Robert Marks states and reiterates in his book Origins of the Modern World: Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century that the U.S. was significantly built on capitalism, and continues to thrive on consumerism, productionism and developmentalism.
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Consumerism is viewed in a number of ways. Marks refers to the revolution of using credit during the Industrial Revolution, making it easier to purchase homes and automobiles. Consumerism is the principle implemented to preserve and protect the rights of consumers. This principle became particularly popular in the 1900s, because people became concerned with their safety as consumers, and wanted to ensure they were purchasing products that were manufactured well.
The Industrial Revolution brought about drastic changes in the way that people purchased goods. The goal of many professionals in this time period was to increase overall consumption in the world, regardless of the purchaser’s economic class. The consumerism movement was widely endorsed by producers who were making goods and products in surplus and need to create a market for the goods in order to achieve a profit. The development of various industries also meant that goods could be shipped to anywhere in the world; this trend began to take off substantially near the end of the 20th century, via postal mail. Mailing goods to consumers meant that companies could reach a broader audience, improving the reputation and financial livelihood of the corporation.
Those who do not subscribe to the theory of consumerism are usually proponents of productionism. Marks refers to productionism in his book, mainly when referring to the economy of the Soviet Union. In this type of economy, the more that is produced, the better. This results in more factories and manufacturing facilities, which can provide more jobs for the people in the community. The Soviet Union adopted productionism in an attempt to benefit the country’s military. However, this method may not work so well when it comes to natural resources such as goal, iron or electricity. Marks asserts that working incessantly to produce these goods “became its own end” (172). Productionism also plays into the ego of company owners, as a business owner is more revered in the economy if he/she is able to produce a large amount of goods in a short amount of time—regardless of how this may affect the economy or the world’s natural resources in the long run.
Developmentalism, on the other hand, is a concept that has mainly been incorporated in third world countries, according to Marks. He asserts that, in many ways, developmentalism is necessary in third world countries for three reasons: the countries were previously controlled by their colonial masters, and had no economic independence, third world countries have limited industrial development and many of the citizens still live like paupers, and decolonization and revolution made for a massive population increase in third world countries (177).
Robert Marks gives the example of Chapter 6 of his book of the population increase in both Mexico and China. He shares that the populations in these countries increased dramatically between the years of 1950 and 1980. However, in both countries, the economy would have had to double in its size and efficiency just for people in the country to be able to maintain a 1950 standard of living. And, since the economy can potentially change significantly in a matter of a few days, the financial state of a country can be completely different in a span of 30 years. Through developmentalism, the people of a country can learn how to enhance their agriculture to provide more food and water for its citizens, and how to create more employment opportunities to keep the company thriving.
In order for developmentalism to be successful in a nation, the health of the people must be acknowledged and improved. In impoverished countries, the population tends to be higher, as families have several children. However, Marks states that the death rate in these countries is high, particularly since there are a number of infant deaths due to poor health care. When groups like the World Health Organization step in to develop these countries, people are more aware of how to care for themselves. As a result of this, they can do more to help their communities thrive, and learn more about the principles of industrialization for the purpose of achieving financial stability.
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