Faulkner and Literature Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1447 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Smith himself would no doubt have been appalled at many of the excesses that have been perpetuated in the name of entrepreneurship; the economic philosopher believed that humans are creatures driven by passions while at the same time governed by our ability to reason and (and this was an essential part of his model of how one could and should pursue business) by our capacity to sympathize with each other. The result of these differing human impulses is that we as individuals, as a species are engaged in conflicting activities most of the time - both competing with each for resources (including the resource of labor) while at the same time engaged in the process of creating social institutions and establishing and maintaining cultural behaviors that will channel our natural competitiveness into ways that promote rather than destroy the common good. As Smith wrote in his manual on the good and ill of the entrepreneurial spirit, these conflicting impulses lead us all as if "by an invisible hand" so that even without knowing it or intending it, we each act in ways to advance the interest of both ourselves and society at large.

This seems a very accurate description of what happens in both Harlem and West Africa.

Without constant work to create these structures in society that constrain our Hobbesian selfishness, we would destroy ourselves. Work, for Smith, is motivated both by the fact that we are driven to compete and driven to make amends for our competitiveness. As such, Smith sees human nature itself as the reason that people become the market-oriented and class-bound actors that set the economic system into motion. For Smith, the world was not a battle of all against all, nor yet a struggle between contending classes. Rather, it was a steady line of evolutionary progress from the food collection of the hunters and gatherers to the pinnacle of laissez-faire industrialism and the establishment of strong civil governments that could protect private property.

The world has changed a great deal since Smith was writing, and in many ways his vision of how trade and commerce would work to be civilizing forces has proven to be wildly optimistic. But there are also key similarities between his model of business (written at the beginning of the rise of Modernism) and the kind of commerce that is practiced in the two communities that we are examining here (and which are both in essential ways at the other border of modernism, sliding into a postmodern, post-industrial society and economy).

One last distinction that should be made between the style of entrepreneurship between these two communities is that of the effect and importance of the underground economy. As a distinct economic sphere, it is much more important in Harlem; in Third World economies the distinction between formal and informal sectors of economic activity is far less clearly maintained, as Portes and Sassen-Koob (1987) argue. The result is that activities that are branded as "underground" in Harlem are considered "normal" in Africa. This has some unfortunate consequences for those in New York. Some underground economic activity is illegal (some - such as selling heroin to children - with good reason; some - such as working while on welfare to try to feed one's family - without) and so those who in African (or Manhattan) would be seen as entrepreneurs are seem in Harlem as criminals. Even when underground economic activity is not illegal, is it still often stigmatized.

These two entrepreneurial communities have more in common than in contrast, although differing economic, political and cultural structures in the two parts of the world do produce differences in the ways West Africans and African-American New Yorkers do business.

Works Cited

Lee, Jennifer. "Cultural Brokers: Race-Based Hiring in inner-city Neighborhoods." American Behavioral Scientist 41 (7), April 1998: 927-937.

Moss, M.L. "Harlem's Economic Paradox." The New York Times, 1995, Dec. 13.

Portes, Alejandro and Saskia Sassen-Koob. "Making it Underground: Comparative Material on the Informal Sector in Western Market Economies." American Journal of Sociology 93 (1), July 1987: 30-61.

Rauch, J.E. 1996 "Trade and Networks: An Application to Minority Retail Entrepreneuership." New York: Sage, 1996.

Stoller, Paul and Jasmin Tahmaseb McConatha. "City Life:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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