knowing that capitalism evolves overtime and changes with the economy. This interviewee was also against other economic systems saying, “In my view capitalism is the best type of an economic system. Some people believe that capitalism ignores people’s needs and it results in wealth inequality. But that being said I think it is a far better system than socialism and communism,” This interviewee was sympathetic to the idea that capitalism creates wealth inequality but still continued to go on and say that capitalism was better than other economic systems that other countries have.

My second interviewee had a much different personality than my first interview but they both still mentioned essentially the same ideas but just in different words. One response that stuck with me while interviewing this individual was when I asked them their thoughts on other economic systems other than capitalism and in reply the individual said, ““I don’t think much about them, most are based on shared wealth, government control and dictatorships. Any country who had these economic systems did not last long; they do not stimulate ambition, inventiveness or creativity in an individual. If you like being told what to do in all aspects of your life then socialism, communism, or marxism is for you.” He was very against other economic systems, seeing them as a method of control, a lack of freedom, and a lack of choices for an individual. While also essentially saying that capitalism is the complete opposite, giving the individual control over decisions they can make.

My third interview was my most different. This interview brought up the idea that the difference between her parents generation and hers was that, “They had to conserve more and there were limited opportunities for the middle class and women during that time meanwhile now it kind of has done the opposite where women have more opportunities and we aren’t in fear of having to conserve money because there is potential for growth.” I thought her take on the inequality that women experienced in her parents’ generation was especially interesting. I think the event of COVID-19 largely impacted her view on capitalism and the way she views money when she said, “My role in capitalism is to make money and pay my taxes. During the pandemic as I was in graduate school, it taught me the value of a dollar and that needs are much more important than wants when looking to buy things.” So many people experienced hardships during the peak of the pandemic and it was interesting to hear this individual explain that it taught her how to handle her money correctly.

Looking back on this project I wished I would have incorporated more perspectives that are more current and from individuals who were different races. I think this project was very interesting to do and it showed that throughout different generations that events and other factors truly affect their perspectives on many things. Whether that be a pandemic, how many siblings they have, or where they grow up, each factor affects a person’s point of view and the difference in perspectives is what shows how capitalism has evolved and changed over time. 

Interview Reflection

For my first two interviews I had a general idea of how the interviewees felt about capitalism. The first came from a struggling family and was thousands of dollars in debt and was never really awarded any of the benefits of capitalism despite how much they contributed to society or how hard they tried. The second interviewee was brought up in a very comfortable setting but is struggling to make ends meet. Working minimum wage and stuck in a dead-end job. The last interviewee was the one that truly surprised me for a few reasons. I chose LB because I believed he would provide me with a positive view of capitalism. He grew up in an upper middle class (possibly wealthy) family and has a very comfortable job at home job making a lot of money. However, despite all this he was perhaps the most cynical of the three. Proving the most aggressive takes against capitalism. But it was the other two interviewees that I believed provided the most interesting views of capitalism

All the interviewees were also concerned with the current state of capitalism and how it impacts those less fortunate specifically my first interviewee. She mentioned that capitalism “creates a lot of problems and it has negative impacts on people’s lives, but I don’t see them because I am not around that side of things.” I later reached back out to this interviewee in preparation for this reflection to ask for clarification about this quote. They explained “capitalism, at least what I see in America, only seems to benefit white middle- and upper-class families. They are the ones who see the positives of capitalism. While lower income families and minorities see the negative, they are preyed upon by the upper class as minimum wage workers who help run capitalism without recognition or pay.” Even though this was not something they originally mention (as result of my lack of prodding) I find it important to include in the reflection. There ranking of wealth hierarchy was very much racially based, whites at the top and minority groups were at the bottom. This to me calls back to Cedric Robinsons idea of racial capitalism where the institution of capitalism is dominated by whites who uses minorities as tools in the capitalistic machine.

My second interviewee was mostly concerned with unregulated markets and a “lack of government resources for the less fortunate.” He believed that the current state of capitalism was driven by profit instead of providing help for those who truly needed it. In his opinion capitalism is a system in which the rich get richer while the poor struggle to live and provide for themselves and their families due to the high cost of living. For him the government is lacking in social welfare programs and the programs that do exist do not provide enough resources to survive or provide just enough, but either way the programs do not provide enough to get ahead and allow the individual to become depended on social programs because the government worries that dependence on the government will make people not want to work and lazy. This discourse surrounding dependency on the government reminds me of the criticisms surrounding poor laws and Speenhamland discussed in Karl Polyani’s, The Great Transformation. Also, strangely enough, Charles Brace’s motivation for formulating the CAS. Reviewing this conversation makes me believe there is a fear of dependence on the government in a capitalistic society. A capitalistic system requires people to be independent of the government and depended on the person who signs their pay checks. If the government does not provide relief, then people are forced to work to keep themselves alive.

My three interviewees shared a lot in common, perhaps too much. I must admit my fault in this process. I unconsciously chose a group lacking in diversity. My interviews were all around the same age and none would be consisted minorities in any sense of the word. Nevertheless, I still find their information valuable. The all new very little about capitalism, one of them did not even know it by definition. Also, they knew nothing about history of American capitalism, but they all agreed it was problematic and restrictive independent of each other. It was interesting to see how the three interviewees admitted that capitalism is flawed, but none of them were concerned about themselves. Instead, they worried how the system impacted others, those less fortunate and how the current system impacts them. None of my interviewees tried to defend capitalism, when asked about the positives they all struggled and hesitated. When asked about the negatives they had a lot to say. According to my interviewees the system of capitalism once served a purpose where anyone could succeed, but it has sense lost it purpose.