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Nicole
Aschoff writes “The New Prophets of  Capital” in an effort to break down myths
and deceptions made by the ruling elite who profit off capitalism. Readers are
first informed that capitalism uses stories as a way for the general public to
go about their daily life holding on to these stories in hopes that capitalism
helps them. Aschoff calls these people the prophets. Aschoff begins with laying
out the arguments of these prophets. She writes them by telling a story, and
explains each prophet’s idea on capitalism as a way to live successfully and
provide a set of rules. Aschoff continues to critique them and argue their
points. She does this by looking at different forms of capitalism and critiques
the elite who believe distinctive forms of capitalism can solve the
ever-growing economic, social and environmental inequalities that Aschoff
believes are rooted in capitalism.

The
books first Prophet is introduced as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who takes
feminism and gender equality as an important component in her daily life.

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Aschoff uses Sandburg’s popular book “Lean
In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” as a focal point to better
understand her take on feminism and the equal number of women in the workforce
(Sandberg & Scovell, 2013 p.18). Aschoff summarizes Sandburg’s argument on
feminism as women “disturbing the status quo” by seizing the opportunity
without it being handed to them (Aschoff, 2015 p.19). Aschoff compares Sandberg
to feminist thinker Betty Friedan who believes women must give up the comfort
of domestic life and choose to be career driven women. Aschoff however counters
these points and uses the ideas and arguments of feminist Sarah Jaffe to argue
women cannot simply trudge forward and grasp leadership roles in male dominated
occupation. Although focusing on Sheryl Sandburg, other popular women who can
be seen as elite such as Hillary Clinton are similarly called out through the
chapter for using similar tactics. Aschoff continues to argue that women in
high places of power do not create institutional change for women in lower
positions. Aschoff compares Sandburg’s reflection about demanding a pregnancy
parking spot and getting it to that of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who forced yahoos
work from home policy to end, forcing many women to quit or face hardship. Many
people chose the company Yahoo over other tech companies because it offered
flextime, which is a program that allows employees to work from home but due to
Mayer was the boss, she could eliminate the policy (Aschoff, 2015 p.33-34). One
can understand Aschoff argument and agree that through the feminist point of
view, many elites like Sheryl Sandberg take the push for women to work within
capitalist polices is seen. This is in contrast to the disadvantaged women who
are forced to work part time jobs and stay working minimum wage due to the very
essence of capitalism. Aschoff’s argument is very much true in that women in
power will not change anything for the women stuck at the bottom of the very
large disproportioned social class system capitalism has created.

Nicole
Aschoff continues the text by looking at different prophets and their ideas of
capitalism. Aschoff dives into looking at Ethical Capitalism and CEO of Whole
Foods John Mackey. Aschoff discusses the unique position of Mackey as he,
unlike many CEO’s, promotes sustainable wages, Health benefits for employees
and strays away from ideas of solely acclimating profit (Aschoff, 2015 P.49).

He considers this a form of Ethical Capitalism. Mackey believes Ethical
Capitalism is the reason behind Wholefoods success and what sets them apart
from other grocery organizations such as Wal-Mart Superstores, which was the
least popular amongst consumers (Christensen, 2017). Aschoff writes Wholefood
uses “lifestyle politics” (Aschoff, 2015 p.54) to their advantage to help run
the superstore. Lifestyle politics is what consumers often use to feel better
about themselves when shopping at stores such as wholefoods who promote organic
produce. Further more, it promotes social change and allows personal
empowerment as each consumer is doing something environmentally friendly for
the world. “Buying better things is not a substitute for the hard political
choices that societies need to make about limiting consumption and resource
use, and finding a replacement for the psychological crutch of consumerism”
(Aschoff, 2015 p.75). Through this quote, Aschoff highlights the idea of
lifestyle politics as mainly problematic as it is ultimately a social and
political crisis and can only be solved collectively. Additionally, Aschoff
reminds readers those ideas of Whole Foods running under Conscious Capitalism
only looks good. In reality, similar conditions are possible under unions which
supermarket workers had norm decade’s prior. Unions are something John Mackey
has expressed as not wanting. Aschoff summarizes her augments by challenging
Mackey’s belief that companies who once followed this idea of Ethical
Capitalism now have failed due to losing their way. She argues back “The fact
that none of these principles has stood the test of time is indicative of the
long-term effects of competition, not greed or laziness” (Aschoff, 2015 p.67).

She criticizes the lack of democracy in Whole Foods’ structure by looking at
stakeholders, employee policies, and the exploitation of Prison laborer’s
(Alsever, 2017). When looking at Aschoff arguments, one can agree with ethical
capitalism as being a mask to hide behind as ethical standards of living can
only be achieved for a small group of people under any form of capitalism.

Additionally, Capitalism can only function under the exploitation of working
class citizen’s labor; therefore, any work done under capitalism cannot be seen
as ethical. 

The
chapter begins with the discussion on Oprah and her rags to riches story.

Through this story, Aschoff illustrates to readers how Oprah’s story is one
that involves “hard work, not luck so anyone can achieve it” (Aschoff, 2015
p.83). The Oprah Show opened doors for private domestic problems to be
discussed on television while using her own story and many stories like her own
such as drugs and child abuse. Aschoff calls the first half of her life the
“recovery model” (Aschoff, 2015 p.83) in which guests recovered through self-esteem
practices. The Oprah show however evolved into something else soon after the
increase of talk shows (Aschoff, 2015 p.84). Oprah began a mission to “lift
people up” (Aschoff, 2015 p.84). She used what people call the “New thought
movement” (Aschoff, 2015 p.86), which is the idea of buying ones way to
happiness. The very core of the argument for Aschoff with prophets like Oprah
is the idea of individualization of core problems that stem from capitalism
such as poverty. Aschoff’s argument on Oprah and likewise media characters have
truth to it.  “You can overcome poverty
and despair in your life with an education. I am living proof of that.”
(Aschoff, 2015 p.81). Through quotes like this one, we can see Oprah using her
story to sell to the masses with an empty promise of successes. Education in
todays capitalistic society does promise a job, however overcoming poverty is
something that can be eradicated not though education, but by redistributing
the wealth gap which has steadily increased due to Capitalism.

The
final Prophet Aschoff discusses is Bill and Melinda Gates. Aschoff looks at the
rise of philanthrocapitalism, which is how one uses philanthropy in businesses
as it is for profit. Aschoff criticizes Gates take on how NGOs need to “stretch
the needs of market forces” (Aschoff, 2015 p.116). She uses his Davous speech
to demonstrate to readers his argument of not needing government aid
(Kirkpatrick, 2008). Aschoff argues that these NGOs are undemocratic and use
funding for any project they want. She uses examples of “The alliance for green
revolution in Africa” as an example as framers having no power to stop such
programs being implanted in “Ten Reasons
Why the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates…Will Not Solve the Problems
of Poverty and Hunger in Sub- Saharan Africa”. In it, readers can further
understand that often times, programs like this will not help people in the
global south. Lack of food is not the problem; the problem begins with people
not being able to afford food that is available (Holt-Giménez, Altieri & Rosset,
2006). Additionally, Aschoff argues that the gates hold a strong right-wing
capitalist idea of school systems. Aschoff shows this by highlighting The Gates
Foundation investing money in Charter Schools such as the Knowledge Is Power
Program (KIPP) which they argue promotes education and better learning for
disadvantaged students (Aschoff, 2015 p.132). This type of schooling they
believe will produce higher test scores cannot be argued, however public
schools do not have luxuries of picking and choosing students for test results.

It produces a dishonest comparison. Through analysis of The Gates Foundation,
Aschoff ends the final prophet’s idea cautioning readers of The Gates
Foundation and what wealth can achieve such as funding programs without giving
people in the global south say and attacking he education system which is put
in place by governments.  “Foundations
don’t redistribute wealth, but social movements demanding that public wealth be
used for the public good do.” (p.143). Though this quote, readers can agree
with Aschoff that The Bill Gates Foundations and similar foundations are
undemocratic and push an agenda that promotes capitalism which sinks
disadvantaged people across the world further into remaining voiceless and in
poverty.

Nicole
Aschoff writes “The New Prophets of Capital”
to educate and engage readers about the growing forces of capitalism. Readers
are introduced to the four prophets that hold their own beliefs on how
capitalism can be seen as a positive economic system. Each prophet’s story
begins with the underlying cause for their success and how they use this
narrative to help the masses. However, Aschoff provides critical insight and
highlights the increasing inequality capitalism promotes. Throughout this book, readers can see the harmful
impact capitalism has on macro levels with growing problems in social,
environmental and economic movements. The book ends off with Aschoff reflecting
on capitalism and reminders readers of a bittersweet reminder that capitalism
is predominant amongst many societies however the conversation for a better
economic system can still be put into place.

 

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