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1. Discuss the contributions of Simmel and Veblen on economic sociology.
Ans. Georg Simmel was an early German sociologist and structural theorist who focused on urban life and the form of the metropolis. He was known for creating social theories that fostered an approach to the study of society that broke with the then-accepted scientific methodology used to examine the natural world. Simmel is widely taught alongside his contemporary Max Weber, as well as Marx and Durkheim, in courses on classical social theory.
Simmel was born on March 1, 1858, in Berlin (which, at the time, was the Kingdom of Prussia, prior to the creation of the German state). Though he was born into a large family and his father died when Simmel was relatively young, he received a comfortable inheritance that allowed him to pursue a life of scholarship.
Simmel studied philosophy and history at the University of Berlin. (Sociology as a discipline was beginning to take shape, but was not yet fully developed.) He received his Ph.D. in 1881 based on a study of Immanuel Kant’s theories of philosophy. Following his degree, Simmel taught philosophy, psychology, and early sociology courses at his alma mater.
A look at different texts like those written by Sassatelli and Clemens shows that fashion is a key area that forms the source of money is a synthetic factor in Simmel’s argument. The sociologist tries to bring out the argument that money has an inner effect on the economy’s transition, as it links the economic development with the fatality of the individuals through the society social activities. On the other hand, as money from the social action such as fashion, Simmel notes that in the aspect of economic transition, materials are significant and functional factors that play a major role in the building and promoting the economy changes and development. In this point, the philosopher argued that money is a form of material that has a meaning in the transition of the economy. Thus, money is the material that the development of economy requires in one way or the other, as Simmel places both money and economics in a cross section whereby fashion as a source of money develop money of the economy In the modern world economic is a very complicated system, because most economists claim that to control the economy of a country it is something that is hard to carry out due to the competing hypothesis that is presence in an economic system. Historically, economics as a business concept has grown down on different paths. For this reason, the history of economics has received the needed attention, in particular by the scholars who see it as a significant influence on the global business performance. Research reveals that Adam Smith is the individual who created is the concept of economical with the inspiration of the French writers who had different perspective concerning the way economies work. However, as many see economics as a concept as the thing that is self-regulated system and one that is capable of repairing or reassembling itself, some sociologist such as George Simmel has a played a major part toward its development. George Simmel introduced the social form of fashion to the world of business, which many scholars’ reviews as something that can be used to interpret the beginning of the start of the feverish economy. In fact, the fashion business brought about the development of an economic system, whereby the social and economic order introduced what is called productive capitalist economies. Currently, most economists do not only see Simmel as the famous founding father of a number of sociology concepts but also as the individual who contributed an essential part in the history of economics thought and development. In America, as scholars continue to look at the understanding of the different perspectives of economic thoughts, Simmel was compared with other scholars, but the scholars found that Simmel argument and discussion is something that economists can use to present a starting point for the analysis or discussion of the history of economics. As one of the Simmel’s sociology aesthetics, fashion or social forms that the people adopt in different ways is one of the originators of the economic thoughts and development. This means that Simmel views the aspect of design as the main player in the generation of economic thoughts, whereby the change in this social form does not only bring changes in the culture aspects but also in the concept of economic thoughts. In other words, Simmel wanted to say that the economic thoughts or development is something that originates from several social forms that people are doing every day, and it became as a growing disciplinary, whereby it got detached to the ever increasing social circles such as fashion or any other trending activity.
2. Discuss the sociological concept of rationality and economic behaviour.
Ans. Rational behavior refers to a decision-making process that is based on making choices that result in the optimal level of benefit or utility for an individual. The assumption of rational behavior implies that people would rather take actions that benefit them versus actions that are neutral or harm them. Most classical economic theories are based on the assumption that all individuals taking part in an activity are behaving rationally.
Rational behavior is the cornerstone of rational choice theory, a theory of economics that assumes that individuals always make decisions that provide them with the highest amount of personal utility. These decisions provide people with the greatest benefit or satisfaction given the choices available. Rational behavior may not involve receiving the most monetary or material benefit, because the satisfaction received could be purely emotional or non-monetary.
For example, while it is likely more financially beneficial for an executive to stay on at a company rather than retire early, it is still considered rational behavior for her to seek an early retirement if she feels the benefits of retired life outweigh the utility from the paycheck she receives. The optimal benefit for an individual may involve non-monetary returns.
Further, a person’s willingness to take on risk, or conversely, their aversion to risk, may be considered rational depending on their goals and circumstances. For example, an investor may choose to take on more risk in his own retirement account than in an account designated for his children’s college education. Both would be considered rational choices for this investor.
Behavioral economics is a method of economic analysis that considers psychological insights to explain human behavior as it relates to economic decision-making. According to rational choice theory, the rational person has self-control and is unmoved by emotional factors. However, behavioral economics acknowledges that people are emotional and easily distracted, and therefore, their behavior does not always follow the predictions of economic models. Psychological factors and emotions influence the actions of individuals and can lead them to make decisions that may not appear to be entirely rational.
Behavioral economics seeks to explain why people make certain decisions about how much to pay for a cup of coffee, whether or not to pursue a college education or a healthy lifestyle, and how much to save for retirement, among other decisions that most people have to make at some point in their life.
Investors may also make decisions primarily based on emotions, for example, investing in a company for which the investor has positive feelings, even if financial models suggest the investment is not wise.
For example, an individual may choose to invest in the stock of an organic produce operation, rather than a conventional produce operation, if they have strong beliefs in the value of organic produce. They may choose to do this regardless of the present value of the organic operation compared with that of the conventional operation, and despite the fact that the conventional operation would earn a higher return.
Economics is a social science—it is about people and about how we organize ourselves to meet our needs and enhance our well-being. Ultimately, all economic behavior is human behavior. Sometimes institutional forces appear to take over (witness the tendency of some bureaucracies to expand over time), but if you look closely at economic outcomes, you will find that they are ultimately determined by human decisions. Thus economists have traditionally used, as a starting point, some kind of statement about the motivations behind economic actions.
Over the past few decades, the neoclassical view of human behavior is being increasingly replaced by an alternative commonly called behavioral economics. Behavioral economics gathers insights from numerous disciplines including economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, and biology to determine and predict how people actually make economic decisions. Rather than simply stating assumptions, behavioral economics tests theories using experiments and other empirical evidence. Studies in this area have proven valuable in explaining behaviors that may appear to be irrational, and why people often seem to act against their own selfinterest.
Ans. Top-down and bottom-up approaches are methods used to analyze and choose securities. However, the terms also appear in many other areas of business, finance, investing, and economics. While the two schemes are common terms, many investors get them confused or don’t fully understand the differences between the approaches.
Each approach can be quite simple—the top-down approach goes from the general to the specific, and the bottom-up approach begins at the specific and moves to the general. These methods are possible approaches for a wide range of endeavors, such as goal setting, budgeting, and forecasting. In the financial world, analysts or whole companies may be tasked with focusing on one over the other, so understanding the nuances of both is important.
Top-down analysis generally refers to using comprehensive factors as a basis for decision making. The top-down approach seeks to identify the big picture and all of its components. These components are usually the driving force for the end goal.
Top-down is commonly associated with the word “macro” or macroeconomics. Macroeconomics itself is an area of economics that looks at the biggest factors affecting the economy as a whole. These factors often include things like the federal funds rate, unemployment rates, global and country-specific gross domestic product, and inflation rates.
An analyst seeking a top-down perspective wants to look at how systematic factors affect an outcome. In corporate finance, this can mean understanding how big picture trends are affecting the entire industry. In budgeting, goal setting, and forecasting, the same concept can also apply to understand and manage the macro factors.
In the investing world, top-down investors or investment strategies focus on the macroeconomic environment and cycle. These types of investors usually want to balance consumer discretionary investing against staples depending on the current economy. Historically, discretionary stocks are known to follow economic cycles, with consumers buying more discretionary goods and services in expansions and less in contractions.
Consumer staples tend to offer viable investment opportunities through all types of economic cycles since they include goods and services that remain in demand regardless of the economy’s movement. When an economy is expanding, discretionary overweight can be relied on to produce returns. Alternatively, when an economy is contracting or in a recession, top-down investors are usually overweight to havens and staples.
Investment management firms and investment managers can focus an entire investment strategy on top-down management that identifies investment trading opportunities purely based on top-down macroeconomic variables. These funds can have a global or domestic focus, which also increases the complexity of the scope.
Typically, these funds are called macro funds. They make portfolio decisions by looking at global then country-level economics. They further refine the view to a particular sector, and then to the individual companies within that sector.
The bottom-up analysis takes a completely different approach. Generally, the bottom-up approach focuses its analysis on specific characteristics and micro attributes of an individual stock. In bottom-up investing concentration is on business-by-business or sector-by-sector fundamentals. This analysis seeks to identify profitable opportunities through the idiosyncrasies of a company’s attributes and its valuations in comparison to the market.
Bottom-up investing begins its research at the company level but does not stop there. These analyses weigh company fundamentals heavily but also look at the sector, and microeconomic factors as well. As such, bottom-up investing can be somewhat broad across an entire industry or laser-focused on identifying key attributes.
Most often, bottom-up investors are buy-and-hold investors who have a deep understanding of a company’s fundamentals. Fund managers may also use a bottom-up methodology.
For example, a portfolio team may be tasked with a bottom-up investing approach within a specified sector like technology. They are required to find the best investments using a fundamental approach that identifies the companies with the best fundamental ratios or industry-leading attributes. They would then investigate those stocks in regards to macro and global influences.
Metric focused smart-beta index funds are another example of bottom-up investing. Funds like the AAM S&P 500 High Dividend Value ETF (SPDV) and the Schwab Fundamental U.S. Large Company Index ETF (FNDX) focus on specific fundamental bottom-up attributes that are expected to be key performance drivers.
Generally, while top-down and bottom-up can be very distinctly different they are often used in all types of financial approaches like checks and balances. For example, while a top-down investment fund might primarily focus on investing according to macro trends, it will still look at the fundamentals of its investments before making an investing decision.
Ans. Socialism is a left-wing to far-left economic philosophy and movement encompassing a range of economic systems characterized by the dominance of social ownership of the means of production as opposed to private ownership. As a term, it describes the economic, political and social theories and movements associated with the implementation of such systems. Social ownership can be public, collective, or cooperative. While no single definition encapsulates the many types of socialism, social ownership is the one common element. Different types of socialism vary based on the role of markets and planning in resource allocation, on the structure of management in organizations, and from below or from above approaches, with some socialists favouring a party, state, or technocratic-driven approach. Socialists disagree on whether government, particularly existing government, is the correct vehicle for change.
Socialist systems are divided into non-market and market forms. Non-market socialism substitutes factor markets and often money with integrated economic planning and engineering or technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing a different economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws and dynamics than those of capitalism. A non-market socialist system seeks to eliminate the perceived inefficiencies, irrationalities, unpredictability, and crises that socialists traditionally associate with capital accumulation and the profit system in capitalism. By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. Anarchism and libertarian socialism oppose the use of the state as a means to establish socialism, favouring decentralisation above all, whether to establish non-market socialism or market socialism.
Socialist politics has been both internationalist and nationalist; organised through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions and at other times independent and critical of them, and present in both industrialised and developing nations. Social democracy originated within the socialist movement, supporting economic and social interventions to promote social justice. While retaining socialism as a long-term goal, since the post-war period it has come to embrace a Keynesian mixed economy within a predominantly developed capitalist market economy and liberal democratic polity that expands state intervention to include income redistribution, regulation, and a welfare state. Economic democracy proposes a sort of market socialism, with more democratic control of companies, currencies, investments and natural resources.
5. Examine the dimensions of capitalism.
The aim of the article is to provide a framework for thinking about how the question of the future of capitalism might be answered. One of the problems resides in the very definition of capitalism and of what its defining features consist. I will begin with some reflections on defining capitalism as a problem. This leads to a more general reflection on whether we should be talking about ‘capitalist society’ or the ‘capitalist economy’ or some kind of post-capitalist condition or ‘informational society’. A tentative answer to these questions will lead me to discuss the extent to which capitalism, in some sense, is the defining condition of our time. I argue that it is not, albeit it is integral to the self-understanding of the present, which is also animated by democracy. I argue that capitalism and democracy together constitute the defining features of the present day and that the resulting tensions will provide momentum for the main circuits of potential change. This is because capitalism is more than an economic system; it is deeply embedded in other social, cultural and political processes. For this reason, the question of capitalist crisis has to go beyond a purely systemic level of analysis whereby the economic level is separated from other dimensions.
On this basis, five scenarios for looking at the future are discussed. These will form the main substance of the article: varieties of capitalism (VoC), systemic crises of capitalism, catastrophic collapse, low growth capitalism and post-capitalism. In conclusion, it is argued that there are various possibilities that can be understood in terms of transitions, breakdown or transformation, but a likely future trend will be that capitalist accumulation will be curtailed and that there are limits to the accumulation of capital.
Definitions of capitalism have varied greatly since the advent of the term in the late-nineteenth century. The Communist Manifesto in 1848 used the term the ‘bourgeois mode of production’ and ‘modern bourgeois society’, not capitalism. Marx later wrote of the ‘capitalist era’ and the capitalist ‘mode of production’ to refer to the emerging shape of the modern economy and of societal transformation more generally. When the term capitalism came into common currency in the twentieth century, its use revealed a political perspective on the desirability and permanence of capitalism as opposed to socialism. Marxist influenced approaches saw capitalism as a pervasive social and economic condition that would come to an end one day, while the defenders of capitalism preferred to see the modern economy in terms of free enterprise or the free market as part of a wider condition of liberty. In many sociological accounts, as in the writings of Aron, the notion of industrial society was the preferred term to capitalism. Any prognosis of the future of capitalism will need to establish clarity on what it means and what its core elements are. This is not just about a narrow preoccupation with definitions, but of agreement on some of the defining feature of capitalism and, I argue, critically, whether capitalism refers to the modern economy per sec or to society.
The general tendency in modern sociological theory is to see the economy as a subsystem of modern society, which, while not reducible to the economy, is very much shaped by it. This is most evident in Parsons and the functionalist traditions where the emphasis is placed on the economy as the market. For Weber, in contrast, capitalism is an expression of more general trends in rationalisation which culminate in the societal condition of an ‘iron cage’ of universal rationalism. Nonetheless, despite their differences, for these classical theories, capitalism is a modern society and based on the centrality of markets. This is also the case with Polanyi in this account of the ‘Great Transformation’ that saw markets becoming disembedded from traditional social institutions. I believe Marx’s original insight is still valid, namely, that the modern capitalist economy is more than a market; it is primarily a system of production that has a determining effect over the rest of society and, as a mode of production, it became the dominant one since the sixteenth century, making possible the modern capitalist era. Nevertheless, in the Marxist analysis, the status of the wider category of society is unclear and confusingly, as noted, is sometimes ‘bourgeois society’ but also incorporates the capitalist mode of production. In all these classical accounts, including the seminal contributions of Simmel, Sombart and Schumpeter, the term capitalism is highly ambiguous. Either it is a term to refer to modern Western society as a whole or a term to refer to the modern economy or a part of it.
Clearly Marx’s legacy is to see modern society increasingly shaped by the capitalist economy which has transformed social relations through the progressive extension of exchange values into all social spheres. Thus, for Marx, capitalism refers to more than the economy but to a kind of society, a social formation. Marx’s account sees capitalism as an economic system, a mode of production that is based on the labour market and the unrelenting pursuit of profit, which is privately appropriated. The strength of Marx’s approach is that capitalism is a dynamic and destructive system that has created self-perpetuating forces that seek the maximisation of profit and the conversion of everything into exchange values. Capitalism is an insatiable system of production and valorisation that makes everything transferable into commodified forms that serve the accumulation of capital. The notion of Capital is thus the primary condition of capitalism and can be seen as a condition or force that is neither entirely economic nor just only social. In this respect, the core insight of Marx remains relevant, namely, that capitalism is based on the accumulation of Capital. We can add to this that while not necessarily a defining feature of capitalism, it has been a destructive force in the world in both the positive (removing the vestiges of feudalism) and negative senses of the term (disposession, exploitation etc). The violent history of capitalism over nature and social life has dominated.
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