Sapitalism Essay

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Capitalism is described as an economic and political system in which a country’s a trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. This form of government was dominant in the west and took off after the fall of feudalism, which was wiped out by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Capitalism, sometimes called free market economy or free enterprise economy, dates back all the way to the 16th century in European Middle Ages when merchants became more involved in the production of goods. The development of capitalism grew along with the English cloth industry. Merchants began capitalism by making profits from having ownership and control over the productions.

Another factor that contributed to the rise of capitalism was Europe’s increase in precious metals and inflation in the prices for those. Pay for the employees involved in the precious metals industry did not increase, this economic inequality was emphasized by saying that wealthy people were more righteous than poor people. By the 18th and 19th centuries capitalism in England shifted from focusing on commerce to industrial capitalism. This industrial capitalism led to new classes of workers who worked in terrible conditions, this inspired Karl Marx’s philosophy. Marx knew that eventually capitalism would be overthrown, and this was somewhat right. Although, capitalism is not completely gone there are fewer countries today that still have this type of government than there were a century ago. One way that capitalism is accurately represented and critiqued is in the readings “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Good Woman of Setzcuan”.

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Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (1903) was the last play that Chekov wrote and arguably the best in terms of the underlying meaning. The three-act play is set in1900’s Russia and is about the social change happening on the brink of the Russian revolution. The characters in this play range from the poorest or poor to the richest of rich and swap social classes throughout. This play easily relates to modern times across the world and even in America with the constant shifts in modern social classes. The abolishment of serfs was the leading cause of the Russian Revolution, that started in 1917 ( During the revolution the Bolsheviks seized power and later became a communist party. Communism and capitalism are very similar because both economic systems focus on how to distribute and allocate goods and services. The biggest difference is that capitalism uses democracy to accomplish this and communism uses massive state-run economies. In “The Cherry Orchard” capitalism is critiqued when Ranevskaya loses her estate and Lopakhin defeats her and uses capitalistic views to become the owner of the estate. Chekov ‘s play is an example of the failure of the feudal system in Russia, the same system that failed and led to the rise of capitalism. When the orchard was owned by Lyubov it represented the feudal structure that was cut down by Lopakhin. This scene represents the rise of individual capitalism.

Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan” is a drama that was started in 1938 but not finished until 1941. Brecht was living in the United States in exile due to the Nazi rule, eventually, Brecht fled Germany to avoid persecution (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). This drama has heavy influences of Marxism that Brecht commonly shares ideals from. “The Good Woman of Setzuan “is set in China and is about a woman that must adopt an alter ego in order to get payback for the people that took advantage of her. This reading presents the overall question of if it is possible to survive in a capitalist society, but also do that while being a good person. In almost all of Brecht’s drama he pushes the audience to think and comprehend the work, he also frequently encouraged the audience to take social action. Throughout the entire story, there are small hints of capitalism especially when Shiu Ta buys cabins that she promised to house homeless people but ended up being converted to workhouses. The simple act of Shen Te taking on the alter ego of Shui Ta is capitalism. She exploited those who took advantage of her and used goods and services to do it, but when brought to trial by employees the gods overseeing the judge let her off with what she has done, therefore condemning capitalism. Brecht designed this play to get the audience to be involved with the effects of greed and capitalism.

Overall, in both “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Good Woman of Setzuan” there are many insinuations of capitalism. During the times that both readings took place, capitalism was already on the rise. Also, in the countries where both readings took place capitalism was beginning to be a lot more prominent. Both readings took place during revolutions where money and services were prominent because those countries were evolving into more modern socitities. Even though in “The Good Woman of Setzuan” Brecht focuses on getting the audience involved in thinking about the effects, he still uses the characters to portray that just like Chekov does. In each reading, the characters represent capitalism by their words and actions, and it is up to the reader to interpret that and understand what Brecht and Chekov were trying to represent. The biggest similarities as to how capitalism is criticized in both readings are the way that the authors portray the characters. In each story, there is a relatively poor character that they focus on and follow the story of how that character rises to power, each by using capitalism. Another way that the readings are similar in terms of criticizing capitalism is by the choice of actions each author gives to the characters. In “The Cherry Orchard” Lopakhin partakes in capitalism by buying the land and using it to make money. This is like Shen Te in “The Good Woman of Setzuan” when she gets the money to buy cabins meant to be used o house homeless and then turns around and makes money off of the poor workers who she placed in those cabins.

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