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.

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