In 1996, a University of Michigan study found that the most affluent 10% of American households held 61% of the country’s wealth in 1989 (Sloan, 1997). United States has more poor and more rich than any other industrialized nations (Sloan, 1997). United States and Canada are still a land of outstanding opportunities, as evidenced by their attraction for immigrants and the growing number of millionaires. However, numerous academic studies demonstrate that inequality is growing in North America. It is then safe to state that, conflict theory is a more accurate depiction of the life in North America. I will argue that the development of a free market economy only serve to exploit the poor and reinforce class inequalities. This paper will explore liberal and conflict theory as it relates to social policy. The first section of this paper will introduce conflict theory and liberal theory. This paper will then discuss about the movie The Pursuit of Happyness as it relates to liberal theory and the play Death of a Salesman as it relates to conflict theory. Finally, this paper will conclude with a discussion about the growing inequality in North America relating to conflict theory.
Liberalism is an ideology that promotes the freedom of the individual in religious, political and economic matters (MacNeill, 2012a). The early main liberal thinker was John Locke, who is well credited for the creation of liberalism that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property. Liberalism is a Western/European idea which emerged in the middle ages and became fully formed in the mid-1800s (MacNeill, 2012a). It started as a major principle and political attempt in response to the religious wars gripping Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries (MacNeill, 2012a). The first important step in liberal agitation came with the American Revolution, and liberalism fully exploded as a complete movement against the old order during the French Revolution, which helped the future development of human history(MacNeill, 2012a). These revolutions were driven by the idea of liberalism, which had emerged in the climate of the multiple tensions of the middle ages (MacNeill, 2012a). After these revolutions, new constitutions and charter of rights were drawn up. The main tenets of liberalism are firstly the Bill of Rights which established constitutional monarchy in England 1689, secondly the US Constitution in 1787 and finally the declaration of the rights of man and citizen in France 1789 (MacNeill, 2012a). There are two main liberal institutions, Democratic Government and Free Markets. Democratic government states that all citizens have the right to elect their rulers, and that government is responsible for the welfare of citizens (MacNeill, 2012a). Free markets system states that a person’s success or failure is determined by their own effort and ability (MacNeill, 2012a). It assures that the hard working and intelligent members of society will rise to the top and those who lack in ability or effort will sink to the bottom. Liberal theory also connects with the concept of the “American Dream”. James Truslow Adams defines the “American Dream” as “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. Conflict Theory
Conflict theory highlights the social, political or material inequality of a social group. There are two major social groups: a ruling class and a subject class. The ruling class derives its power from its ownership and control of the forces of production. The ruling class exploits and oppresses the subject class. As a result, there is a basic class conflict between the two social groups. Conflict theory also disagrees with historically dominant ideologies such as the liberal theory. Conflict theory states that “capitalism is not meritocratic” rather a “system of exploitation that is controlled by the wealthy class”...
References: MacNeill, Timothy, (2012a). Liberalism [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved
MacNeill, Timothy, (2012b). Market Exploitation [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved
Miller, Arthur. (1986). Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books
Sloan, J. W. (1997). The Reagan presidency, growing inequality, and the American dream. Policy Studies Journal, 25(3), 371-386. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210562814?accountid=14694
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