Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

2. BUSINESS ORIENTATIONS IN AMERICAN SOCIETY · Francis X. Sutton, Seymour E. Harris, Carl Kaysen, and James Tobin

Praise for the achievements of American capitalism is one of the dominant themes in the literature of the business creed. Material achievements--especially the high and rising standard of living--take first place; discussion of nonmaterial achievements is subordinate in frequency of repetition throughout the body of ideology and in prominence of place in systematic expositions of it. Both the material and the nonmaterial achieve ments are explained by a rigid cause-and-effect link with the system: the achievements flow from and validate the system, and the two are inseparably bound together. The lesson for the future is clear.


Material Achievements of American Capitalism

The central achievement of the system has been the great rise in standard of living to its present level, high in comparison with the past and in comparison with other countries today. All elements of this rise are praised: the great increase in total output, the introduction of new goods, the conversion of the luxuries of yesterday's rich to the necessities of today's masses, and the great reduction of working time. But the first three are praised more frequently than the last. A typical expression of the claims of progress is provided by the Advertising Council's pamphlet, The Miracle of America:

Today the American way of life provides the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any people in the world.

This is no mere boast. It is a statement of thrilling fact--that men can raise their level of living by greater productivity if they are free to do it.

Electricity, running water, central heating, one house or apartment per family, are quite general in America. To the Russian or Chinese worker, whose whole family is often crowded in one room, with no private kitchen or bath and no central heating, our homes would represent dreams of luxury.

With only one fifteenth of the world's population and about the same proportion of the world's area and natural resources, the United States--has more than half the world's telephone, telegraph and radio networks--more than three-quarters of the world's automobiles--almost half the world's radios--and consumes more than half the world's copper and rubber, two-thirds of the silk, a quarter of the coal and nearly two-thirds of the crude oil.1

An hour's work in 1914 and 1948 would buy the following:2

-411-

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