Last Updated 16 Jun 2020

What Is Meant By Moral Economy?

Category Capitalism, Gender, Morals
Words 1572 (6 pages)
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Particularly since the Industrial Revolution of circa 1790-1840 women have been subordinated in all walks of life by the patriarchal thinking of capitalist society. Humphries (1995) in Sociology 4th Edition looked at the traditional image of both men and women during the first half of the 20th Century and found that men were thought of as active, rational, less emotional and less sensitive whilst women were considered to be passive, irrational, emotional, weaker and more sensitive.

During the first half of the 20th Century, women's social role was primarily within the home, showing a tendency towards domesticity, an instinctive predisposition towards nurturing and caring, being submissive towards and supportive of the male and having trivial interests. Women who had any role outside the home were generally in low paid, low skilled, part-time work. Men, however, traditionally held a social role outside the home and their position as father within the home was meticulously established and reinforced by women (Humphries, 1995 in Sociology 4th Edition). Therefore, patriarchy allows both sexes to defend the right to oppress and be oppressed.

Feminists have embraced the term "patriarchy" to refer to male supremacy in all its forms. However, the real power of patriarchy is not in physical force but in institutional control. It must be understood that Western culture has a definite male partiality based on the fact that its methods of production and its financial strategy are intrinsically capitalist (Walby, 1990).

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The opinion of men is that they are more inclined towards issues which affect the efficient operation of social institutions and therefore, masculinity has for the most part governed social, economic and political concerns because of the rudimentary tenets on which traditional philosophy has been based.

Ideological concepts of morality have governed social norms and values within capitalist society since its origin in the late 18th Century. The family, the Church and educational establishments are all organisations of socialisation. The media also plays an important part in socialisation but is, in fact, nothing more than an instrument of politically and financially powerful groups within society whose philosophical beliefs are considered superior to those who are exposed to it.

The media can shape culture to some extent and it has been claimed that the same politically and economically dominant groups control both the media and, as a result, the culture. Therefore, it would be realistic to assume that the mass media can also control capitalist society's morality in the form of philosophical infiltration by those who would profit most from a selection of ideological perceptions.

Political power is justified by social acceptance of the State's norms and values. State authority uses formal control and concepts of morality to regulate behaviour and preserve the interests of the ruling classes. State intervention in moral issues, for example, benefit payments to single mothers, validates the authority they hold and allows the State to govern those who are deemed unable to be self-disciplined and totally morally degenerate.

Karl Marx states that from the moment of birth we are part of a social unit. He realised that individuals are not the creators of society but creatures of society and to this end he reasoned that the loss of individuality originates from the advancement of capitalist society. Marx claimed that what would seem to be a rational choice is, in fact, predestined by the class in which individuals find themselves. He critically analysed the ruling elite and dominant ideology that accompanied it to show how temporary, historically condition and produced features of society become everlasting facts of human nature.

Marx's interest in the idea of "real" people, not the ideological notion of people, and their activities and interaction with each other, indicates his fixation with the economic structure of capitalism.

The Functionalist argument for the rationalisation of social inequality is based on the belief that there is a necessity for functional roles within capitalist society. Functionalist ideology provides the justification for a proletariat and the incentive for self-improvement. Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons, both world-renowned Functionalists, argue that greater inequality within society encourages more competition and, as a result, greater effectiveness.

The relationship between capitalist interests and dominant religious beliefs has been formed over several hundred years. The occupational authorities of any country with multi-religious philosophies are overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. Furthermore, business owners and individuals with high grades of expertise, in addition to commercially trained people, would also prove to be Protestant. However, religious association is not the cause of economic conditions but may be a result of them.

Gender inequalities within capitalist society have become accepted primarily because religious teachings encourage clear-cut moral standards that women ought to aspire to. Religious bodies bestowed the responsibility of guarding husband's and children's decency upon women. Sexual inequalities are not biologically established but are the unequivocal result of culturally determined gender roles within capitalist society.

Religious scriptures and Bible texts predominantly underpin society's notions of morality. Countryman (1992) in Sociology 4th Edition found that biblical teachings about sexual behaviour are principally focussed in the direction of the control of women's conduct and have their foundations based in social unease about purity and property rights over women and children.

The origins of capitalist society commenced in the 14th and 15th Centuries with Puritan and Calvinistic doctrines.

Puritan ideology was based on the notion of foregoing wealth on earth for future glory. The wealthy led exceptionally self-denying lifestyles, believing luxury to be a sin. They were particularly parsimonious and did not squander their accumulated wealth but merely reinvested it to further expand their economic activities. In so doing, they were unable to accomplish their substantial involvement in future financial expansion.

On the other hand, Calvinists openly flouted the commonly held belief that human beings are God's instruments on earth. They believed that they were required by the Almighty to toil in a vocation that sanctioned His great glory. Perhaps more importantly, another aspect of Calvinism was the concept of predestination where only certain individuals would enter Heaven after death. The Calvinists believed that who would enter Heaven was predetermined by God and nothing could be done to change it. However, this belief caused such anxiety and consternation that "the Almighty" revised His position and deemed certain qualities worth of selection for life eternal! This is proof that dominant ideology can alter to suit humankind.

Calvinist ideology therefore gave credence to Max Weber's argument that the fundamental nature of capitalism lay in this line of reasoning in that vocational devotion and material affluence became the most sought after qualities before God, which loaned substantial motivation towards economic achievement. Although Weber's theory has been criticised by many, it offers a convincing, modern, economic and social explanation which has been indirectly prejudiced by something that appears to be undeniably abstract from it; that is, a collection of spiritual principles.

The English Reformation that took place particularly between 1529 and the early 1600's resulted in a new form of control for the Church, not the elimination of that control. Monasteries either vanished or were reduced to a pile of stones and the contents of parish churches were destroyed. The newly dominant monarchy forced Acts of Parliament recognising the king as supreme head of the Church. By 1603, England's aesthetically pleasant magnificence was no longer to be found in great churches but in the marvellous palaces of the monarchy and the stately homes of the nobility. Even for the working classes, the ceremonial splendour once found in Latin Mass was now only to be found in magnificent representation of Queen Elizabeth I (Lost Treasures of Britain).

The English Church was severed from Rome in 1532-33 and Thomas Cromwell was, in 1535 given the role of the king's vicar-general. In 1538, Cromwell and his corrupt commissioners were told to demolish all well-known shrines. Relics were to be removed to the Tower of London and the shrine was ordered destroyed. At around the same time, Thomas Cromwell was also the key player in the dissolution of the monasteries (Lost Treasure of Britain).

Western definitions of religion correspond closely with a belief in one supreme being who commands us to behave in accordance with moral conventions of Christianity found in the Bible; the same moral standards that directly insubordinate women. Cahill (1996) indicates that Christian ethics may present convincing criticism of sexual and procreative activities, gender expectations and family forms, all of which dominate the female gender. Although Cahill (1996) indicates that this does not essentially suggest that gender differences are not inbuilt and grant the male gender power over the female gender in capitalist society, she adopts a feminist point of view, which tries to gain equal personal respect and equal social authority for both men and women.

Karl Marx believed that human beings endure harsh conditions, prejudices and discrimination because of religious indoctrination. The Bible gives accounts that justify inequalities of wealth and power, accounts of suffering and teach attitudes of non-resistance, for example, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" and "whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also".

In conclusion, it appears that the English Reformation, the destruction of shrines and relics and the dissolution of the monasteries all participated together to suppress the religious houses and secularise their property. However, religious teaching have not been concealed by these occurrences and it would appear that the Church Universal and the ruling classes have been working in partnership to control humankind's morality since the early 16th Century.

What Is Meant By Moral Economy? essay

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