The Capitalist Personality
Face-to-Face Sociality and Economic Change in the Post-Communist World
Routledge – 2013 – 238 pages
Series: Routledge Advances in Sociology
Modern capitalism favors values that undermine our face-to-face bonds with friends and family members. Focusing on the post-communist world, and comparing it to more "developed" societies, this book reveals the mixed effects of capitalist culture on interpersonal relationships. While most observers blame the egoism and asocial behavior found in new free-market societies on their communist pasts, this work shows how relationships are also threatened by the profit orientations and personal ambition unleashed by economic development. Successful people in societies as diverse as China, Russia, and Eastern Germany adjust to the market economy at a social cost, relaxing their morals in order to obtain success and succumbing to increased material temptations to exploit relationships for their own financial and professional gain. The capitalist personality is internally troubled as a result of this "sellout," but these qualms subside as it devalues intimate qualitative bonds with others. This book also shows that post-communists are similarly individualized as people living in Western societies. Capitalism may indeed favor values of independence, creativity, and self-expressiveness, but it also rewards self-centeredness, consumerism, and the stripping down of morality. As is the case in the West, capitalist culture fosters an internally conflicted and self-centered personality in post-communist societies.
1. Introduction 2. Becoming Homo-Economicus 3. "The Wall in the Head": Mechanisms of De-Socialization 4. The Chinese, Russian, and Eastern German Contexts: Social Values and Economic Change 5. Individualism, Ambition, and Work 6. "Get Rich First!": Materialism and Consumerism 7. Family Relationships and Friendship 8. Morality, Religion, and Politics 9. The Wild West? 10. Discussion: Ambivalent Individualization and Capitalist Culture Appendix A: Methods Appendix B: T-test Results Appendix C: Results on Social Values and Gender
Christopher Swader is an assistant professor of sociology at the National Research University - Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He teaches social theory, focusing on individualization and modernization, critical theory (the Frankfurt School), the life course, and historical sociology.