April 27, 2012
Throughout the 20th and 21th centuries in America there has been a tremendous increase in industrialization, the expansion of the market and enormous wealth created within the country. As the years advanced the nation heard Presidents speak on the progress the country was making industrially and how bright the future would be for capitalist America. To outside countries, America appeared to be a dominant world power with its’ growing market and workforce, upon closer look though, the displaced people of these countries would soon realize the reality of capitalism. America reached into foreign countries to apply capitalism in other markets, increase industrialization and ideally create a better lifestyle for people around the world. Through the development and progress made in other countries, no room was left for people of the lower class. An example of this dispossession of the lower class in a society due to urbanization and industrialization is India, which can be displayed in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire. In the movie the audience follows the life of a young peasant boy, Jamal, who along with his older brother try to survive in India as it transforms from a rural country to an Western capitalist one. The movie Slumdog Millionaire represents the socio-economic changes imposed upon India due to capitalism as well as the dispossession of people of the lower class.
In the beginning of the Slumdog Millionaire the living conditions for Jamal and all the other residents of his neighborhood in India are far below the average living for poverty stricken individuals in America. Furthermore, it is almost an entire city that lives in such poor conditions, as oppose to a small neighborhood. The movie gives an accurate portrayal of just how harsh it was to live in India in poverty, as seen mainly through a child’s perspective. The kids in the slums were wearing nothing more than raggedy tank tops and a pair of worn out shorts; none were even seen wearing shoes. Another example of how poor the living, and subsequently the working conditions where for these people was a scene in which the two little brothers have built an outhouse of wood on top of a walkway made of planks and they charge people a coin just to use their restroom. This is a very rich scene to include because not only does it exemplify the living conditions of the poor, it also illustrates the under developed infrastructure India possessed before urbanization. Also, is displays the types of jobs in which the poor where realistically able to obtain, such as the restroom scene or pawning their personal items in the streets. The amount of wealth in India shown early in the movie was very low, but there were still means of survival for the poor and people of the slums through their own craftiness which required no professional training.
In the past ten years or so America has taken it upon themselves to impose capitalism in other countries, and view this neoliberal idea of an open market necessary to freedom of a country. In a book by David Harvey titled, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Harvey states that “According to neoliberal theory, the sorts of measures that Bremer outlined were both necessary and sufficient for the creation of wealth and therefore for the improved well-being of the population at large. The assumption that individual freedoms are guaranteed by freedom of the market and of trade is a cardinal feature of neoliberal thinking, and it has long dominated the US stance towards the rest of the world”(pg. 7). Along with off shore production and disciplining of labor, America has increasingly influenced many foreign countries with the American capitalist market place, immense industrialization and urbanization. Socio-economic change, due to the overreaching of American capitalism in foreign markets, can be seen in Slumdog Millionaire in later scenes in the movie. In one portion of the movie Jamal meets up with his brother, whom he hasn’t seen in years, and his brother is working at a construction site for a gangster. All around the huge skyscraper that his brother is helping build are dozens of other monstrous buildings being erected as well. The brothers sit and ponder the changes that India has been affected with in recent years. Upon their reminiscing, they can see the old slums in which they use to live and comment on how crazy it was that people ever lived that way in comparison to the new developments which have become prominent all over their homeland. The industrial change is vastly different then the lifestyle the people of India were used to, and although the future looked promising to investors and the wealthy in the country, such as Jamal’s brothers’ boss, the rest of the population saw that their way and standard of living would never be the same.
Capitalism appears like an amazing progressive system to any outsider, however, there are so many inherit contradiction within the system that once a country changes to a capitalist market all the flaws become very apparent. With industrialization come more job opportunities and the demand for workers who can successfully carry out the new professional jobs along with the work in which the market requires. Often times the lower class of the society in which capitalism is being brought into does not have the proper training for the new jobs being created, nor the money to get an education required to fulfill the jobs. This leaves the lower class worse off than they were before urbanization reached their country, and are ultimately dispossessed. In the article “Where Did the Future Go?” by Randy Martin, he comments on these circumstances which the lower class are forced to endure when urbanization occurs, “As a social force, capital not only dispossesses people of old habits of life but also attaches them otherwise. Likewise, imperial occupation does not only sow chaos, but also introduces certain demands and desires that are self-ordering.” With no chance of being able to compete in the new job market they are forced to move to an area in which they can make some sort of living, often outside of the developing cities and into a rural area. This is evident in Slumdog Millionaire when the brothers are in the new skyscrapers and looking down at the old slums; those people are surrounding by buildings and a new city which they will never be able to rise socially or economically, and eventually will be dispossessed if they weren’t already. This is one of the issues with capitalism; it geographically shifts problems instead of solving them, which can be observed in the film.
Due to the increased development and urbanization in America over the past years, capitalism has become increasingly appealing to foreign nations. Along with the desire for Americans to spread capitalism, keep trade doors open and impose their way of living unto other nations the industrialization and urbanization of many foreign countries worldwide have become incredibly developed in a short amount of time. Nation leaders think capitalism will bring the country immense wealth, however they do not realize the negative effects it will have on the population. Countries in which are under-developed then become industrialized quickly do create a larger job market and an opportunity for more wealth to circulate in the market, but the majority of the population in these countries are not educated to hold the emergent jobs being created. This makes for a worse situation for the people of the lower class and they ultimately become dispossessed and will never be able to rise socially or economically. These circumstances are displayed in the movie Slumdog Millionaire in which India becomes industrialized and leaves the lower class dispossessed with little opportunity in the job force or chance for a economically successful life.
1. Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle, Danny. Tandan, Loveleen. 2008. Film.
2. Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, 2005
3. Martin, Randy. “Where Did The Future Go?” http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_5.1/martin.htm. © Logosonline 2006