Corporations and Global Capitalism
As an institution, I feel that corporations are playing a negative role in American society. While they provide a lot of great tools for people, from mobile smart phones to services like online shopping, the reality is that behind the scenes of these corporations, things are not so great. The amount of pressure that workers experience when working at Amazon can be immense, and the work does not appear to be particularly rewarding or allow one to really develop any skills. A worker at Amazon is like a pin sorter in Adam Smithâ€™s pin factory: what kind of profession or career is this? It is not one that can make a human being feel good about his job or want to show up to work every day when he knows he will just be sorting pins for the rest of his life. A person needs a job that will help him to provide for his family, contribute to his society, and grow as a person. If the job is soul deadening and basically mind-numbing, it is not one that can be good for society. Sure, the rest of society benefits: it gets its packages in the mail, and no one has to leave his chair or computer to go do the shopping anymore. But if you think about, all it shows is that we are willing to take advantage of others for the sake of a little convenience for ourselves. If we really wanted to help make America great again, we would stop buying on Amazon simply because of the way it treats its workers as though they were inhuman machines who had to do everything precisely to the second like a robot wouldâ€”because all these seconds add up like pins in a box and if one or two are missing, the whole thing could blow.
The same goes for Apple exploiting laborers in China. These laborers are essentially like slaves in a factory who do not even get the kind of wages needed to support a family; their contribution to society is that we all get to have smart phones (so that we can even do our Amazon shopping while we are on the go using our phones to connect to the Internet), and they are certainly not in a position to develop themselves or their skills so as to become the masters of a trade. For that reason, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it unconscionable to buy products from Apple. All Americans will agree that slavery is badâ€”yet many Americans would swear their love and devotion for Apple, even though Apple basically enslaves Chinese workers on the other side of the world so that it can make a greater profit on its products. It seems sad to have to say it but this is what corporations are like.
Are all corporations the same? No, not all enslave workers in the East or dehumanize their employees and put tons of pressure on them to succeed. However, the corporate mentality is something that is really antithetical to the values and principles that America used to cherish. Because corporations are so powerful, control so much money, and have so much influence with governments and financial industries, they get to have a big role in how society is shaped. What would Thomas Jefferson say if he saw Apple or Amazon today? I bet he would be shockedâ€”and he himself was a slave owner. Indeed, as Joel Bakan notes, â€œbusinessmen and politicians had been suspicious of the corporation from the time it first emerged in the late sixteenth centuryâ€ (5)â€”and for good reason: it represented the â€œrelatively small groups of men, bonded together by personal loyalties and mutual trustâ€ in which the separation of ownership from management was made possible (Bakan 5).
Corporations could be reformed, perhaps, by obliging owners to be managers so that they have direct skin in the game. They could also be reformed by ending the practice of slave labor overseas. Those would be two good steps in the right direction. The question I would like to ask is: Why isnâ€™t Apple condemned by the American government for its basic enslavement of Chinese workers? The answer, I suppose, is that government and business long ago merged into a fascist entity.
Bakan, Joel. The Corporation. NY: Free Press, 2003.
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