How has Market Liberalism shaped our culture and society? Do you think the principles of the free market have led to a better society or do its Marxist critics make valid arguments? Market Liberalism is a concept developed by Capitalists that the market should be free. We, as individuals, should buy and sell what we want and have plenty of choice; our wages, taxes and prices of objects are not under any government control (laissez-faire). This is in opposition to the communist approach of how the market should be structured.
The term ‘Culture’ has many different meanings and interpretations; the view of Matthew Arnold and F.R Leavis among others is an elitist perspective that only things that have ‘stood the test of time’ is real culture, for example fine art. However this view is a minority. Raymond Williams believes that ‘culture is ordinary’ and includes everything in day to day life. Society is a group of people who live under the same economic/social structure, while society is just the people; culture is broader, including the products of society along with the people who make the products such as buildings and also the practises of these people.
In our society people over 18 have the freedom to democratically vote for which political party we have in power. The current political party in power is the (New) Labour government which have been described as a ‘third way’ party. This means they represent a centrist compromise between the two radical ideas of market liberalism and social democracy. By having this centrist influence our society receives free health care (NHS), public/emergency services and education among other government directed provisions but also allows for privatisation, entrepreneurs and freedom in what we consume in the competitive marketplace.
Marxists critics of Market Liberalism who are in favour of an egalitarian society include T Adorno, H Marcuse and M Horkheimer (From the Frankfurt School). They believe that market liberalism makes us passive recipients to the hegemonic structure. They think that we only gain an illusion of liberation when really we are repressed to what those in power want us to think and buy. A weakness of what Marxists favour, command economics (state ownership of all resources) is that overall citizens have a lower quality of life because the standard of the goods produced are poor.
Most communist societies now favour at least some elements of the mixed economy however still maintain supplying free basic human needs. A market liberalist would ignore the fact that some people do not benefit from a competitive society, market economies generally have a higher average income but there is a big gap between the rich and the poor. They may claim that the world is competitive and to get anywhere we have to better ourselves to get to the top. In a communist society it is hard to force everyone to input the same amount of effort. In a market liberal society if people want to have power and money then they have to put in effort, there is a big motive.
Market Liberalism has managed to shape what we buy and what we value. For example because the government cannot monitor prices, companies become competitive so that we choose to buy a certain product from them. If I decided to buy a cultural product for example a new mobile phone then I would undoubtedly see what deals all phone companies offered me, and then go for the one with the cheapest price or best package.
This is good for the consumer as we get the lowest possible price due to the competition between companies vying for our business; however it is bad for them as they need a certain amount of income to survive but they will not receive our custom if there is someone offering it cheaper, causing them to lose business. This could cause a monopoly effect which would lead to free market failure. Microsoft is an example of a company who gained monopoly over the computing operating systems market. Many market liberalists support the idea of globalisation; they wouldn’t be against the idea of a global monopoly.
I personally believe that a mixed economy is the best way to structure our market because I think it is important that we have some degree of freedom in what we buy but also that the government should help to provide basic human needs through taxation. Looking at UK politics we can see that many parties are in favour of the free market and capitalistic approach, it didn’t always stand like this with the labour party being far more left-wing than it is now. The conservative party has always stood out on the right however through time has made a slight movement towards the centre, this means they accept that a free market is an important part of society however complete capitalism is restricting.