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Your Money is Foul and So Is Capitalism: Why We Need to be Anticapitalist

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Your Money is Foul and So Is Capitalism: Why We Need to be Anticapitalist

“Globalization colonizes women’s as well as men’s lives around the world,


and we need an anti-imperialist, anticapitalist, and contextualized feminist

project to expose and make visible the various, overlapping forms of

sub- jugation of women’s lives.”

Chandra Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles


I will do a close reading of Good Kings Bad Kings, by Susan Nussbaum, in order to support Mohanty’s claim that feminism has to be anticapitalist. However, I will be specifically targeting ableism and not feminism. I do not believe these to things are the same, but I believe that different types of oppression are linked. The same system that oppresses disabled people is going to oppress people in other marginalized groups. I will show how only people with money can be successful in capitalist systems, and other marginalized groups are not given the tools to ‘climb the ladder,’ and be considered successful. After, I will look what it means to work under the system instead of trying to dismantle it.

Good Kings Bad Kings is about a juvenile nursing home called Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, or ILLC, in Chicago. It is written from the perspective of multiple characters, ranging from patients of ILLC, to the workers, to the person who serves works for the CEO. These characters give us different frame of references to think about what is going on in ILLC and behind the scenes. We are able to see personal problems and structural problems.

ILLC is working under a capitalist economy. It is considered a business, not a social service, so the owner is trying to make money from the endeavor. The purpose of ILLC is not to help the people who are patients there. Michelle, who is a recruiter for Whitney-Palm Health Solutions was in charge of gathering information on ILLC’s spending. When looking at the efficiency of ILLC, all of the concern is how much they are spending and and much they could be saving. At no point is the happiness of quality of life of the patients taken into consideration (Nussbaum 129). She is also responsible for filling beds in ILLC. The worth of these people’s live to her is $300, because that is how much money she receives for getting them in a Whitney-Palm facility. When she goes out to different community locations to recruit patients, she is like a predator out for prey (Nuassbaum 25). She does not need to be concerned with how well somebody will be served there. All she needs to know is if they are eligible. It is as if when she sees their bodies she does not see a person, but dollar signs.

The lives of the patients at ILLC are commodified in multiple ways. First, in the way that Michelle gets money for placing them there. Second, the patients keep being admitted to the hospital for no reason so that the doctor they were seeing would get money from Medicaid and Medicare. The doctor who was the leader of this fraud said, “[I] have a product to sell and the product was nursing-home patients (Nussbaum 277). Thirdly, the way that ILLC takes their SSI checks. Most of the check is given to ILLC, while the patient only gets a thirty dollar “allowance” each month (Naussbaum 38). This is the only way that the nursing home sees the patient as valuable. The reason why they want more people in ILLC is not because it will be helpful in their life, but because it means they get more SSI checks. That is the patient’s only purpose at ILLC.  They are not there to be rehabilitated, or assisted in endeavors to be able to live on their own. The patients at ILLC will not go out into the workforce to make money for themselves. We can see with Joanne, who works at ILLC and is Quadriplegic, it is hard to get a job as a disabled person. She says once she rolls into an interview in a wheelchair, “they will marshal their resources and nervously reach out to shake my gimpy hand and smile enthusiastically while they mentally feed my  résumé to the shredder” (Nussbaum 8).Whether or not she is actually qualified, her disability makes her less ‘productive’ than the other people who interview so she won’t get the job. And there is no way to be independent without a job if you weren’t awarded with a large sum of money like Joanne was. The medicaid that will pay for them to be in a nursing home will not pay for them to have home help aids (Nussbaum 277).

Capitalism is not going to give marginalized groups the power to succeed. There such a large focus on making money that there's no attention paid to somebody’s quality of life. In order to make money in a capitalist state people have to be out of work. It does not matter what their quality of life is if they cannot get a job. Because businesses are so focus on making money they want to pay their employees the least amount possible. In order to do that there needs to be a demand for jobs that is created by having a lack of jobs. If people know that it's possible that they won't have a job they'll take lower paying jobs. If everybody had a job then businesses would have to become competitive and raise their prices so people would be more incentivised to work for them rather than for someone else. Because they're such a need for people to be out of work there is not going to be any actual solution to unemployment. The children in ILLC do not go to the same rigorous schooling as others. They don't get homework. I know that in my school we were given a lot of homework to ensure that we be ready for college. College is promoted as the the way that we would get a good job. Whitney-Palm wants the children to stay within the system so they will not give them the tools such as a good education to succeed. The kids don’t go to a school where they get homework (Nussbaum 238).

Being successful in a capitalist state with a marginalized identity is to have money. Joanne said, “There are poor people and then there are poor disabled people. One of those things sucks, but both together suck stratospherically” (Nussbaum 8). One of the patients, Bernard, does not want to move back home because his mother’s place is not accessible. “His mom’s place is up three flights and his brothers and sisters don’t always like him asking them” (Nussbaum 179)  If they have the money to live somewhere else with the elevator when you get home would be a much more enjoyable experience. Power chairs instead of manual chairs offer so much more mobility and freedom to those who need it. Mia, while in a manual chair, is “planted in this one spot all by herself, can’t move an inch on her own” (Nussbaum 11). However when power chairs are not affordable the user feels trapped. Joanne is able to live a very privileged life as a disabled person because she has a lot of money. She became disabled when she was hit by a bus and got a very large settlement. The only reason why she's working is because she want to feel connected to the community and wanted something to do with her time. Because she has so much money she has a lot of privileges for example when she starts going out with Ricky. She does not want to feel dependent on him They started their relationship when Ricky would drive her home from work. And an attempt to stay independent from him she hired a personal driver. This gave her a sense of autonomy. Disabled people without money would be forced to stay feeling dependent on others.

Obioma Nnaemeka wrote about nego-feminism, which is the way to work within a system instead of changing it. She argues that it is a type of feminism outside a western feminism in which women negotiate with the restraints of their system able advance through it (Nnaemeka 360-362). I appreciate  the acknowledgment of different ways that people negotiate, and think it is important for us to recognize the limitations that some people have for different reasons. However, I see it only as a short-term rather than a long-term solution At least in the western contexts negotiating with capitalism can only get a so far. We can see from the characters Ricky and Michelle the different ways that one can negotiate under the system and the effects and drawbacks that has. Starting with Michelle, who does no negotiating, she is complicit in the system. She is one of the driving forces behind the commodification of disabled bodies. Next comes Ricky, who does a lot of negotiating. He works at ILLC and has patience with all the patients. He does not attempt to change policy but hopes to better the kids lives with his love and care. Ricky makes a great impact on the kids at ILLC. For example, the workers are not supposed to leave the patients in the time out room alone. Other workers will still do it, but Ricky won’t (Nussbaum 90). However, this will only last as long as he is there. After he leaves there will be no institutional memory of how his impact and there will be no requirement of future workers to do the same. And it does not reverse or prevent the inappropriate actions of the other workers who do not choose to negotiate with in the system. There are no repercussions for their actions.

Going back to the benefits of having money and capitalism, it affects how people can or cannot negotiate with them in the system. Jimmy relies on the system. She was homeless before she got the job at ILLC which is why she took in the first place. She did not take it with the intent of helping the patients although she does come in a make a positive impact on them. Jimmie was in a very desperate situation. She would be lucky to get a dollar from a friend, which she would use to buy a bag of doritos, which would have to last the entire day. Joanne on the other hand, because she has so much money, has a lot of flexibility in what she can or cannot do. When Yessie starts the protest Jimmy very much wants to be a part of it. However, because of her her instability she cannot risk joining the protest. If she joins and loses her job she will be homeless again. What she did instead was she decided to work a double shift so she could “watch over [the patients] and call the lawyers if there was repercussions” for those who protested (Nussbaum 256). But Joanne is able to join the protest. If she loses her job she has a safety net. Admittedly, Michelle is in a rough situation as well.

In conclusion, capitalism needs to be dismantled if we want to stop the marginalization of different groups. There is no support for marginalized identities unless they intersect with being middle to upper class. I only looked specifically at people who are considered disabled, but there are so many connections between disability and other marginalizations. Women, people of color, and the elder are often disregarded in the workforce because they are not considered “productive.” And because capitalism depends on unemployment, it is these marginalized groups who are going to be overlooked first. Women sometimes cannot get jobs because of pregnancy. Their inability to work for a couple months to a year makes them less ‘efficient’ workers. The elderly are portrayed as ‘fragile’ and ‘senile,’ so they don’t have the opportunity to work if they want to. These are just two extra examples. I’m sure that if we had more time to delve into the topic we could find many more.


Works Cited

Nnaemeka, Obioma. "Nego‐Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa’s Way." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29.2 (2004): 357-85. Web.

Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings Bad Kings: A Novel. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2013. Print.