Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Socio-economic Mobility and Growing Frustration


Socio-economic Mobility and Growing Frustration

Capitalism has always been in controversy because it has been a class-based system. The presence of three major economic classes in the system has always kept the discussions among the economists and politicians very hot - few considering it the failure of system while others suggesting it to be they beauty of it. Recently, in the protests that have been taking place in different parts of the world, one of the major issues in the international economic crisis is the growing disparity among the different economic classes.

Though the ideal form of capitalism emphasizes meritocracy, its real form has not been able to achieve that. Moreover, in the very beginning of the story, the marriage of democracy with capitalism was able to eradicate the strict lines drawn among different classes.

It was the mobility through the classes that the system was readily acceptable and even today makes it acceptable if the mobility is maintained; however, today this mobility is being hindered and making many people uncomfortable. Before, the discussion is further carried on a discussion about mobility would not be irrelevant.

Mobility, or to be more accurate, social mobility means movement through different social positions. This movement may be both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal mobility means movement from one position to another within the same social level, or moving between social groups having the same social status. On the other hand, vertical mobility means movement through social positions in a social hierarchy; suggesting movement either from a social level to a higher one or a lower one.

Mobility is basically dependent to a great extent on the factors including economic capital, cultural capital, human capital, social capital, physical capital and symbolic capital. But among them the economic capital plays a dominant role and most of the others are intertwined in it.

The factors that influence mobility (mostly vertical mobility) to a large extent may differ from one society to another. The societies which are considered as the modern and developed societies have the mobility which is largely influenced by the factors like welfare, education, public transport and professional commitments. Whereas, the societies that are not very much developed and are considered comparatively backward have mobility that is greatly influenced by the factors like religious affiliations, caste membership, or simple geography.

Therefore, it is very easy to find strict social classes and less mobility among the social classes in the tribal societies and the societies that are largely influenced by religious extremism, or even the ones that have strict caste systems. To be very accurate one can say that the rules of mobility differ in different societies.

This rule can be either based on Ascription or Achievement. Achieved status is a position that is acquired because of merit, hard work or achievement. And a system that is based on such a rule is called as an open system. Within an open system individuals can move up or down in the social rankings based on the true principle of meritocracy.

On the other hand Ascribed status is a position based on who a person is, means it depends on a person's family background, caste or financial position. Ascribed status is basically found in closed system and within a closed system the mobility becomes very difficult.

So it suggests that the mobility through different social, or to put it in more accurate term, socio-economic classes guarantees more opportunities to the people to change their status. But if the mobility is decreased there are lesser chances that people change their social status.

Therefore, it may result in increase in frustration and deprivation. The lines among the classes become more vivid and the classes are further divided on the basis of their cultural and psychological aspects. Moreover, the classes with higher social ranking have more opportunities of getting an important part in political life and therefore participate in the decision making process of their societies.

So, they most of the time get inclined towards using the power they enjoy because of their socio-economic status for the betterment of their own acquaintances and their own class, while the poor who do not have such support have to remain poor for many generations.

Modern democratic capitalist systems have to have swift mobility because unlike monarchy, feudalism or tribalism they are to be based on meritocracy. Some of them are very open systems and make sure that mobility is swift in them, yet some of them are facing some problems in that regard.

American society has been considered as the land of opportunities. It has been believed in America that any person can climb up the corporate ladder if he/she possesses the capability to do so. There have been many examples as well in that regard.

Unfortunately, that trend has diminished in American society and the mobility is becoming harder. The current protests that originated in New York have to do something with the decreasing mobility and growing frustration.

No doubt there are many reasons behind the protests, among which the international economic crisis is the main reason, but the decreasing mobility is further adding fuel to the fire. Most of the people do not understand the tough theories of economics and the different ideologies about different economic and political systems.

What they understand is their own lives. If they find themselves in a miserable condition, deprived of even their basic rights and experience their children also in the same conditions even after having the ability and going through hard work, they will be frustrated, and their frustration will further be strengthened by finding some of people having all the luxuries of life without the required ability and even without noticeable hard work.

Definitely, the modern democratic capitalist systems can not calm down the people unless they deal with the issue of mobility. They have to make sure that the mobility through different classes is smooth and it follows the concept of meritocracy.

They have to appreciate the Achieved status and develop a positive competition among the people and try to discourage Ascribed status as much as possible. Socio-economic classes must only serve as the variety in the society and must not become the root cause of discrimination of one class in the hand of the other ones; otherwise the result is frustration and demonstration.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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