Sociology: Concepts and Theories to Contemporary Issues
Sociological concepts created by Karl Max and Friedrich Engels characterize the modern conflicts resulting from capitalism. In their book, The Manifesto of the Communist Party, they explain the way the social setting in the form of bourgeoisie and proletarians becomes the basis of the current conflicts between social classes. The bourgeois own the means of production while the proletarians form the working class. On the other hand, Marx’s book, Wage, Labor, and Capital, considers the social hierarchy formed by capitalism and the struggles, which occur due to capitalism. The capitalist hierarchy described in the communist manifest indicates the working class in the bottom of the hierarchy and is meant to work for the capitalists. The latter buy labor using wages; however, in most cases they choose the wage levels they offer for the labor. The conflict between the labor and capitalists can be witnessed in the current social setting, and the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh indicates the contribution of capitalism to labor struggles in the modern society. The exploitation of labor by the capitalists who offer low wages has led to poverty and death in the contemporary society. The present discussion will take into consideration social conflicts and effects resulted by capitalism, namely the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh garment factory.
Structural Propensity Of Capitalism
Global capitalism is an evolution of its previous forms. Contrary to its earlier predecessors such as classical capitalism, industrial capitalism, and nation-corporate capitalism, the global capitalism goes beyond the reach of a nation. Its aspects have a greater scope. Global capitalism has resulted in the globalization of production forms as well as accumulation of wealth, governance, and class relations. The new trend is very dangerous to the world social setting. According to Karl and Engels, a capitalist system cannot be suitable to everyone in society. It leads to the formation of class. Consequently, only those at the top can benefit from the system. In this case, the wealthy nations are considered to be at the top. Since the latter would have accumulated considerable wealth and resources through exploitation, they can have continued dominance and be superior over the inferior nations.
The structural decay of the global capitalism can be viewed from the incidence that occurred in the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The Savar building which housed a garment factory collapsed resulting in the death of over a thousand workers and injuring even more. Most of the workers there were toiling in the export industry that was growing fast. The incident was considered a fatal accident because of negligence. Besides, the operational, economic, and reputational implications of the occurrence affected many organizations globally. However, based on the ideologies of Marx and Engel, the incident was a structural failure of the global capitalism. In the world capitalist system, the means of production have been concentrated in particular regions or countries such as Bangladesh. The workers face unfair working conditions with minimal pay. In particular, the workers at the Rana Plaza were ordered to return to work despite the apparent instability of the building. The owner of the building, however, insisted that the conditions for work were appropriate.
The garments manufactured at the Rana Plaza were meant to be delivered to markets across the globe and specifically West. It contributed to the capitalist system of low cost of wages, price, and profits. In the pyramid of class, Marx and Engel suggest that the lowest class consists of employees who labor with low wages to produce for the rich. The incident is similar to the class of proletariat and the bourgeois system of exploitation presented by Marx. Marx maintains that the exploitative system became even worse when the victims failed to protest. The victims of the Rana Plaza collapse could not protest as they were held into a form of modern slavery. In particular, they were threatened with being sacked and hence were forced back to work despite clear signs of instability of the building.
During the period of Marx and Engel’s activity, the conflict between capital and labor was centered on wage-labor conflicts. Marx opposed the idea of employees working as independent proprietors. Collective bargaining through unions was thus essential to ensure the workers were fairly compensated for the services they offered. However, the current forms of a class struggle have conditions diminishing labor. Many aspects in the capitalist system have been globalized contrary to the systems to counter the structural effects of capitalism. The Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh presents the way the workers in some regions have been turned to independent contractors. Thus, the Bangladesh employees in the garment industry dealt directly with the owners in independent systems.
In the majority of the western countries, a great part of the labor is organized through unions which negotiate for high minimum wages thus raising the cost of labor. These are class conflicts that contribute to high labor costs. Many producers opt to search for low production costs in other parts of the globe. In Asia, especially in Bangladesh, labor costs are very low. However, the labor in the new areas of production will revolt against the exploitative capitalists with time. In particular, Laski states that “what the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
According to Wollaston, conditions of social struggles have resulted in the globalization of capitalism. Workers’ unions in affluent countries struggled for the advance of minimum wages. Consequently, it raised the cost of labor thus leading the owners of means of production to shift to other regions such as Asia. As means of production keep shifting from one region to another, the concept of capitalism will be spread over the globe and hence social effects to the society. For example, after the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, many of the garment factory workers took to the streets to demand an increase in the minimum wages as well as better working conditions thus avoiding a repeat of the Rana Plaza incident. The working class in Bangladesh garment factories represents the impact of globalized capitalism. Exploitation of the employees characterized by long working hours, low minimum wages, and poor working conditions results in conflicts and strikes. This trend of shifting areas of production will change as workers continue demanding for increased wages and better working conditions. The increasing strikes in Bangladesh garment factories after the Rana Plaza incident will shift the production to other Asian countries in future hence contributing to the globalization of capitalism.
Consequences Of Capitalism In Developing Regions
Global capitalism has often been credited with creating global economic integration. However, the implications of the globalization have had different effects on workers in various regions. Many employees in developed countries live below the poverty line despite high wages due to higher minimum wages. Capitalists react to higher minimum wages by increasing the prices of goods and services. The rise in prices by the capitalists to factor the rising cost of labor results in an increase in the costs of living, which in turn leads to workers living below the poverty line despite being employed.
In developing countries, the consequences of capitalism to the workers have been severe compared to those in advanced nations. Most of the capitalists producing in developing countries such as Bangladesh practice activities that cannot be tolerated in the West. They do not take into consideration the welfare of the workers. Their sole agenda is to mass produce products meant for western markets while paying the low wages for the workers. Some of the wages are so low that they do not help the individual live above the poverty line. The safety of the employees was overly compromised in the Bangladesh incident. The garment firm failed to embrace measures that could have mitigated the impending risks to the factory workers. Though it was apparent about cracks in the building, the employees were still forced to come to their workplace. Frequently, they returned to work since the factory owed their several weeks’ salaries. Thus, the threat of being sacked meant they would not receive their dues if they declined to report to work.
In the Rana Plaza incident, the cost of globalization is high despite the low-cost prices on clothes and fashion. The unsafe conditions of the workers at the Bangladesh collapsed garment industry are common to other buildings around the country due to corruption during their construction and the capitalist greed in the booming industry. Therefore, the low prices on clothes and fashion come at a high cost of the workers’ welfare in the producing industries. Recently, there have been many cries from workers claiming that their human rights were infringed in the workplace.
Concepts Of Structure And Agency
While agency refers to the capacity of workers to act independently, structure regards the social setting that determines the individual behavior. The social structures may be in the form of capitalism or socialism. The production, marketing, and consumption of cheap clothes and global brands depend on the agency in place as well as the structure. In the global capitalist structure, the production and marketing of the global brands result in the increase in their consumption as opposed to cheap clothes. The capitalist structure often seeks to portray the structure of capitalism as being beneficial to the workers and country of production. Thus, the brands produced in manufacturing nations include high costs of providing employment to the locals.
Moreover, the capitalist structure determines the agency. The way customers behave under the capitalism defines how they consume global brands of clothes. The capitalist structure is based on the hierarchy from the rich to the workers. The former who constitute capitalists producing in developing countries have a higher class in society. They thus consume the global brands that define their status in society. Consequently, since they are rich, they can easily afford these global brands. The workers, on the other hand, form the lowest class in the hierarchy pyramid. The capitalist structure often exploits the lower class hence they do not have enough money to consume these brands. Marketing at this level is aimed at targeting each class in the hierarchy pyramid. It is characterized by a very sophisticated approach because reaching each level at such a complex hierarchy can be a daunting task, especially given the increasing costs of marketing in modern time.
In conclusion, sociological ideologies were developed to counter the structural effects that were associated with capitalism. Globalization of capitalism includes the production of goods and services in different locations across the world and globalization of economic activities. However, while the structures of capitalism have been presented as being beneficial to global economic growth, its effects are evidenced as wage labor and worker welfare in areas of production. For instance, many production activities have been globalized, and output is taken to areas of cheap labor. Unfortunately, the worker welfare in such countries has been deplorable as can be evidenced by the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh. The workers are paid fewer wages for their services while the safety conditions are unfavorable. The global capitalism has high cost despite the low price of goods produced.