2021 Abstracts Stage 3

A Philosophical Analysis of the Existence of Billionaires in Today’s Economic Climate

This project is a philosophical analysis of the existence of billionaires in today’s economic climate. In today’s society, there is an ever-increasing number of billionaires. Meanwhile, there is also a large number of people living in poverty. Many of the wealthiest people today, such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are considered to be philanthropists due to their many charitable actions. Although it is undeniable that these actions are more significant than those of many other billionaires today, it still seems that this is simply not enough in today’s economic climate. This project will aim to understand if there is an alternative to the way society is structured. Firstly, we must consider whether the human desire to have an excessive amount of wealth is something that is fundamental to human nature, or whether we are conditioned by society to think this way. In order to do this, I will consider Thomas Hobbes’ account of man in the state of nature to understand how man is naturally greedy. I will also consider the Marxist critique of capitalism to understand how society conditions us to believe that we are in a state of scarcity and need to work for new symbols of exchange. After fulfilling this research, I will conclude that it is within our human nature to be greedy animals, wanting an abundance of goods, and the society we live in simply facilitates this need. It will then be important to consider how the goods within society could be distributed in order to account for this inherent greed. I will discuss the ideas of John Rawls and Robert Nozick on distributive justice. I will present the ideas of Rawls which seem to be commendable, however Nozick’s critique of Rawls will show that it would be impossible to remain in a state of equal distribution without sacrificing individual liberty – a higher order good. Overall, the project will highlight that wealth is a central element of society today, and the only way to account for the inequalities we see is to diminish liberty; a conflict which is unresolvable.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Wealth Distribution: the Problem of the World Economy

Currently, across the globe, wealth distribution is an enormous issue. 40% of the world’s total wealth belongs to just 1% of the population. In America, 73.1% of the nation’s wealth belongs to just 10% of the population.

In my essay I seek to explore the conditions of political economy that guided such inequality into reality. The theory of neoliberalism, to which Margaret Thatcher subscribed, preaches the right to private property as the fundamental human right. In maintaining such a right we can work towards creating equality by offering equal opportunities to everybody to make a financial success of ourselves. Obviously, however, the theory in practice does not yield such results, resulting in the restoration of class power and vast income and wealth gaps.

My aim is to offer a criticism of neoliberalism after examining the origins of capitalism, in Adam Smith; the opposing ideals of communism, in Marx; and the wealth of data that points to the flaws of our current economic system.

Ultimately, I hope to decide for myself what the best form of political economy is in terms of minimising inequality by reading Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

2010 Abstracts Stage 2

A League of Their Own: Can Professional Athletes Be Justified in Earning So Much Money?

MY AIM: To discuss the debate of whether or not athletes can be justified over earning so much money. This has been one of the biggest talking points within professional sport in the 21st century. My debate is primarily centred around the notions of ‘ethics’ and whether or not it is right or wrong for an athlete to earn the amount that they do. I therefore intend to look at this discussion from an ethical and economical point of view.

TERRITORY: I have decided to primarily focus on the NFL franchise in America, and the Football Premier League in England. These are two renowned leagues that have been well known to pay their athletes incredible salaries.

SOURCES: I intend to use four topics of discussion in attempt to dispute and support the justification of athletes’ salaries:
Thomas Hobbes – the State of Nature and Social Contract theory
Karl Marx – The fear of a capitalist crisis and the concept of Socialism
Milton Friedman – Business Ethics: what is the purpose of a business?
Friedrich Nietzsche – The will to power

2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Protecting the Wealth of the Nation. A Study of the Ideological Structures of Radical Capitalism

As anyone may notice there is an obvious assumption in my title which I should first work to explain, namely my assertion that current, late capitalist power structures are radical. I use this term in its meaning of ‘extreme’. As I will seek to show, while the values of the majority of people, across most societies of the world, are those, broadly speaking, of freedom, democracy, choice and fairness, and of respect for the dignity of human life, these are not values that are followed through in the operating of modern states or the capitalist system.

In my project I intend to explore how this radical state manages, through its prevailing Ideology, to continually reproduce the conditions of production, and so continually assert itself over the rights of the majority of the people.

In order to do this, I shall use Guy Debord’s concept of the visible manifestation of ideology – the spectacle – in order to show the spectacle/reality distinction in several examples, centred in the last ten years of Neo-Liberal Capitalism.

EXAMPLES INCLUDING: The Illusion of Democracy Capitalist Realism and The Myth of the West’s Civilizing Force

I shall expand on these examples with comparison to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four as a paradigm for a radically oppressive ideological system, as well as theory and analysis from Slavoj Žižek, a prolific writer on the functioning of ideology, Noam Chomsky, an outspoken critic of modern state manipulation and the manufacturing of consent, Louis Althusser’s theory of Ideological State Apparatuses and Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism. In this way I intend to show how Ideology dictates what is thinkable in life, how our free market Neo-Liberal system, is really just a system for funnelling rights and capital into the hands of the incredibly wealthy, and how our free and fair democracy is in fact a cynical sham, in which policy is dictated by corporate leaders.

2010 Abstracts Stage 3

The Advantage of Intelligence: How Wealth Affects Wealth

We are promised at school that a degree will grant us the highest paid jobs. The guardian recently conducted a survey in which they asked 81 students whether they would be willing to pay more in tuition fees at university if it meant that they would be guaranteed the highest paid jobs.

The majority of them agreed to this idea.

I do not attempt to criticise the state of our educational system itself in terms of what it produces. Instead, I simply suggest that something is wrong, in a system where wealth seems to determine your place within the educational ladder long before you get to secondary school.

There seems to be a cycle: Wealth governs Education which governs Wealth.

Higher education is a luxury that most cannot afford, during which career progress comes to a standstill. Is the maxim ‘speculate to accumulate’ only available to the wealthier spectre of society? The lack of income during this period is intolerable, let alone the massive debt that is incurred, yet we remain steadfast and resolute in the opinion that it will all be worth it in the end, safe in the knowledge that, if it all comes to nothing, there will be financial aid to compensate for our arrears in the form of our wealthy benefactors. This is a reality that some are unfamiliar with, and is potentially why they do not opt for a university education. They would much rather be out in the world, working, earning money.

This leads me on to talk about Marx and his ideas of the Commodification of Education. It has become something that can be bought and sold. I also use his writings on exploitation and social conflict and the tension between the bourgeoisies and the proletariat, offering an idea that ‘intelligence’ is an illusory idea that can hold people at bay.

I also look to the works of Hans-Georg Gadamer, who investigates the nature of education using the framework of medicine and healing, highlighting the difference between objective and subjective knowledge, as well as the importance of ‘practice’, within the context of Hermeneutics.

Adorno’s thought features also, using his idea of the ‘Culture Industry’ to evaluate the differing mindsets towards education; exploring the possibility that a reluctance to pursue education after the state minimum might be an issue of culture, in terms of the Marxist nature of his thought.

In terms of offering a conclusion, I feel the most important thing is that I justify and fulfil my aims in this potentially controversial territory. I choose not to offer an alternative; that is for the labour of politics. Instead I offer a critique of education’s role in society. I don’t criticise schools in terms of what they produce. Again, that would be delving into the jurisdiction of politics. Instead I argue that our relationship to academia has changed. What once was a pursuit aimed at self-improvement and development – academia for academia’s sake – has been corrupted and is now a simple vehicle for financial gain.