Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Varieties of Capitalism And Life Satisfaction

At the core of capitalism there is a fundamental logic that commodifies individuals.  That is, they are employed by owners of capital who hope to earn a profit on their input.  They are regarded as a factor of production just like any other commodity that is required for producing a product or a service.  Moreover, their services are bought and sold in an impersonal labor market.  The price that is paid for their services is subject to the law of supply and demand.  There is a lot of pressure on individuals to do whatever they can to decommodify themselves.  Many invest in education and seek occupations  in which the demand for labor is growing faster than the supply.  Others join unions which attempt to strengthen their bargaining power and provide greater security.  Governments also play a role in decommodification.  Many social welfare programs help to make individuals less subject to the vagaries of market forces. 

This article summarizes the results of research by a political scientist who argues that life satisfaction is related to the degree to which one exists as a commodity.  He found that life satisfaction is higher in capitalist countries that enable decommodification.  He argues that capitalism is a great system at the macro level.  That is, it enables nations to create a larger economic pie.  At the micro level, however, life satisfaction is dependent on the degree to which one exists as a commodity.  Differences in government and culture play a big role in that process.

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