“I thought if you worked hard enough in the United States, then it is your own fault if you are poor”. – Meg York, from an NBC poll
This quote is how the majority of Americans view people who live in poverty. Of course, this makes sense. One of the first narratives we are told about the United States is if you work hard you can achieve the American Dream. The undertone of all of this is that how good of a citizen you are, how good of a person you are is tied into how well you buy into the capitalistic system. The current narrative is the perfect foundation for Weber’s iron cage.
Weber’s theory of the Protestant Work Ethic is America, it is the story of the American Dream. I will work 10 hours a day in order to buy things I need to live and things society tells me I ought to have so that I look like a good, moral citizen. This is why 1 in 4 Americans think that poor people are lazy or something is wrong with them (Freedman, 2011). Rather than look at the system the fair majority of people attack the lower class as being bad people. I think in this way, Marx shows how the capitalist stay in charge by keeping people in the dark and attacking the wrong people.
This is an incredible video that shows the distribution of wealth in America. Citizens know the distribution is unfair, but few know to what magnitude. In some ways, this is an example of how those in control keep everyone in the dark. Or as Weber shows, create a story of how wealth and goodness falls on the individual rather than the system or the class. If the capitalist can keep the middle looking down and dehumanize those in poverty, no one will question the system. Even better, people will continue to buy into the system and give too much power to objects in order to show how good they are.
However, since the 1990’s there has been a change by some in the view of poverty. NBC conducted a poll showing that in the ’90’s, 60% of the population thought it was the fault of the individual if she was in poverty. The 60% has now dropped to 44% in 2014. Today, 46% believe that circumstances outside of a person’s control can cause someone to be in poverty. This shift in trend shows that perhaps the narrative is changing, that maybe Marx will be get is class revolution by people looking up a class rather than down. Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic is one that exemplifies the story of the working individual showing morality by acquiring objects. And unfortunately that is exactly what is happening in current America. In order for people to drop that 44% the narrative of the American Dream needs to drop. Then the beat of capitalism can end.