Compare/contrast the ideas in Marx's idea of Conflict Theory with those in the "Problem of Capitalism"  by Michael Yaziji.  Are there any similarities or are there major differences?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both Marx and Professor Yaziji see intrinsic problems with capitalism.  In Marx's analysis of conflict theory and Yaziji's diagnoses of capitalism in the modern setting, there are challenges between those who have power and those who don't.  This is the essence of Marx's conflict theory:"As far as I am concerned, to me belong neither the merit of discovering the existence of classes in modern society, not the merit of the discovery of their mutual struggle.." The "struggle" for Marx is a class one, predicated upon economic control of the means of production. Professor Yaziji views capitalism in a similar frame of reference:

No other economic system has brought so many people out of poverty and yet embedded in the design of today's corporations are a number of externalities leading to calamitous environmental collapse, rapacious natural resource depletion, growing disparities in wealth and incomes, as well as increasing social displacement and insecurity.

Yaziji's analysis of capitalism is rooted in the idea that capitalism carries with it a struggle where "social displacement and insecurity" are evident. The predatory economic condition intrinsic to capitalism is seen in both thinkers.

The orientation of time is where a significant difference lies. Marx saw capitalism as a rigid reality.  He saw it as inflexible.  Marx never quite grasped the pliability and malleability of capitalism.  Viewing it in a very binary manner, Marx never saw the possibility that more people could be "brought out of poverty" by capitalism.  Marx never acknowledged the idea that capitalism could be modified with the advent of unions, government regulation, and greater enfranchisement. Rather, he saw the conflict theory within capitalism as one that rigidly maintained the 1% as dominant over the remaining 99%. He never quite acknowledged that its durability existed in how flexible it could be.  This rigid notion is seen in Marx's analysis of how the stages of development are inevitable, and not subject to much in way of human action:"...That Class Struggle leads necessarily to the dictatorship of the proletariat and that the dictatorship itself is only a transitional stage leading to the abolition of classes and to classless society."  The halting language and binary approach that Marx took to capitalism is distinct.

Given how Professsor Yaziji is writing in a modern context, he is able to recognize fully that capitalism is flexible and can be modified to include more voices.  As he suggests, greater enfranchisement is evident in capitalism.  His article sees a more modern version of capitalism and seeks to modify this structure, more than anything else.  His language towards capitalism is more modern than anything Marx could have envisioned:

We need a new approach to capturing the upside of capitalism, in all its dynamism while eliminating its disastrous downsides. I believe such a solution will come through internalizing interests rather than trying to internalize costs.  By meaningfully broadening ownership and board membership–and thereby broadening the goals of the firm to include the interests of employees, local community representatives, customers, and individuals responsible for environmental protection, we will have a more efficient and effective means of avoiding classic externalities of firms. 

Yaziji's desire of "capturing the upside" of capitalism is one distinct difference between he and Marx's dogmatic approach in conflict theory.

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