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Sharon McCann

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Is Ms. Chang's criticism of Marx valid or a reflection of where China is in relation to capitalism?

China is a country on the verge of really breaking free. And, a good part of what they are breaking free of is the oppressive communist regime. So, is Ms. Chang's criticism of Marx valid or based on where the Chinese workers currently are in terms of their development?? As China discards communism and adopts capitalism, they are indeed facing a rough road toward a bright future. Had you asked factory workers here in the US how they viewed their jobs back in the 30s through the 50s you would have heard similar stories. You don't hear them here because here capitalism has become corrupted, crony, vulture capitalism in which there is no better life that is reachable. Social mobility is the key to hope and in China social mobility (in a communist country) is readily available. In the US social mobility is more stagnant now than it has been in a hundred years.

Perhaps it is not that Marx is "wrong" so much as it is that his framework only applies at certain points in a society's development?

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  • Oct 16 2012: This is socialism with Chinese characteristics, Deng Xiaoping said, after all, capitalism does not mean wealthy, socialism is not lagging behind.
  • Sep 30 2012: I think that Ms. Chang's criticism of Marx is very reasonable. Unlike many of the people who choose to comment she actually spent time with the workers in China - finding out about their lives.

    I have lived and worked in China for two and a half years - teaching at universities. A high proportion of my students are young women from poor families. When they return home for National Holiday or Spring Festival they may face a twenty hour train journey to get to their home town or village. In a number of cases there is a brother or sister working in a factory to support them during their time at university. I am in contact with many of these young women after they graduate. For many of them their time at university is only the beginning of a life journey that will take them away from their village and the life that their parents lived. So social mobility is a reality in China and the money they earn in the factories can be regarded as 'seed money' for improving the life of the worker and the worker's family.

    Incidentally. I think it can be demeaning for people to be identified too closely with the job that they do and the things that they make. I feel that a strong association with the thing that a worker makes suggests a lack of social mobility. In times past, the village blacksmith might have remained the village blacksmith all his life. Industrialization set him free from that and allowed him to seek other opportunities for himself and his family. But sometimes 'freedom' is a tough road to follow.

    Thank you Ms. Chang for a powerful and informative talk that is based in reality.
  • Sep 26 2012: I can hardly believe that social mobility is encouraged in China. The country is managed by the Hukou system, and this system deprives inner migrant workers from basic rights. China is not breaking free from the oppressive communist regime. Chinese people is enduring both a communist dictatorship (single-party state) and crony capitalism.
    • Sep 26 2012: You nailed it! They currently are getting the best of both, but as any one knows, it will not (cannot) last. They'll end up with the worst of both within a generation. But, right this minute for many, it looks very positive. For many there is the idea that if they work really hard they can raise themselves and their children out of poverty. Since some actually are doing well others are willing to endure much in order to achieve it for themselves.

      Check out a web site called China Smack....
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    Sep 20 2012: Marx is not the problem. Communism is. Money is.

    Marx did make a mistake. He suggested using military might to stamp out religion (that turns intelligent people into sheeple). When this was done, those in power refused to relinquish power in order to establish a Marxist society. Instead, they established a class system - the haves and the have nots, the slave owners and the slaves. Communism is the opposite of Marx's vision.

    OUr global economic model is GUARANTEED to become corrupt - to divide us and make us our own enemies. We don't need more social mobility. We need more equality.
    • Sep 20 2012: Marx relied so much on central planning that he allowed for no way for the people to indicate their changing needs, not even a form through which citizens can request a lower toothbrush production (because stores are overflowing with them) and an increased hair comb production (because there is a chronic shortage of those). I think that was THE big ticking timebomb under his whole vision.

      Capitalism has its own systemic flaw: concentration of wealth on the top (which leads to reduced overall economic output).
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        Gail . 50+

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        Sep 20 2012: I'm confused. Marx stood against what you wrote. Have you read the Communist Manifesto?

        "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations." (Marx)
        • Sep 20 2012: When Mar saw how his ideas were being implemented he said, "If this is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist." There is a difference between some of what he said and how it was implemented.
          He did believe in central planning. Oddly, it might now be able to be done better since computers can track everything moving through a society in terms of goods, as wella s ideas. Not suggesting it, but the inability to get a handle on these issues was a downfall for communist USSR
    • Sep 20 2012: good points "TED lover"
  • Sep 20 2012: My Italian Grandfather came to the United States in hopes of a better life and ultimatety died from ongoing exposure to DDT while working as a rancher. He and my grandmother lost everything trying to pay for his cancer treatments.

    My Nicaraguan father came to the U.S. and eventually found a Union job in the car industry (and did not die prematurely.) He came the U.S. in the ealry 1960's at 20 with nothing at all and retired with benefits in a comfortable Texas ranch.

    So ... the idea of social mobility is hinged grealty on work place safety. One must live long enough to have a true opportuntity to achieve social mobilty. Also, many instances of chemical exposure effect future generations. So, "social mobility" is impaired with unsafe environmental practices and work conditons, for the worker but often also for their children. I suppose the lucky ones who survive and have limited exposure to toxins may move upwardly ... My grandfahter was not amoung this group.

    My father who was lucky enough to transition from working as a day laborer to a gas station attendent to a General Motors (union) factory worker, had better "luck."

    But I am not sure that China is as "lucky" of a place in the world today.
  • Sep 19 2012: Since when is there al lot of social mobility in China (not saying there is much of it in the US)? The government provides education but only to a very limited number of students. Whether you were born to middle class parents in a city or peasant parents in rural areas, still matters a lot. Europe is the place to be for social mobility and they're neither communist nor laissez-faire capitalist.
    • Sep 19 2012: Where you are born physically always matters in social mobility. No matter how much or how little mobility a society offers. I have a great link that my computer is struggling to give me right now to a study on social mobility in China. It has increased phenomenally in the last two decades while it has ground to a halt here.

      Social mobility in Europe is extremely dependent on country. And you're correct about them being neither communist or laissez-faire, but the ones with the most social mobility are ones that are coming out of communism with some success. Much of Russia has extremely high rates of mobility but so much corruption they appear to be returning to some variation of communism....