An Apolitical Blues
Ever since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, capitalism has had both positive and negative effects on society and its people. With Capitalism’s goal to amass as much wealth possible comes technological change. Moreover, as wealth accumulates and technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated, this allows nations to become more advanced. However, with advancement comes unrest, for all the progress capitalism seems to cause, it also comes with criticisms for the effects it has on society. In their books, Michael Baumann and Tony Judt both find that capitalism has been a culprit in the problems that society faces today. Capitalism causes problems in society, because it creates labor issues, individualism, mistrust and isolation. The reactions to these problems are different from each other in both books, raising questions about history’s role in the changing attitudes of society and how people in society deal with problems in response to capitalism.
In both accounts, the authors blame capitalism for the labor issues it causes. Baumann expresses frustration towards the decreasing value of craftsmanship in society. He explains that work is able to give one a sort of satisfaction, writing that the ability to “create something with your hands that serves a purpose” is the way one can find satisfaction in their work (Baumann 23). Working as a carpenter to avoid working in a factory, Baumann explains that even carpentry has been reduced to mindless screwdriver operation, making it no different from working in a factory (Baumann 23). Therefore, Baumann’s frustration is a result of him becoming an unskilled worker. Baumann’s eventual participation in terrorism links to the frustration he felt towards his job in a 1960s capitalistic society that strives to achieve maximum production and profit, valuing fast, uniform production over skilled work.
Judt makes comparisons between unskilled labor and capitalism as well; however, he explains that in modern times the relationship between the two has reversed. He argues that the rapid progress of technology combined with the effects of globalization, unskilled labor is quickly becoming less and less important (Judt 176). Mechanized production now replaces unskilled labor as more companies find ways to maximize profit. In a capitalistic society, one cannot blame these companies for choosing robots over humans, because employees are an employer’s largest expense. What’s more concerning in Judt’s opinion is that many jobs that require unskilled labor are outsourced to countries that have far lower production costs such as China (176). With no need for unskilled labor, Judt explains that advanced countries such as the U.S. and U.K. focus their efforts on increasing technology (177). This causes a greater need for knowledge and as Judt states, this creates a situation in which “the demand for new skills vastly out-paces our ability to teach them” resulting in mass...