One of the most significant criticisms that capitalism has faced is that it has destroyed culture. The question being asked is whether it is right to allow this destruction of culture for economic benefits. It becomes a cause of concern if this question comes from political observers as well. Most people today support open and competitive economies.
Capitalism is seen as a Marxist term and it takes on various forms and meanings. Today, we have crony capitalism, corporate capitalism, oligarchic capitalism, and a few others. However, the critics of capitalism don’t make such distinctions when talking about the cultural destruction it has caused.
Advantages and disadvantages
The traditional culture and the old ways of living have been affected to a great extent by capitalism. The competitive market economies across the world have considerably altered traditional cultures. This is not limited to Asia, Africa, or the Polynesian Islands. History has shown us that the market economies significantly transformed traditions in the United States and Western Europe.
This is mainly done through innovation. With the advent of new technologies, industries, products, and services, the older ones become obsolete. New methods of management and division of labour alter the traditional ways of working and interacting socially. The previous roles of men and women in society and in their homes are changed. It does bring some social benefits to society as a result of economic growth.
Extreme poverty is reduced to a great extent and employment is generated. On the other hand, some traditional arts and crafts are lost. Even if they manage to survive, they are restricted to museums and cultural shows. As a result, many traditional artisans and craftsmen lose their livelihood.
The faulty ways of advertising
Another powerful criticism of capitalism is that it can go to any extent to fulfil its profit motive. Today we can see how products for children are advertised. The marketing and advertising agencies try to market directly to children, often bypassing their parents. These children can be as young as three and four years of age. Millions of dollars are spent in advertising and marketing research by companies.
Children begin to define themselves by the brands they use. Today, brands have replaced families, religion, and communities as sources of identities. Eventually, they begin to become the product that is purchased for them. This is also true to some extent in the case of teenagers and adults.
Preventing capitalism from destroying culture
It would be a mistake to say that the market economy is neutral. Markets that are left to their own devices cannot take care of everything on their own. It would also be a mistake to blame capitalism as the only cause of cultural destruction. Nothing is perfect. Just like democracy, capitalism needs a strong civil society, mediating institutions, and a rich culture for better control.
This would go a long way in controlling its negative effects. Simply blaming capitalism will not take society very far. At the same time, we also need to protect our culture. All that needs to be done today is to approach everything in a balanced manner.