Glengarry Glen Ross - the Pitfalls of Capitalism

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Glengarry Glen Ross – The Pitfalls of Capitalism

Adam Smith states in his article, The Wealth of the Nations, that humans naturally act with self-interest. This was certainly the case with the characters in the film Glengarry Glenn Ross. As demonstrated in the film, individualistic attitudes do not always create the well-oiled, cooperative, capitalistic machine described by Smith. In addition to acting completely in self-interest, the characters were possessed with what Alexis De Tocqueville calls the “restlessness of Americans amidst prosperity.” It was not the promise of knowledge, salvation or enlightenment that drove them, but opportunity, profit and social mobility. Glengarry Glen Ross shows that individualism amongst a capitalist system that encourages competition and measures self-worth by income, creates more of a “rat race” than “a land of opportunity.”

What sets the money-oriented tone of the film is Blake’s speech. In it, he promises as the first prize of the sales contest, a Cadillac El Dorado. Why does this appeal to these men? More than being a well-made car, it is a status symbol. Blake compares his own BMW, to Dave Moss’ Hyundai. Only a materialistic mindset would translate this into superiority. However, it is interesting to note that although he possesses more than the others, he seems no happier, no more relaxed. He is infiltrated with the American “restless spirit.” It is clear from his manner and words that he will not be satisfied with having enough, or even more than enough. He, along with most Americans, will always think in terms of what they do not have. Third prize for the contest was being fired. The purpose of this was to threaten the workers’ means of sustenance in order to increase productivity. Increased productivity, means increased profits for the owners of the company. The owners received 90% of all the sales. This is the mode of operation in capitalist society Karl Marx would call exploitation. Adam Smith might say that...
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