Economics and the Changing World

Our first impression to this assignment was utter dismay, as the reading list comprised mainly of capitalist subjects. After research and discussion we realised that this area was too complex, as we had no basic understanding of economics, which disabled us from communicating with our seminar group on the subject matter. Due to this we decided to cover the broader aspects of economics and give a basic introduction to the economic world. Our aim was to display to our audience the major effect economics has on our society and the rapidly changing world we reside in. We also wanted to illustrate to the audience the relationship that we as members of society have with economics. As the area is so vast, we divided the presentation into four titles with each of us focusing on one particular area, which we would research, and present.

We examined economics under the headings of: the basics of economics, a historical background, the social impact and economic development and cultural change.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Economics -An Introduction: Eimear

For my part of the presentation I intended to give the seminar group a basic understanding of economics and its workings in a simple but effective manner. This meant firstly giving them a brief summary of economics, which is the way goods and services needed by citizens are produced and distributed. [1] To give a more concise definition ‘Economics is a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses. [2] From my research I discovered that economics is broken into two parts, microeconomics and microeconomics that are broadly based on individual sectors and the economy as a whole.

I then decided to incorporate how we as individuals are incorporated with economics as a lot of people including myself, assumed economics was solely about inflation and unemployment. However, to my surprise this was not the case, as all of us in our daily lives are associated with economics. But most important of all is when we demand goods and services, which exceed the resources of our nation. As a result of our needs a nations economic system must solve three main questions, which organise the production and distribution of goods and services wanted by its people. These three questions are called the economic problems. These problems are: What is to be produced, how should the goods be produced, for whom to produce?

All societies are faced with the above problems, but countries around the world adopt different systems to solve these dilemmas. [3] The three different systems are: Free Enterprise Economy, Planned / Command Economy and Mixed Economy. As the free enterprise system is broadly the best known I chose to give it a concise description my presentation. In the free enterprise system the means of production in particular land and capital are privately owned. In this way producers can decide what to produce and how to produce it and ‘prices are determined by the interaction of demand and supply in the marketplace. [4] However different these systems may seem they all have one aspect in common, the extent to which the state intervenes and in turn how it influences us as citizens.

A Historical Background: Caroline

I personally wanted to give a brief account of how economic systems evolved over the years so our group could understand where economic systems started. First was the primitive type, followed by the slave economy. Feudalism occurred at different times in Europe, Asia and Africa. Capitalism came next. This system is still in place today as is socialism. Socialism means ownership and control of the economy by the entire working population. [5] I went on to discuss the Classical Economists and Karl Marx, as I wanted to show how certain individuals have influenced economics. The Classical Economists argued in favour of maximum freedom for the individual and minimum state intervention in economic affairs. Adam Smith was one of the major influencers. He strongly believed in free trade. His “invisible hand” theory stated that the best possible social outcome arises not because people pay attention to the needs of others but from self-interest.

Smith was the first to produce a complete assessment of the workings of an economy and provided the framework in which subsequent contributions were made. [6] Karl Marx had fundamental belief was that capitalism contained within it the seeds of its own destruction. Just as capitalism would replace feudalism, communism would replace capitalism. Marx believed in a labour theory of value. He said that the value of goods produced by the worker was more than the wages paid to the worker, the difference being a surplus (or profit) to the employer. Many people today still strongly believe in Marx theories. It must be said that he focused attention on the plight of the working class. His doctrines on alienation, exploitation and the weakness of capitalism etc. have, according to his followers, been at least partially responsible for governments taking action to improve working conditions and create a more caring society. [7]

Social Impact: Sinead

As with its counterpart sociology, economics is based on relationships and as members of society we all have a relationship with economics. It was my intent to show not only how this relationship has influenced society in the past, but also its impact on modern Ireland. A major part of my discussion highlighted the immense impact an economic crisis had on a society. In order to do this I focused on “The Wall Street Crash of 1929” an economic crisis, which triggered “The Great Depression”, a period which devastated American society.

Unemployment with figures up to fifteen million created many issues such widespread poverty, and suicide rates escalated from 10 to 14 per 100,000. [8] The farming community was also deeply impacted and I was intrigued to discover that the agricultural community has never regained its previous prosperity. Today the population of N.Y.C. is twice as large as Americas total farming population. I feel that these examples demonstrated to the audience the extensive social impacts that economics can create.

This is also evident in the modern world, where economic forces such as inflation impact our environment. For example high inflation leads to less disposable income. This in turn impacts every aspect of society, including as we discovered in our discussion, the media. Due to the fact that people have less cash they do not buy magazines or videos. This was evident in Ireland in the 1980’s when our country was marginalised both physically and economically from the rest of the world. However as a result of the Celtic Tiger, the face of our country altered completely and with it came social change. Employment rose by 40% [9] and the upper middle class emerged with substantial spending power and high living standards, basically every advertisers dream! [10] Therefore the powerful force of economics controls all social decisions and hence has an extensive social impact.

Economic Development and Cultural Change: Stephen

For my part of the presentation I wanted to choose something, which would be interesting and would also relate to the use of economics in everyday life. For this reason I chose to investigate how economic development affects cultural change.

I decided to show how economics affects the lifestyles of different cultures from the idea of a country importing culture through products and commodities to the idea of westernisation. I also examined how economic activities such as widely distributed media output and highly visible global brands have an impact on cultural change.

For the main part of my presentation I chose to do a case study using China as an example of how a country’s culture can be changed through economic activity. I chose China because it is now the world’s fastest growing economy and so it would certainly be affected culturally by economic activity in the country. I discovered that China has begun to replicate other countries and how predominantly western capitalist ideas such as consumerism are starting to take over in a communist country with a history of famine. It is estimated that 345 million people will make the move from rural areas to urban in the next 20 to 25 years. This will certainly have a huge effect on China’s culture, as more and more people will experience foreign culture in large cities such as Shanghai. It was these types of economic effects, which I had aimed to discover when I began my research as they fully display how economic development can affect a culture.

Class Discussion

Following our presentation an array of discussion topics centred on the media arose.

We were intrigued as to how economics a business-based subject could relate to the media. Numerous items were put forward, the following we feel were the most predominant.

* Media is increasingly based on economic principles more so then giving the best possible information and service. Broadcasters are increasingly consumed with the notion of ‘what sells’ rather then quality material.

* In our everyday lives foreign media aids globalisation by broadcasting aspects of their culture through populist shows and magazines. The main example of this would be the colossal impact that American sitcoms have on eastern civilisation. These societies succumb to the pressure of conforming to Western culture by adopting the same lifestyles and way of talking even to what they eat. It is now a common fact to see traditional noodle bars replaced with Mc Donald’s in every town in China.

Conclusion

Having completed our research and presentation we have come to the conclusion that economics in contrast to our initial impression is not just about inflation and taxation but also about relationships. Similar to sociology, we all have a relationship with economics, from our culture to the latest magazine we buy. Whether we are aware of it or not each one of us takes part in economics and each one of us is influenced by the economic system in our society. It was this element of economics we wished to present to the class. We feel that this approach to the topic stimulated the class as it presented them with issues, which they could identify with and relate to.

While we feel that the presentation went well, we as a team encountered a certain amount of problems. Caroline, felt that she included information about Marx and Smith that may have been irrelevant. We all felt that we could have engaged with the class more when delivering our speeches but this is a learning curve that we will undoubtedly put to use in future presentations.

As a group we all felt that our research methods were successful as we used the Internet, books, and magazines to ensure that the information we collected was up to date, relevant and interesting.

We now feel that we that we have an awareness of the role economics plays in our surrounding environment.