Business on Social Standards
It is often said that air, water, food, clothing, and shelter are the basic needs for human survival. However, while this statement may be fundamentally true, the fact is that the structure of modern day economies has resulted in expanding basic human needs to include a whole host of products and services. Indeed, this is evident in the manner in which the average consumer sees yesterday’s luxuries as today’s essential comforts or even necessities of life. Further, since modern economies depend on continuously increasing the demand for products and services, it can be well argued that business has become the main driving force behind the evolution of not just economic standards but social ones as well.
Trade and commerce have always been central to the functioning and progress of human society down the ages. This fact is apparent in virtually all chronicles of human history, which record the details of human endeavor to prosper through trade of existing resources or the creation of new ones. In fact, the human quest to seek a better quality of material life has historically been a primary force behind many a war and political philosophy such as colonialism: “Colonialism is a system in which a state claims sovereignty over territory and people outside its own boundaries, often to facilitate economic domination over their resources, labor, and markets.” (thefreedictionary.com, 2004)
Interestingly, it appears that economic domination has always necessitated exercising social influence over sovereign and non-sovereign markets in order to create demand for finished goods that may or may not be integral to the culture of various regions. Indeed, this is perhaps one major reason why the colonial powers often attempted to impose their social mores and beliefs on the colonized nations (thefreedictionary.com, 2004). Of course, certain practicalities of trade also necessitated transfer, imposition or adoption of social norms such as language, custom and etiquette particularly in instances where one nation’s sovereignty had been hijacked by another. Thus, it appears that the very logistics of economics or business involves affecting the social standards of markets in order to create demand or to conduct trade.
The degree to which business must affect social standards and values in order to prosper and grow has, however, accelerated with the advent of industrialization, mass production, democracy, capitalism and globalization. Indeed, the evolution and progress of human civilization, while undoubtedly enhancing the quality of human life, has also made the world of business a fiercely competitive one, necessitating the aggressive fuelling of consumer demand through marketing techniques.
Thus, the marketing of various goods and services by business has led to consumerist societies whose inhabitants constantly seek to increase their levels of income in order to support higher levels of consumption. Consider, for instance, the fact that, as recently as a few years ago, the cell phone was perceived as an expensive communication device that largely benefited business executives. Today, it is seen as a necessary personal communication device that is convenient, efficient and affords emotional comfort. Similarly, several research studies have shown that the media images marketed by the fashion industry have created a culture where a woman’s self-esteem is affected by her body image. This social standard is further exacerbated by media and other businesses promoting the very same social ideal of a particular body type (Field et.al., 1999).
Naturally, the desire for a better material quality of life has affected social standards in other ways too. For one, it is evident that higher economic standards are needed to support higher consumption levels, which in turn, has led to the decrease of leisure time by virtue of increased working hours. This is exactly the point that Juliet Schor touches on in her book The Overworked American. Schor argues that Americans are trapped in a “work-and-spend” cycle, which has resulted in increased stress levels and a massive decline in free leisure and family time (Williams, p. 61). Secondly, the establishment of new social and economic standards has led to an ever increasing demand for better paying jobs creating a lacunae of talent in socially essential, but lower paying fields such as education, nursing, fire and police services. This trend is or should be of grave social concern since it will ultimately hurt the very foundation of human society.
A third important way in which business affects social standards is by virtue of encouraging office workers, at large, to adopt the language, custom, and etiquette of the organization’s culture. This results in various social or even stereotypical images such as the successful banker or the IT and business management gurus that then become the role models for aspiring college students. Fourth, business has become the driving force in building the social appeal of various forms of leisure activity as well. For example, business sponsorship of sports events has led to several sports being built into big ticket businesses, leading to even college scholarships for talented sports persons. Fifth, and perhaps most important, today’s business driven society has created a social standard where a person’s self-worth and social standing is primarily measured by his career achievements and income levels.
Thus, it is evident that the world of business now affects virtually every aspect of human social life since the desire to earn a good living is now an end in itself, having become inextricably linked to a person’s sense of self-worth!
Field, A.E., Cheung, L., Wolf, A.M., Herzog, D.B., Gortmaker, S.L., & Colditz, G.A.
“Exposure to the Mass Media and Weight Concerns Among Girls.” Pediatrics. Vol. 103:3, p. e36. Accessed Oct. 11, 2004: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/103/3/e36?maxtoshow=& HITS=10& hits=10& RESULTFORMAT=& author1=Field%2C+A.+E.& searchid=1097581434848_3019& stored_search=& FIRSTINDEX=0& sortspec=relevance& journalcode=pediatrics thefreedictionary.com “Colonialism.” Accessed Oct. 11, 2004:
Williams, J. “Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do about It.”
New York: Oxford, 2000.
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