Analysis of the American Dream
The American Dream is a term that defines the aspiration of the American citizens. In a way, it defines the epitome of success and the pursuit of happiness for the average person under ideal conditions (Schnell 21). The ability to succeed without any artificial barriers, own a home and a car based on hard work has become a dream to many people across the world. The Constitutional framers believed in a society whose values were diametrically opposed to those of other parts of the world, and especially Europe, where bourgeoisie system was thriving. They envisioned a society devoid of class distinction, where everyone had the same opportunity to succeed. Indeed, the concept of the America Dream found its way in other parts of the world, with Russian adopting a similar model. Britain, under the reigns of Margaret Thatcher espoused policies aimed at increasing home ownership, in a method akin to the American way of life. There are also inherent malpractices as people strive to realize their dreams (Schnell 152). For instance, the demand for housing units, which saw uncontrolled lending, underpinned the economic turmoil of 2008/09 (Swartz 69).Despite the hiccup in the push to realize the American Dream, many people continue to embrace consciously or otherwise, the vision. Social theorists have developed frameworks in addressing the problems in society. Since the American Dream had significant influence in America and beyond, this paper will try to determine whom among Karl Max, Durkheim, and Max Weber, in their theories, makes sense of this aphorism.
The American Dream envisages a person owning a home, a car, and some social security (Schnell 21). As said above, the ideology behind the system prevails, not only in America, but also in many parts of the world. Those who do not achieve their objectives in their home country strive to find a way of going to America as immigrants to pursue their dreams. Immigrants returning to their home countries have broadcast the success of the American Dream. To understand the case of the American Dream, this paper adopts two diametrically different avenues that people use to achieve success. In the normal way of life, people work to earn their living. In this case, people have to look for meaningful employment opportunities and negotiate their wages. To enhance ones’ potential of success, people can acquire a good education to increase the prospects of getting a well-paying job. Moreover, even without a basic education, a person who embraces hard work, prudence, and self-control can realize his or her dreams. The second aspect in the realization of ones’ dreams is the use of uncivilized methods such as fraud and stealing or oppression of workers. It is true that many people have acquired their wealth in this manner. Although it is an unacceptable means of making it in life, it nonetheless has seen many people overcome poverty and enjoy unparalleled prosperity. Max Weber and Karl Max theories can better explain the first assumption. However, I believe that Durkheim combines the two, thus providing a complete picture of how people use various ways in achieving their dreams.
Weber provided an indelible connection between Calvinism and the advent of the capitalistic state. Just like the American President Benjamin Franklin, Weber advocated for hard work, parsimony, and self-control for a person to succeed and enjoy wealth (Miller XIV). Indeed, the American Dream is build on these foundations. Weber would make people believe that success only came through hard work, thriftiness and believe in God (Weber 118). Moreover, Weber argued that a strong work ethic was critical in quelling the anxieties that had cropped among the Protestants. During this time and even today, many people try to create a connection between prosperity and Godly blessings (Weber 102).However, the problem of Weber in the context of the American Dream is the weakness to address the idea of corporate greed or uncivilized methods, as some of the ways that people have used over the years to achieve success. Although in the recent past many quick-rich schemes have cropped up, Weberian theory does not envision such scenarios.
On the other hand, Karl Max focused more on labor as a factor of production in his theory. Karl Max viewed labor as the most important component in the production of goods and services. In his submission, Max argued that the ruling class (bourgeoisie) employed all manner of tricks to prevent the working class (proletariat) from moving up the social ladder. He theorized that people had to work hard to move up the social ladder. However, the little pay often confined the masses to abject poverty, while the owner of capital continued to become wealthier. However, the problem with Karl Max is that he looked at the situation during his era (Morrison 415). Nowadays labor is more organized and can articulate its demands through unions. In addition, strong government institutions and courts articulate issues that hinder labor from achieving its potential. Finally, Karl Max did not envision an era of free press. Free press is a critical component in dealing with evils or excesses of corporate entities. In the recent past, the media have played a critical role in exposing malpractices and exploitation of workers. When these come to the limelight, such issues are picked and addressed by relevant bodies. For instance, labor laws in most countries cushion workers against exploitation by the owners of capital.
Durkheim had essentially different view on the social order, unlike Max Weber and Karl, Max. However, he believed in the division of labor, just as Karl Max. Durkheim argued that people needed to interact in order to benefit from each other. In the concept of the American Dream, people will need each other because of the mutual benefit. Workers need money to meet their needs, while companies require workers in the production of good and services needed by consumers. Durkheim presumed that, in a small organization, people were more integrated, more responsible, and worked hard to meet the expectations of each other (Morrison 212). However, Durkheim theorized that the idea of collective conscience diminished as organizations grew big. As organizations grow, people begin to do those things that they are best qualified to perform. Therefore, commonality based on shared values is no longer present within a given group as organizations grow in size. Durkheim theorized that complexity brought about by specialization forced people to become socially integrated because of interdependence, but became less concerned about one another. Durkheim came up with the concept of “anomie” to explain the confusion between social order and morality in society (Morrison 414). In doing so, Durkheim believed that the lack of clear social norms was a breeding ground for evil to flourish in societies.
During times of social transformation, people can experience alienation from a certain group in which they belong. Probably this could be related to some extent with the alienation of labor put forward by Karl Max. When this condition sets in, people start pulling in different directions or deviate from normal values. In the context of the American Dream, a person would put less effort in their work because of social order or lack of incentive within a group. If people cannot achieve what they desire in the normal channels, they result to uncouth methods such as fraud and stealing. The anomie doctrine, though constrained on the inequality in the achievement of socio-economic emancipation can be relied upon to give a clue on why people engage in malpractices to achieve, their dreams (Choo and Tan 202). Although the American Dream revolves around success, it would be improper to embrace methods that deviate from acceptable behavior in society. The values articulated by the American Dream include hard work, honesty, and not shortcuts. However, it is clear from the contemporary world that most people go to this extreme to realize their dreams. Durkheim realized this danger and came up with another concept, which he named egoism (Morrison 207). To extrapolate on this concept, Durkheim observed that weakened cohesion led to individualism. If people disregard societal values to pursue individual interests, then, harmony becomes impossible to achieve. Self-centeredness, in the long term, destroys an individual.
In summary, the American Dream is a concept of achieving success through hard work, honesty, and self-discipline. However, social-economic transformation has seen a change in the way people try to acquire wealth. Although the dream is not based on wrong methods of making money, societies today are privy to get-quick-schemes that benefit only a few people. In addition, many people have lost a lot of money by ‘investing’ in these endeavors. On the other hand, corporate greed, as was witnessed in the financial crisis, has become a norm in many countries. The idea is to achieve the American Dream irrespective of the method pursued. Based on this analysis, Durkheim theory stands out as the best in explaining this abstraction.
Choo, Freddie and Tan, Kim. The American Dream and Corporate Executive Fraud. n.d. Web 4 March 2013< www.intechopen.com/download/pdf/34146> .
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New Delhi: Pearson Education India, 2007. Print.
Morrison, Ken. Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought. New York: Sage, 2006. Print.
Schnell, Hildegard. The American Dream. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2010. Print.
Swartz, F. John. Theft of the American Dream: Understanding the Financial Crisis- and what you can do to salvage your legacy. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012. Print.
Weber, Max. The Protestant and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Penguin, 2002. Print.