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Politics and Social Change

This write up seeks to answer a number of questions based on the readings and the lecture notes provided during the lessons. Some of the concepts that will be looked at include ideology, mechanical, solidarity, social capital, charisma, and subjection. The write up will also examine other issues such as Karl Polanyi’s “fictitious commodities,” militarism as well as the existing national differences in the provision of welfare.


Karl Marx describes the concept of ideology as ideas produced, conceptions, and consciousness of men in terms of what they say, imagine or conceive. He noted that ideology is the manifestation of super structural civilization and is composed of conventions and ideas that dominate the production of new ideas within a society. In such a society, the dominant or ruling ideas become those of the ruling class. The ruled, on the other hand, view the ideas of the ruling as important for their survival. He notes that because of the need to make powers and forces legal, ideological ideas prefer to use force, violence, and exploitation to de-empower a certain ruled group. According to him, the power and authority that the ruling class has is used to take away a little power of the ruled through violence and intimidation with individualistic ideologies that only serve the interest of the ruling class.


The philosophy of Max Weber analyzed the topic of charisma to a greater length. Weber envisioned charismatic leader to be a person who possesses a unique personality to the point that he/she is regarded as possessing supernatural powers. Similarly, such a person also possesses exceptional qualities that are liked by people around him or her. According to Weber, charismatic characteristics are divine in nature and therefore others treat the person who possesses these characteristics as a leader. Charisma is thus associated with unquestionable authority that a person derives from the mass. Most of the people who were considered charismatic led their people to political, social, and economical success.


Michel Foucault is the philosopher who is associated with the term subjectification. He used the term to describe the way individuals are made subjects by other individuals within a society. Subjectification has been found to come first before the subject, meaning that those who are making others to be subjects consider subjectivism important than the subjects. While the traditional notion of the subject considers subjectification as a term, Foucault found that the progression of subjectification possessed ontological supremacy on the subject as a term. The term subjectification is thus related to exercise of power and authority, as those who are in power tend to exercise this power to make others to become subjects under them. However, subjectification has no authority as the person putting other people into subjection has no institution that supports his/her actions

Mechanical Solidarity

Emile Durkheim while studying collective conscience identified mechanical solidarity as a way that was prevalence in pre-modern societies. He noted that these societies were characterized by feuds and were depended on agriculture. As such, mechanical solidarity societies exhibit little division in labor and variation in norms and values. This is similar to what is expected of an organic solidarity in which people are specialized in different areas and therefore depend on one another. Durkheim notes that Mechanical societies also have little evidence in terms of differentiation. Concerning power and authority, the societies exhibiting mechanical solidarity did not have individualistic approaches to issues and therefore could not exercise oppressive power. Authority was given through democratic means that were used to control behaviors and interactions among citizens in those societies. The power of the people is thus invested in the associations and groups that these people can form.  

Social Capital

James Coleman is credited with coining and expounding the term social capital where he noted that this consisted of the social resources, networks, and relations that individuals possess and refer to while making critical decisions and critical analysis. For instance, by joining people are able to pool resources and do an enormous economic investment, which they could not have accomplished when they were working in isolation. As Coleman further indicated, social capital was a function of social relationship that created trust among people in a society. With this trust, people can thwart oppression exercised through illegitimate powers and authority.  Social capital is thus vital as it gives citizens a sense of unity, generation of trust, and broadens the awareness of the community. It therefore makes them critical of wrongful exercise of power and authority.

Karl Polanyi used fictitious commodities to imply commodities that are traded on the market even though they are not true commodities. According to him, true commodities are things that are mainly produced for sale. However, land, labor, and money are not products of sale yet they are traded in the market. Through this fictitious commodity, the markets become solely a product of human nature rather than a necessity. As such, Polanyi noted that markets were a creation of some economic actors. In particular, they are the state authority that practiced either democratic rule or oppression. Polanyi believed that fictitious commodities were indivisible by nature and should not have consisted of human activity (Polanyi, 67).  Therefore, land, labor and money were fictitious commodities on the market whose view as actual commodities without setting boundaries or limits was detrimental to the human society. This is based on the fact that it would up ways of exploitation for those who are weak and poor.  An example is the emergence of slavery and environmental degradation in the scramble for land, labor, and money.  As such, Polanyi’s argument is mainly dependent on the fact that market should follow a particular system of morality rather than be left to the forces of free markets. 

Polanyi’s main argument in the concept of fictitious commodities was that human beings should not be subordinated to the needs of the markets; rather, the market should be subordinated to the needs of people. According to Polanyi’s argument concerning fictitious commodities, the regulation of the market should be done from people’s perspective in the sense that it is the people who are going to determine the force of the market. This means that the fictitious commodities should be sold on the market as they are likely to give unfair advantage to the bourgeoisie and dictators to exploit the poor and those who cannot afford to buy land and labor.

Polanyi would have viewed the contemporary neo movement that propagates free market as a way of exploiting the poor for lack of moral embeddedness thus indicating a lack of ground for arguing for moral imperative on the markets. However, this would not mean that economic actions could not be achieved in such a state as social relations always contain the required economic actions. As such, social relations are a source of trust among a community and hence are important in reducing the individualistic nature of neo-conservative market place. Therefore, neo-conservative market has given itself unmerited power to operate on markets using fictitious commodities. For instance, the state becomes responsible for supply of food and regulation of land use, unemployment, education for workers while migration flaws become a phenomenon in this market. Similarly, the state provides policies for reducing prices in times of higher inflation. Karl Polanyi would consider this as state manipulated actions since he believed that there is nothing natural about the regulation of markets in the view of marketers and protectionists who are always engaged in fighting to control the market.

Several scholars have studied the use of military actions in controlling a chaotic situation. Militarism is composed of a political orientation of a group or government system in maintaining a strong military force. Militarism also involves the use of aggressive approaches in defending or promoting the interests of the nation.  It can also be said to be the conviction or desire of an administration or a nation that a country should maintain a strong military aptitude and always be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.

The extent to which the US can be described as a military state can be determined by the political and military reforms that a stronger central government established in order to pursue its imperial agenda in Pacific and Caribbean regions. The US also realized the power of economic militarism in the sense that their economic endowment was used and is still used as a military tool to fight poor nations. The US militarism is built on professionalism and management principles that give the control of the military into the hands of political appointees and nonprofessionals.

The US can be said to be a militaristic state owing to the number of wars the country has participated in since its independence. The US leads in the countries that have spent the longest time in wars and this is being continued. In addition, America has had the greatest number of enemies in terms of terror groups, gangs, and other virtual organizations that have been on the battlefront with the US armies.

The main disadvantage of being a military state to the American democracy is the misuse of the military to portray the need to elect an individual to the highest office. The president of the US is the commander in chief of all the US armies and the person who is supposed to be elected in that office is evaluated in those lines. Foreign policies in the presidential campaigns in the US have continued to elicit some of the hotly contested debates in the public. This means that the American society has politicized the management of the military to the point that qualified people who can bring success to the people through social welfare are not elected in that office because of lack of the military knowledge that is important to the people of America (Leftwich, 15).

The outstanding performance of the US military in many of the countries where conflicts abound has brought the American nation face to face with their enemies. The military skills have been disadvantageous to the people of America as they continue to accumulate more and more enemies. This is especially in Middle East where there is a large population of Muslims.  The recent incidents where the US convoy to Libya was killed during a demonstration against the US film that depicted Mohammed in a bad light is an example of how military activities have turned many citizens of the US to be enemies to many people. It  is not only the terrorists who view this military prowess as a nuisance but also presidents like President Mugabe who recently said that the death of the US convoy in Libya was as tragic as the death of Muammar Gaddafi.  The president of Iran has continually called for the annihilation of the US allies with the hope that such calls will be instrumental in stopping the US military actions in the Middle East.

The US society is also rendered combative in that the people become detached from the rest of the world as the world even continues to integrate together. The society is also deprived of necessary resources; large sums of money are allocated for military budgets. For instance, the US government spent $740,800,000,000 in military budget in 2008. This amount is more than a hundred times bigger when compared to the budgets of well-developed countries in Africa combined.  This in effect has led to the increase of poverty index and lack of employment opportunities in the US.  The US militarism has continued to evolve in the face of increasing resistance in most of the countries. An example is its display of the dependence on a relatively small number of volunteer fighters while employing heavy reliance on multifaceted technologies. The military has also relied on the rationalization and expansion of the government through advertising and recruitment programs that are mainly designed as a promotion to military operations.

The differences that exist in cross-national provision of welfare and social security programs is partly a result of the perceived view of the capitalism and material endowment of each country. As far as the provision of welfare service is concerned, the US spends less money on welfare than other countries. Similarly, the lists of its welfare programs have ceased to function. For instance, health care programs for people have become too controversial and people can no longer access medical services without interference from the authority. The American working class does not buy the welfare and therefore deny their support for welfare program, financially, economically

The making of decisions in regard to provision of welfare services has become too complicated to the point that it takes several months for a decision to be made, even as the beneficiaries continue to wait for the support. The proletariats are not sitting in the congress so that they couldn’t make any decisions. Studies have revealed that the US does not have a comprehensive parental leave when compared to other countries like Canada. The US also has horrible disability program when compared with Germany and Sweden, whose programs look to be working well for the disabled.

The federal government power has tremendously reduced to the level where it is unable to command the respect that it once commanded during the early 20th century when the country made several firsts in military, technology, education, health together with any other sector that the country ventures in. In practice, arguably federalism has failed to provide the citizens with the benefits of such a system by inhibiting legislation of national policies aimed at benefiting the public. As such, the country lacks a comprehensive policy on welfare programs but instead consists of different policies that are unique to each state. The guard at the federal government may have changed in terms of the individuals that are elected in office but the system remains dominated by capitalism that seeks to phase out all the public expenditure while giving more powers to the capitalists. 

Another reason why the Americans are lagging in provision of welfare services is the development of egocentric mindsets where more and more people are finding it hard to give up their money for social services. The attitude that the government should provide everything to the citizens has continued to be embedded in the normal practice of the American people even as people become individualistic and the market become more liberal. There is also a general breakdown in labor organizations where workers are not able to effectively organize themselves in groups to agitate for their rights. This is more exacerbated by the fact that more people are losing jobs and there is a feeling that trying to champion the rights of others may lead one into losing their jobs.

United States is one verge of a critical time because without these checks and balances, democracy is threatened. This is mostly because of the structure of the ruling class who are capitalists that serve the interests of their friends. In essence, most institutional processes and structures are formed in such as way as to serve the interest of only the rich while the poor remain neglected in their predicament. This is still the same reason that led to the collapse of the welfare programs in 1970s after the oil crisis that the US had embarked on. During this period, the government cut back on the expenditure on welfare programs after it emerged that welfare programs impinged on the success of capitalists by acting as a deterrent both to work and to investment.  Opponents of welfare programs argued that such programs inhibited economic growth by paralyzing markets.

In effect, the national government, whose leadership are implants of the capitalists accepted the capitalistic theories and subsequently reduced the amount that is allocated to welfare programs. Since that time, the national budget has consistently focused on building up a military ground at the expense of public expenditure. For instance, in 2010 national budget 58% of the allocation went to the military while other public sectors shared the remaining percentage.

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