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Political Power and "Human Nature"

Political Power and "Human Nature"

By Dennis Loo (May 1, 2014 - International Workers' Day)

Many people in this country do not see government’s role clearly because they have been misinformed about what government does and why it does it.

There are two essential tools that all governments use – and must use – in order to exercise political power: persuasion and coercion.

Before going into further detail about those twin tools, some important background: Governments have not always existed and, in fact, for the vast majority of human societies’ existence, governments did not exist. It was only with the advent of an economic surplus that governments came into being as a means by which the unequal distribution of economic goods could be maintained.

In the absence of a body of people using force, any economic surplus would be distributed roughly equally because anyone who was in want while others had more than they needed would insist on it. It is only through coercion that such a surplus can be kept in the hands of a (well-off) minority.

While using force is a persuasive argument in the sense that someone with the ability and willingness to hurt or kill you can always get their way, if governments had to always use force to obtain compliance from everyone, there are not enough armed men to get enough compliance from the populace for governments to stay in power. That is why persuasion is so important and why coercion always comes in tandem with persuasion.

Persuasion is the means by which those in authority convince others who are not in authoritative positions to comply with authorities’ wishes. Another way of putting this is that governments use ideas to convince others that their use of authority is legitimate. People are mainly governed by abiding by rules that they have learned and that they believe to be legitimate. You could not govern any group for any extended period of time if you had to rely solely on force.

What does this lead us to?

The first point is that one of the key and indispensible ways that those who now rule – and even more importantly how the system that they personify and lead continues – is through the use of ideas that justify that system. As Marx pointed out, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. They rule in part because their ideas serve their interests and those ideas are the dominant ideas overall. As a result of this, their ideas are the most common within the population. These ideas are not the dominant ideas because they represent the most advanced and truest understanding of human affairs, economics, social dynamics, the physical and biological and social sciences, etc. On the contrary, the ideas that the bourgeoisie makes the dominant ideas are contrary to the most advanced ideas and truth in all of those areas.

When slaveholders were the dominant class in slave societies, their ideas constituted the dominant ideas. That is, the ideas that were considered the most correct and the ideas that were the most widespread in “polite” society, that is, especially among the non-slave citizenry, were that there will always be slaves and slave owners, that some people are born to be slaves and are biologically inferior and worth no more than and can be treated like any other kind of beast of burden or inanimate property. The idea that slave owning and beating, raping, selling, killing, and so on were wrong and deeply immoral was a dissident idea, considered absurd by those who adhered to slave society’s mainstream ideas. The notion that slave owning as a system should be and could be done away with was considered simply outlandish and not even worth discussing by the vast majority of those outside of slaves themselves. And importantly, even among slaves, the idea of insurrection and ending slavery was considered far-fetched and for many, simply impossible. Among most slaves the view that slave owners were too powerful to overthrow was the conventional wisdom. The notion that there would be a bloodbath and that slaves would be one-sidedly and overwhelmingly the victims of that bloodbath were the common opinion, even among many of the slaves themselves. Slaves, who had all the reason in the world to resist and attempt to end their condition as slaves, were given plenty of reasons to remain as slaves, both through violence directed at them and through the dominant ideas of the day.

The first thing most people do when they think about the possibility of a different system and a different governmental structure is that they consider these things using the dominant and conventional ideas. It’s to be expected that people would do this since most people imbibe the ideas that surround them in their life through school, mass culture, public officials and media, their family, friends, associates, etc. But what is happening when they think using those mainstream ideas as their analytical tools is they are using the ideas that justify the status quo and serve the interests of those who already hold power. These ideas aren’t the dominant ideas because they are simply the best and most advanced ideas. They’re the dominant ideas because those who dominant are dominant to a large extent because the ideas that they promote serve their interests and are accepted without question as common sense and as correct unthinkingly by the majority.

Without training and exposure to alternative ways of thinking, even those who receive a higher education automatically apply the analytical methods and outlook of those in authority, even while some among them might be searching for ways to undo the status quo. People pick up the ideas that they have been taught and are most familiar with, so familiar with that they don’t think to ask whether or not the ideas that they are using are the most appropriate or the truest. They take for granted that these ideas are true because nearly everyone around them has told them that they’re true since they were a child and they can readily find approbation for their ideas in people around them. The dominant ideas are so dominant that anyone who questions them is considered a little odd.

It is only to be expected, therefore, that many people think that radical change is impossible or at least highly improbable because they are seeing things using the ideas of those who already hold power. Why would you, if you want to preserve the existing system, invite a full discussion and vigorous debate about what’s true and what the best tools are to analyze the world? You wouldn’t if your power rested on keeping people from really understanding things. You’d make sure that ideas that challenge your power were suppressed and that those who try to popularize such ideas are marginalized or ridiculed as out of the pale. This is why, for example, the Nazis burned books that they found threatening. They recognize the potent power of ideas and facts becoming more widely known.

What I want to do for this particular segment is focus on one key aspect of the ruling ideas of our time.

This system is governed by a legitimation doctrine that says that “human nature” is inherently selfish.

Now if you think about this for a bit from a different perspective than how this view is usually articulated, you can see how peculiar this idea is.

Those who rule over us tell us that humans are naturally self-serving and only interested in material rewards. The people who are in charge of our collective fates, in other words, are telling us that they are not actually interested in our collective condition because they are themselves in fact self-serving – and everyone else is too. If the people who are responsible for the public welfare don’t believe that such a thing as the public welfare exists, then what are we doing listening to and siding with selfish bastards in charge of us all? Aren’t they telling us by advocating these notions about “human nature” that we can expect that they are going to screw us and take royal advantage of us, because after all, aren’t all people supposed to be self-serving?

You can’t have this both ways. You can’t be advocating for the doctrine that “humans are all naturally selfish” and by the same token, claim that they should be chosen as our public servants and that CEO’s are all compassionate corporate leaders who care about the environment, workers, and citizens/consumers, since these two ideas are entirely contradictory!

You can’t tell people that you have to pay leaders in government, education, and business huge amounts of money because otherwise you won’t get the best leaders, and then claim that these individuals who you are attracting on the basis of their being self-centered, will in turn do what is best for the community. You have already decided that the people you are putting in charge are selfish by saying that you can only get the best by offering them the most money. How can people who you are attracting on the basis of their selfishness be simultaneously the most committed to the common good?

Adam Smith whose ideas about this form the justification for much of this line of reasoning, argued that the best society comes about if you allow the “invisible hand” of the market to determine what is done and how it is done. Why is this supposed to be the best way to do things? Because people are all self-seeking after material rewards and if you allow selfishness to govern the economy and the society, then you get the best society. How is that again? How do you get public goods to be safeguarded when you’ve put the doctrine and the people who are the most benefited by and who personally benefit from this doctrine of “everyone’s selfish” in charge? This is like saying that we should put the wolves in charge of the hen house because they are the most upfront about the fact that they don’t care about the welfare of the chickens and would sooner eat them than do anything else.

If you have a system based on this notion about “human nature” in that the system logic of capitalism is based on individuals maximizing their personal material gains and businesses operating on the principle of “expand or die,” then why again is that that system is supposed to be better than any other system? If you have a system whose governing logic is that everyone is out to exploit the most of others and the environment in the name of maximizing capital, then why is this the best system of all in ensuring the common welfare? And if the planet is being destroyed by those whose goal is to maximize in the short-term material gains, then why should anyone be surprised at this outcome?

You cannot reform a system that is based on a certain logic and insist that its governing logic not be its governing logic. Nor can you change things using the logic of the system that is creating the problems in the first place. You can only do that - change society - if you adopt ideas that most thoroughly match a) the truth and b) your aims to promote the common good.

Comments   

 
0 # Giovanna Serrano 2014-05-02 00:47
Seems like government is doing anything it can to prevent ts people from questioning what government does by letting them hear what the people want to hear. Like you say it is constituted that we have rights like freedom of speech, but those rights as we all know come with restriction. So is that really freedom of speech ? So the question here is what role does the government really serve for its people?
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0 # shannon barkley 2014-05-05 05:18
I agree with the fact that the government is doing anything it can to prevent its people from knowing what is going on. Even if they do not prevent it, they do hide or water down the information to the people, so we dont question them. With the Nazi's they burned threatening books because they wanted complete control. Although not all governments did this, the do put in the peoples ear what to think and how to vote. I agree with the freedom of speech part. We have freedom of speech, yet it is limited to an extent
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0 # CamouflagedWife 2014-05-12 02:03
I also agree with you both. Government doesn't like any kind of opposition and with the truth being available, opposition may or may not happen. Even with some information being "revealed" it is never really the whole truth. As you've stated in lectures dealing with Political Power in history, politicians and government make sure to promote their ideas and slowly but surely eradicate ideas that go against them. It's sad to think, but is still happening today. Opposition to the government is the one thing to help people change the corrupt system, but every attempt is shot down one way or another.
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0 # shannon barkley 2014-05-05 05:29
I agree with the fact that the government is doing things that prevent or distract their people from ioning the government. they either do this or the try and water down the information to the peoples liking. In regards to the Nazis burning books that were threatening, they only did this because they didnt want to have to deal with nonstatus quo people and people who question authority. With the freedom of speech section, I do not fully believe we have freedom of speech because people are still being critisized for what they say.
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0 # soc123 2014-05-05 06:31
Agreed! I mean I can't help but to wonder what else we don't know or what other issues are going on. Is hiding the truth protecting the citizens?
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0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-05-05 06:47
That is exactly what I was thinking when I read this as well! The government is a bureaucracy, described by our book as a machine. This analogy in our reading helped me relate back to this question of what role does our government serve for its people. Governments role is to be a well oiled machine and make people think that what they are doing is for the good of everyone and not just the machine or bureaucracy.
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0 # vices 2014-05-02 20:39
Most people are taught to seek the American Dream. The whole basic idea of the American Dream is to prosper, but the general public translates it into getting rich and definitely not to fix society. It is a self-serving goal that most Americans adopt. Popular culture reinforces this idea, so it persuades the population to think of themselves at fault for their own situation. Most Americans are probably more worried about trying to become part of the bourgeois, instead of questioning the motives of the bourgeois. The government has the population believing that the system is fair and for the good of society, when in fact it is destroying it. If most people are raised into believing that money is the ultimate goal, I believe they blindly follow the system. They assume that following the system will lead them to money so they don't question the structures. Our culture defines this goal as success through hard work when it is actually selfish. So in actuality we all strive to be selfish.
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0 # Sme 2014-05-04 03:09
For many people the American dream means “money” being able to be on the top, and why not?,people have succeeded before. But the “American dream” is only achieved by a few, while other people fantasize about it. Also like you said culture emphasizes individualistic views which make us selfish.
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0 # Jessica Ulloa 2014-05-05 01:53
"The "American Dream," is to prosper" because in your eyes it means to prosper, how does that idea move to the idea that the general public feel it means to get rich and not fix societal issues? Also, How does 'hard work' translate to selfishness? I am a bit confused as to how that connection was made? Personally, i am not worried with becoming apart of any 'elite' class whatever that may mean to others. What situations have you encountered that made you create this generalization for all Americans?
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0 # CamouflagedWife 2014-05-05 03:39
I definitely agree with you Vices, due to the fact that in lectures from both soc 302 and 498 we talk about how the American Dream in ideology is something that many people try to attain (because it is prosperous), but many do not see the reality of the situation. Our government cannot allow for everyone to achieve the American Dream because there needs to be rich and poor people, good and evil, etc. Because many people have been brought up to blindly follow our government, most do not protest, and that is where our system fails. We definitely strive to gather material things and be selfish for the most part, because we are taught that it will give us happiness in life. This is not necessarily true on many levels, but we as a society are taught things that make us live the way we do (blindly. It obviously needs to change because if it doesn't we are going to eventually become so stuck in this that there is no turning back or chance for change.
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0 # deltoro 2014-05-11 02:46
soc. 302 I agree that we follow the American Dream. We have it in our heads that being rich and powerful is going to give us happiness. But in reality, we are guided by the dominant groups who are telling us what the American Dream is.
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0 # marcam 2014-05-21 18:03
You make a good point. Many Americans believe that the American Dream is to have money so you can be happy. The idea that all issues will be gone the moment you have money. I also like the point when you said that most people want to be part of the bourgeois, instead of questioning the motives. I believe this to be true. Many people don’t care about what the rich are doing instead they focus on ways for them to try to be rich themselves. They don’t see that the bourgeois are the ones making themselves richer and the rest poorer.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-02 21:16
Quoting vices:
Most people are taught to seek the American Dream... So in actuality we all strive to be selfish.

There's a difference between something being the dominant cultural ethic and it being followed by everyone. We don't all strive to be selfish and in fact, most people aren't selfish. If they were, then our society would not function. That's the central point of my essay: that if what those in charge claim is the nature of humans were true, then we'd not be able to function as a society. To the degree that it is true, that there are people who are selfish, this is a self-expose for those who advocate for that position as people who others ought not to trust because they're only out for themselves. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-02 21:20
While what you've said is true to some degree, it's one sided and not dialectical. Polls have shown that a majority of people regard the gov't and media siding too much with business. The bourgeoisie's dominant ethic is a) self-contradict ory, b) doesn't conform to what the two sciences that study societies hold - sociology and anthropology, c) destructive to the social fabric and the environment, and d) not followed by everyone. It's true that many dream of wealth, but do many dream of being selfish to the degree that the bourgeoisie is?

What your comment is missing is the contradictorine ss and therefore dynamic tension within groups and individuals over the conflict between the bourgeoisie's lookout and bourgeois morality versus the proletariat's outlook and morality and how this tension can produce a different condition under the right circumstances and with the right work. Cont.
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0 # Elizabeth arroyo 2014-05-04 02:46
The way I see it is yea their are people that do great things to better society but there are always going to be people that can have the biggest impact on the world who will do nothing. Like we learned in class how you said that roughly 85 people are on the top richest people in the world have half of the worlds income. Companies like Walmart that make so much money but won't even give their own employees benefits. There are starving people in the world but yet people own million dollar homes. On one side, yes they earned the money so they should be able to spend it as they please, but I just can't see how people that have money know that children are starving to death and do nothing.
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0 # Marisol Parra 2014-05-03 17:08
Soc 305- Government will always keep the truth from society until we learn to see beyond the truth in order to make a difference. Many people are full of self greed which has been instilled from birth we are taught to have that inspiration to do good, get a higher education, become wealthier by reaching that American dream in that process it is ok to damage society with such greed. Dr. Loo gave an analogy that people (society) are materialistic which allows the government to succeed ... and he goes on to compare that to putting the wolves in a hen house. The outcome of putting the wolves in the hen house of course the poor chickens will be eaten alive. That goes to show once again the government is in -powered to hide the truth from us while we have that self greed instilled not knowing it only punishing us from the true outcome.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-03 18:16
To clarify: the system is based on telling peo that they should be materialistic and want commodities. This does not originate from the peo but what they are taught. Peo tend to confuse these two things and not distinguish between them.
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0 # Elizabeth arroyo 2014-05-04 02:39
When citizens think about the government they see them as a form of security instead of what the government really stands for which is a form of power and control. They do not realize that this so called safe haven can turn into a place of violence and chaos. An example that sticks out in my mind is Nazi Germany. Those people thought that they were protected by the government and it a moments time the government turned into a symbol that represents torture and death. The government to me is a scary concept in the fact that they are so powerful and if people stand up against them it could cost them not just their freedom but their lives as well.
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0 # Dbug 2014-05-04 18:29
This is a scary concept, the people rely in the government to keep them safe from violence and chaos. Your example of Nazi Germany was interesting. The people stood by the government because they trusted in the government. Unfortunately, it was too late because this symbol turned to the massacre of millions of innocent people. This make s me think of what is happening in Iraq.
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0 # thatdude 2014-05-04 16:05
The fact that the elites in this country are the ones with the most voice on political issues is ridiculous especially because they are very few in comparison to the rest of society. Politicians come into power with their own agendas and shape the media and society to jump on board with their "plan". Don't get me wrong not all politicians are bad eggs, however, government seems to have gotten away from a system based around "we the people" and has become a system of power control and coercion OVER the people by those in higher authority as Dr. Loo said. It is scary to think about how powerful the U.S. government has become and I worry that it could become too powerful to keep contained by checks and balances.
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0 # Dbug 2014-05-04 18:14
As Marx pointed out, the ideas of our government are imposed to serve their own interests instead of the public welfare. However, they have been persuading society to comply with authority's wishes. The believe that those in power act upon the common good is also spread throughout the media and elections, but in reality it is all controlled by the ruling class. The U.S. government does not care for the public's well being, their only drive is to maximize control.
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0 # Michelle Ngo 2014-05-04 21:41
What is technically "based on the common interests?" The government is more interested in keeping control of society. They do not want to use force, but coercion and persuasion. In my opinion, the persuasion is more for the elite. The ones in power has the interests of those who support them with money, which is the wealthy. The use of persuasion and coercion are on their behalf. Those who do not have power has to deal with what the "government" want. By which I mean, what the wealthy wants. They do not want to see a bloodbath because then other people will join in and force the government to find a solution that would make both sides happy.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 16:14
Coercion = force. The common interest has to do with what is good for the common good. For ex., is it beneficial to have public parks? Is it the common good to have clean air, water, and to safeguard the planet from overheating into catastrophe? We can't do these things, however, unless the gov't is in the hands of the public.
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0 # jnc 2014-05-04 22:02
People of higher power always seem to take advantage of their title that they carry. When we elect them into office, we are hoping for them to voice the opinions and fight for a better community for everyone. Its not the case though. People of power get into office and shut out the base of people that got them in there. It seems like only their thoughts and choices on how to handle situations only matter and they disregard the rest of the country. Its kind of a scary thought that the Nations well being is in the hands of a select group of people, people who we trusted to run the nations but somehow forget about us and make self centered decisions.
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-04 23:41
This article was very interesting in the fact that it exposes how the gov't definitely is ruling us through a notion that is completely and utterly contradictory. How on Earth are they in charge of us and looking out for "OUR best interest," while at the same time shouting at the rooftops that ALL human beings are naturally selfish and egocentric? This exact point of the article peaked my interest. It is almost as though gov't officials are telling on themselves by pointing their finger at the entire population. I feel as though this goes back to our readings about how the media impacts our views and opinions on just about everything. Because the elite are responsible for what they want to be shown to the gen pop, they are thus furthering their own self-services, while they rest of the people insist that the mainstream media fills them with much-needed knowledge and consciousness.
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-05-05 06:57
Yes! I totally agree! It also peaked my interest, and made me think! I do not like to feel like a follower. I want to be a leader. However, I am truly realizing that I have unknowingly been a follower in aspects of politics.
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0 # Heng Chang 2014-06-09 06:55
I agree with you. The government is basically putting the blame on the people, but as the people, we are just doing what the government is telling us to you and living under their restrictions and rules/laws.
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0 # tiffany 2014-05-05 02:58
Yes there are selfish people in the world, yes the government makes us believe certain things and yes people will always look after themselves. This is all true. It has become human nature to act in a society this way. Our life is based upon the standards government has set for us and as much as you would like to go off of that to prove a point or something, it will be very difficult and hard. You have to look after yourself and you have to abide by the rule of government if you want to survive. Yes people come off as selfish and such but it has to be accepted because this is reality, this is life.
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0 # Uriel Gonzalez 2014-05-05 06:16
Even though our life might be based upon the standards government has set us for us, we have the ultimate power to change how much the government controls us, legally of course. We have the power to not have to depend so much on the government like welfare for example, if we simply stop being lazy and content with where we are at and start a business. In today's day and age, there are many business opportunities that allow people to grow a business of their own. It's a matter of people taking those opportunities. Governments role, in my opinion, should shift from trying to persuade us what's best for them, to persuade us that what is best for the country and the community is for people to start their own businesses.Peop le having their own businesses helps the economy as a whole and so this is what our human nature should shift to--persuade others to do bigger and better for themselves by being independent of themselves.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 16:11
Quoting Uriel Gonzalez:
We have the power to not have to depend so much on the government like welfare for example, if we simply stop being lazy and content with where we are at and start a business...this is what our human nature should shift to--persuade others to do bigger and better for themselves by being independent of themselves.
The biggest, by far, recipients of gov't welfare is big business. Look at the $13 TRILLION paid out to bail them out by the USG. Are they lazy? Being independent and being self-centered are slightly different things. Are we truly independent of others? If so, how did we come into this world? Did we birth ourselves and train ourselves to talk and walk? How do small business owners make a profit except through their employees?
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0 # jnandez 2014-05-06 04:48
What you are saying is an idea that cannot be an absolute application to the majority. For example, say I am a 30 year old woman, one child, no husband, and my family lives in another state. I have my Bachelors in Arts, but due to the limited jobs available, I am employed as a secretary to a landscaping business. I pay rent, day care, and student loans every month and I barely have anything to save. How am I to start my own business without the help of someone who knows the market, a possible micro-loan, and assistance to take care of my child. I would have to ask for help from the community around me and it would not be possible without my dependence on others. Also, how in God's name is a woman like this going to take on a task like starting a business, when she is preoccupied trying to pay her debt and take care of a child? If she were to find some kind of opportunity to do so, it would be rare and extremely difficult.
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0 # tiamari 2014-05-07 00:33
I think that a lot of people would like to have the opportunity to start a small business. However, many do not have access or means to those opportunities. Economic hardships or being a single parent, for example,prevent people from having access to opportunities to start a small business.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-06 05:50
Quoting Uriel Gonzalez:
if we simply stop being lazy and content with where we are at and start a business.
Virtually everyone (not absolutely everyone, but nearly everyone) who is unemployed isn't unemployed because they're lazy. It's because capitalist enterprise is based upon exploiting labor and laying people off is part of that strategy. Even if everyone were to start a business, where would the employees for those businesses come from if everyone was starting a business?
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0 # Marcos1 2014-05-05 03:29
Who was it that abolished slavery? Abraham Lincoln? Slaves themselves? Why is this question important? I think that change must come from the inside. That's not to say that the people on the "outside" won't do anything about it. The CEO of Chipotle, who's company is worth 12 billion dollars, doesn't play by the same rules as McDonalds and other fast food kings. He uses free-ranged food that isn't modified in any way. He invest on the quality of the food he sells instead of advertising. This is important because if he is able to divert in such bureaucracies than maybe others within this greater system that we are speaking about can also divert. Society is ever evolving and we must do what we can to create a fairer environment for everyone but if cross certain lines we will be just as bad if not worse.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 16:08
Quoting Marcos1:
The CEO of Chipotle, who's company is worth 12 billion dollars, doesn't play by the same rules as McDonalds and other fast food kings. He uses free-ranged food that isn't modified in any way. He invest on the quality of the food he sells instead of advertising.
It's good that the food is better quality at Chipotle's, but he's (I thought it was two women who started this company) operating within the same capitalist system. It's market differentiation and the rising demand for better food, not the solution. The existing sys depends upon keeping some peo in the world impoverished and starving. Free range food isn't solving that problem. Why should one company be worth $12 billion when half the world's living on less than $2/day? Why can't food and water be made public property and shared based on social need? Why should some few profiteer on the necessities of life?
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0 # Uriel Gonzalez 2014-05-05 03:36
I agree that the system that currently exists teaches people to be materialistic and want commodities. The actions and thoughts of people do not usually originate from one, but is rather influenced by what we see in media and from our surroundings . We are taught through television to want things that value of the time. Nevertheless, the system we have now, one that teaches people to be materialistic is a good thing to a certain degree. It is good to be ambitious and want things for oneself as it influences people to want bigger and better. It is no surprise why most entrepreneurs do well in life because they think outside the box and do not like to be comfortable in the situation they are in. People should strive to want more for themselves and not depend so much on government to help them but at the same time help others once they have helped themselves and their family members.
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0 # Marcos1 2014-05-05 03:54
This reminds me of the "Pareto principle" or the 80-20 rule that states that 80% of effects comes from 20% of the causes. I used to work at bank of America, marketing, and this definitely seemed to be true. We have all seen it, there are those people who take pride in putting in work and those who just coast by. Some people really put in effort to do as little work possible. It really amazes me. I'm not saying being materialistic is a good thing, because at the end of the day what matters is people. What I am saying is that it wouldn't be fair for me to carry someone else's weight (if they can carry their own weight yet choose not too). Carrying a persons weight when they are not able to, this I perceive as honorable.
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0 # Jane Doe 2014-05-05 06:30
I agree, the system that exists in the U.S. does teach us at a young age that the material is very important. We connect success to being wealthy and having the material things (cars, homes, businesses, etc. We are taught this is what the American dream is, the material. Media is a huge part of this with shows like MTV Cribs showing the public that having money and cars can get you happiness, that achieving "the American Dream" brings you happiness.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 15:58
Quoting Uriel Gonzalez:
the system we have now, one that teaches people to be materialistic is a good thing to a certain degree. It is good to be ambitious and want things for oneself as it influences people to want bigger and better.

Would you agree that wanting "bigger and better" can be seen and implemented in radically different ways? If you want bigger and better only for yourself, this means that you are taking away from others since the pie that's being divided up is finite in size. Privilege, for ex., is obtainable at the expense and relative to others. If, on the other hand, one wants the best for the community & the world, then contributing to that is radically different. Why can't peo use their creativity and energy on behalf of not just themselves but humanity & the planet? Most wd do this if given a chance. Capitalism's based on exploitation & not primarily on merit. The most inventive aren't usually the beneficiaries. It's usually the ones w/ capital.
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0 # tiamari 2014-05-07 00:45
The media promotes the message of material wealth. The message of material wealth and opulence are visible in different forms of media such as reality shows and game shows.
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0 # Bbalty 2014-05-05 04:54
Dr. Loo makes an extremely valid argument in his article. I also drew from a point he made in class a few weeks ago. When he mentioned that It is common belief that individuals in higher positions whose jobs affect the greater society should receive more money. For instance, CEOs and politicians are considered by many to be more "crucial" to our society. Therefore, when elected officials are hired or chosen, their high amount of pay is determined by society’s interpretation of their “value”. Nevertheless, society fails to realize that they might be entering office for personal gains and selfish reasons. So although these officials might act in selfish ways by accepting or demanding large amounts of money, the public justifies it because they falsely believe that they will benefit from the politicians. In the public’s mind, these officials deserve the money.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 15:53
Quoting Bbalty:
by accepting or demanding large amounts of money, the public justifies it because they falsely believe that they will benefit from the politicians. In the public’s mind, these officials deserve the money.
The public as a whole doesn't have a real good sense of how much the plutocracy is paying itself. How many people know that the highest paid hedge fund manager last year was paid half a BILLION dollars? And that's not a typo, Billion with a B. Also, when university presidents and CEO's et al say that they deserve their high pay because their pay must be high to attract the best peo, most Americans don't see thru this and recognize the underlying contradiction in that statement, which is the point of the article, as you note.
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0 # WOW 2014-05-05 04:58
We have been conditioned to accept what is. We are told that there is equal opportunity for all when in fact that is not the case. All people in society need to see the truth behind the facade the government has painted. Things are not equal and fair. There is discrimination on many levels. There has been an increasing unequal distribution of wealth. People need to take notice and stand up for this division.
The people in office are connected to the same social groups. They all “play” by the same rules. They follow the norms of those who came before them. There is very little change from one year to the next. They are paid off by big business to make rules and regulations in their favor.
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0 # SecretSeaBridges 2014-05-05 05:15
The government wants us to believe that they put the people should be put"first",but then instills in that people are naturally selfish for having their own beliefs and desires to be materialistic. The ones who control us are the ones who have the money. The reality of life is that money is life! The government will always be in control of the people.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 15:49
If the gov't will always be in control of the people, then why have there been revolutions throughout history?
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0 # mdAngel 2014-05-05 05:20
The Government uses technology to keep individuals in line and occupied. Facebook, twitter, smart phones etc, seems like it was set up by the government to keep individuals from paying attention to whats important. They want us to believe we need the newest gadgets and be in with whats trending.
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0 # Michael O. 2014-05-07 06:13
Not only are these forms of social media used/ important in distracting us from the important things that are going on around us but I believe they are used by government to better understand us and thus control and manipulate us. With the fact that all of our phone calls, e-mail, text messages, etc. are monitored by governent in an attempt to 'maintain national security and prevent terrorism' in mind, Big Brother has first hand access to our conversations/t houghts (at even the smallest level of communities) and thus have a prime strategic position to create a plan of action to continue to confuse us. It almost makes me think that in order to make any headway in promoting the truth and rallying supporters for this overthrow of our capitalist paradigm is to NOT use conventional communicative pathways.
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0 # Viceless 2014-05-05 05:21
While what you are saying about paying government officials massive amounts and then being surprised is true, another aspect is that people don't know how to make the necessary changes or are afraid of the uncertainty surrounding it. I don't think that one person if asked would say that politics are not corrupt but if you talk about the possibility of real change and the uncertainty that surrounds it, then we as human beings become uneasy at the thought. We become content with the corruption because it is familiar to us and is therefore "safe".
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 15:48
Quoting Viceless:
if you talk about the possibility of real change and the uncertainty that surrounds it, then we as human beings become uneasy at the thought. We become content with the corruption because it is familiar to us and is therefore "safe".
You want to distinguish between different segments of the people. While some peo certainly fear anything different - and are by the way, also the SAME peo who aren't aware and aren't keeping up with the fact that the economy and gov't are radically changing (e.g., the 4th amendment, the kill list, indefinite and preventive detention, global warming catastrophe...) - and reluctant to seek change, this is only a portion of the population. Blanket statements about everyone based on the least aware and most fearful section of the peo, who are the least influential in terms of leading others in society, is not going to give you the best understanding of what's going on.
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0 # mdAngel 2014-05-05 05:22
In addition to the last comment; government tells us what they want us to hear. Everywhere you look ppl are on their phones checking their status and government allows this because they are good tools for watching the public. We allow them to see our daily lives.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 16:03
Quoting mdAngel:
We allow them to see our daily lives.
The reason that the gov't is lying about what they're doing is precisely because if they told the peo the truth they know what the peo would do in response. The gov't would have a lot of unrest.
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0 # Princess Peach 2014-05-05 05:23
I think that a good portion of the American public is self-centered whether they like to admit it or not. The way in which public officials persuade the American public to donate money to campaigns confirms the statement that everyone is selfish. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” also validates the statement that everyone is selfish because people are “self-seeking after material rewards and if you allow selfishness to govern the economy and the society, then you get the best society” (Loo). Society should not be driven by material processions, but the media is a factor that makes it to be this way. The media often displays images of political elites, which makes Americans selfish and strive for material processions.
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0 # jnandez 2014-05-08 06:03
Loo is saying that people are actually NOT inherently selfish in human nature. Adam Smith's "invisible hand" was a strategy to allow for an accumulation of wealth among elites. He did not think of this concept because he had an understanding of human nature, because in fact, anyone who studies humans, would know that humans are NOT selfish in human nature. Our species, Homo Sapiens, only exists today because we were able to live cooperatively amongst each other to increase survival. Only 10,000 years ago, with the invention of agriculture, was there an accumulation of food. Only after this time did people begin to accumulate resources and possible wealth. So for the majority of our specie's existence, selfishness and wealth accumulation did NOT exist. The fact that we have existed for this long proves that we are not selfish in human nature. If we were, humans would have died out long ago.
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0 # Jane Doe 2014-05-05 06:22
Government does use persuasion and coercion to get what they want without having to use necessary force. Although persuading someone and coercing lies all in the same, it is practically forcing someone without using actual force to agree with their views. In this case the governments'. People are very gullible and just take everything lightly without really thinking it thoroughly. If the government says they are going to do something (pass a law for example) the public usually conforms with the results. If it was not convenient for the law to pass the people will eat up the government's explanations to why it was not beneficial to the U.S.and conform to it. The government is really good at what they do, that is why they are in the positions they are in.
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0 # Guy 2014-05-05 06:24
I think the media plays a big role in persuading the people into thinking who are the ones with the most power. We see a lot of unjustified beatings, shootings, and abuse on the news by police officers that are supposedly put there to protect citizens. Many cases are dismissed or the judges are in favor of the police officer's behaviors. What this shows us is to not do anything at all even though we are not doing anything wrong or illegal. It tells us who's in charge and to do what they say or else we get a beat down for no reason and still be our fault. When an offical does something wrong it is portrayed by the media as a scandal rather than a criminal activity a regular person would have to face.
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0 # Sherlock 2014-05-05 06:35
I understand what you are saying when you say that people imbibe from those surrounding them, because I do that a lot. However, not everyone thinks that way, so for you to say that that is how everyone thinks would not be true. You obviously, do not do so, so you would have to believe that others think for themselves as well. Although most of my opinions come from my parents I have a lot of views that differ from them as well. For instance, one parent is a Republican and one is a Libertarian. What am I? That does not matter, but it is neither of those. This is the same for other matters as well. Although our religion is the same, there are certain beliefs that we differ vastly in.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-05 16:02
Quoting Sherlock:
However, not everyone thinks that way, so for you to say that that is how everyone thinks would not be true. You obviously, do not do so, so you would have to believe that others think for themselves as well.
I'm not sure which part you are referring to when you say that I'm saying everyone thinks a certain way. I'm definitely not saying that it's uniform and monolithic because you're right that there are differences out there. There's a difference between saying that there is a majority view and saying that there is a view that absolutely agrees with. The latter would be wrong to say.
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0 # flr9d 2014-05-05 06:36
After reading this article it reminded me of last week when I had to do jury duty. They played a video stating the whole process of how it works. The whole video was basically persuading the audience on how great it is to be a jury. The point of the video was to convince you to want to take but of these great process because we as Americans have the right to a fair trail by the people.
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0 # menava 2014-05-05 06:49
There are differently mixed messages when it comes to how the government tells us to be. Americans are all about selfishness it's what makes us the richest and yet, one of the most exploitable nations towards others. I'm one of those people who tends to go along with the status quo. I didn't really question too much. I was taught by immigrant parents that we were lucky to be in America because of all the opportunity; life here is better than elsewhere. Over here you can put your economic goals first and trust that the government isn't going to harm you. Over here you can climb the corporate ladder and be the one delegating. Sure beats being on the bottom! But that's the thing, those messages are all wrong. At least in other countries the messages aren't so shady. You know that the people in power are selfish and not committed to the general good.
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0 # soad 2014-05-05 06:51
The government says they care about so many different aspects of the world- the environment, the people living in their country, etc. However this theory on "human nature" does contradict everything the government says. It's as if the government would do anything to make themselves look better, by saying that they 'care' about things other than themselves. We as citizens of the United States follow rules that have been taught to us by authoritative figures. The government is looking for our best interest, but we as an individual are not dictating that for ourselves.
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0 # MarieB 2014-05-05 06:52
About the first half of the article: Economic surplus can either be kept or shared, and when one person has much while the majority has little, the wealthy person can either hide their wealth or share it. Those who are wealthy usually wish to stay rich, and rightfully so, depending on how they acquired their wealth. The history on slave ownership is interesting because the slaves were only kept submissive because they were treated as inferior, and the owners believed the slaves relied on them while all in all, it was a very symbiotic relationship. In another cultural class, we watched an experiment documentary that demonstrated how people become submissive when they are labeled as inferior. This article lines up with it well in that the "dominant ideas" are accepted without question much like slavery centuries ago, no matter how selfish.
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-05-05 06:55
I do believe that Marx had a point in that society is made to believe that popular belief is based on what society believes as a whole. When in reality "popular belief" is based on the belief of those in power. Those in power convince/persua de us to believe that what we believe is what WE believe, when in reality we believe what THEY believe. This is how our "democracy" works.
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0 # Slovebee 2014-05-05 07:06
The different social classes, I think, have their own opinion on the government. And like this article says, if you're in the dominant group whose opinion is the dominant one then you see nothing wrong with what's going on. However, I think if you're in one of the lower classes it's hard to to think otherwise. It's easier to believe that the government is selfish and that their out to get them because the way things have turned out for them exemplify that.
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0 # Monique V. 2014-05-07 03:00
The ruling class puts forth dominate ideas and the public runs with it because they simply don't know any different. People that do know different may choose not to question the status quo, because like you state in your essay, they will be viwed as different. In actuality, if we are to ever see change and a break from these dominant ideas, society needs come together and continue to question things. Otherwise we may never truly accomplish change.
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0 # Daniel Gomezz 2014-05-07 19:57
I feel that Sociology itself undermines quick responses of describing human behavior as "human nature". As Gail Dines has stated on the patriarchal society we live in, " What we do know is that human nature — men’s and women’s — is widely variable and responsive to social structures and institutions. We can build structures to promote equality and foster egalitarianism — the goal of feminism and other liberatory movements — or we can continue to bolster and reward this toxic masculinity.". As sociology students and critical thinkers in general, we should be applying what Loo calls "system-logic" or the notion that systems primarily determine the behavioral outcomes of the individual at all times, especially with the logic imposed on business owners and politicians. These are the people who currently rule the world, and implying that they are the way they are because of human nature is for layman. continue...
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0 # Daniel Gomezz 2014-05-07 19:59
I also suggest reading Ardea Skybreak's "Of Primeval Steps and Future Leaps" or its predecessor of a dialectical materialist view of the history of the emergence of the oppression of women, private property, and the state (government) (Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State). This is what Dr. Loo is drawing upon historically. Even white privilege and white male dominance comes from (especially) the birth of American society, and how those in power hope to continue those social patterns.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-10 18:38
I do not believe the government is deliberately saying "hey everyone is selfish, so are we so keep us in office." They are using propaganda to make it seem like they are a united force that looks out for the best government they can offer to society that will not be driven by selfish hierarchies. With that being said, they are doing just the opposite. Capitalism is working in their favor just like it should be. People are fighting over material goods, and keeping them in power because of this. We are currently living in a world where we spend a lot more time utilizing technology around us then we do having one on one conversations. This is creating a lack of consciousness because people have better things to do like text away or snapchat, than to wake up and see how exploited we are becoming. We are walking commodities for these companies. We pay them a lot of money to advertise for free for them. The social structures around us are falling, and no one is putting their phone downs to
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-10 18:48
There's a difference between exposing the essence of the doctrine of those who rule and what they are saying in their rhetoric. Do we all have to put our phones down to engage in change? Can't we use our phones in part towards that goal? :roll:
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-12 23:52
Im sure that using our phones as weapons to spread the word of revolution would be great, but we have been how that has not worked in the past. Example, everything that happened a while back with Egypt. It started out great, and people were banding together thanks to technology, but then it stopped. People here do not feel like they are being deprived of anything, so what would be there incentive (in their minds that do not yet comprehend) to use it for good?
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0 # Christine Lopez 2014-05-11 01:18
In past societies, each person played an important role; there was not one role more important than the other so their society was able to function properly. It is different now because not everyone is thriving for the same goals. The government uses persuasion and coercion to exercise political power and they could be in control. I do not agree that everyone is selfish because there are people out there who help and lend a hand when there is someone in need and they do not expect to receive anything in return.
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0 # deltoro 2014-05-11 02:48
Soc 302. “Persuasion is the means by which those in authority convince others who are not in authoritative positions to comply with authorities’ wishes. Another way of putting this is that governments use ideas to convince others that their use of authority is legitimate.”
The government brainwashes us by taking pictures that show how they use their powers. We often think that when police use their power on civilians it is because the civilians are not following the norms. The police feel strong and mighty about their power when they arrest someone because they represent the law. Governments persuade us that police are not using coercion, they are just doing their job by enforcing the law. But at the same time, people are afraid of calling, asking, or have anything to do with the police.
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0 # aplopez 2014-05-12 02:06
Yes, its true that the the Government uses these two particular essentials; persuasion and coercion. In other terms, they will do whatever its takes to protect this country. Many say that all the government does with these two tools is manipulate the citizens and making them believe a certain way. Ask yourself this question, what if we CAN breath in space but the government just tells us we CANT so we don't try to leave? I mean its just a thought. The government became more alert in any international activity (imports/export s) after the 9/11 attack. However, many people also have their opinion about the government. It depends on the country that a person is in. Society is a whole and when a group of people believe a certain way, many people will convert to what others believe. Overall, government wants to have control of society; they want to have order, with no panic or disruption.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-05-24 07:09
It is just like the question that was brought up in class, “why do human beings follow social norms?” Many of my classmates including myself could not find an exact answer to this question. We are taught that it is common sense to follow norms, we were never taught as to why we have social norms and why we (public) obey these rules without any objection. Certainly, we do take things for granted, never questioning why things exist or why these things have been established. If college students cannot determine an answer to this question, imagine the rest of the individuals who are not taking sociology classes that were never taught how to seek from these answers.
continue...
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-05-24 07:10
One major aspect of capitalism is the need to maximize profit, which could not be such a bad thing to some extent. Marx wrote about the first capitalism that started in England, arguing that maxing profit was not seen as unholy by the eyes of god. Marx wrote that there was nothing wrong from desiring more in life and striving to earn more income to have a better living; however, the way someone wants to obtain profit is the thing that matters the most. Treating the working class badly and unjust would be considered unjust and unholy than trying to earn more income. It is the methods one uses that distinguishes those individuals from the tainted ones.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-06-03 01:17
It is just like the question that was brought up in class, “why do human beings follow social norms?” Many of my classmates including myself could not find an exact answer to this question. We are taught that it is common sense to follow norms, we were never taught to why we have social norms and why we (public) obey these rules without any objection. Certainly, we do take things for granted, never questioning why things exist or why these things have been established. If students who are taking sociology classes cannot give an answer to this question, imagine the rest of the public, how could they answer a question that they do not have an answer to that was never taught to them?
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0 # Heng Chang 2014-06-09 06:54
As humans, when we try to get other people to do what we want them, we often try and to convince them and to persuade them the good to what we want them to do. We cover up the flaws that we have and the horrible things that we've done because we are scared that it will ruin our reputations. It goes the same with the government. The government wants to earn our trust and therefore all the scandals and behind the scene works are kept hidden, and they only bring out the accolade and goods that they think they've done. This ties in with human beings being greedy and selfish. We pretend all the time that we care and that we will make a difference but we don't once we got what we wanted. We all know that the right answer to the question" if you won a lottery what will you do", which is to donate to charity. But in reality, how many of us will actually do that once we get the money? As Americans, sometimes we think too much about ourselves and not be modest and humble.
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0 # Heng Chang 2014-06-09 18:54
We hear and see only what the government wants us to hear and see. The government brings out what we want to know and hear and persuades us that it is the right thing. As "the people", we think that everything we are living under, such as laws, and the things that the government is doing is what's "supposed" to be done. However we do not know what really going on inside the White House, and the things that the government hide from us because if we do, we won't cooperate with the government. A lot of non-Americans think that coming to America means freedom and democracy, but little do they know that there is no such thing as freedom. Yes we do have freedom of speech, but a lot of our actions are limited because of the government. People won't listen to what you have to say unless you are someone that's of some "name" and we live under the bourgeois and whoever go against them will be considered breaking the norm or rules.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12