My last interviewee is a white male in his late 20s (I will be referring to him as J). He has a high school education with some college education. He has a full-time job at a grocery store, working for the prepared foods section. I asked J a series of six questions to reveal his understanding of the history of capitalism. Among some of his answers, a common theme reveals what he knows about the history of capitalism.
Where do you see capitalism in action?
I’ve seen it in rich people getting really rich, with oil and railroads. People who are able capitalize on the opportunities in our country in the past and present. They wouldn’t have gotten rich if they were in a country that didn’t have capitalism as an economic system.
How do you think capitalism interacts with our economy?
More money in our economy is centered around a few wealthy people as opposed to having the money spread out throughout the country.
How do you see yourself in a capitalist society?
I see myself as a pawn in the corporate world because my type of role in society is expendable but a necessary piece to move along the economy.
What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?
I think people toss the words like socialism and communism around without understanding the what those ideas actually mean. If they don’t like something they accuse it as socialism so they don’t have to talk about it anymore; an attempt to make something out to be evil.
How do you see people’s views of capitalism being generationally different?
Leaders and current events of different time periods will determine how people during that time perceive their views of capitalism and the economy.
What do you think are some positive aspects of capitalism? What are some negative aspects?
I think the competition that comes from capitalism. You get the best product from people and companies trying to outdo each other. Fluctuations in the costs of goods can negatively impact our society.
J’s answers did not surprise me since I know him pretty well. While it took him some time to think about the questions compared to my other two interviewees, there is a clear answer to his understanding of the history of capitalism. J focused on the rich in some of his answers. He sees capitalism as a system where the rich keep getting richer and the poor get poorer. He specifically pointed out oil and railroads as examples of areas where the wealthy thrive. He sees that capitalism has not changed much over the course of our country. There is just a change in how and where the wealthy get their money. This understanding is present in his other answers as well. He sees himself as a “pawn” in society, especially when it comes to his job within a corporation. He sees that he is only there to make the CEOs richer. J’s understanding is that the history of capitalism is just a cycle of “pawns” working to make the rich richer while they remain poor.