The World of Poverty by Isbister voices the struggles of 5 different people throughout the world that live in Third World countries. Isbister describes these countries as unimaginable to live in. The Third World carried a sense of opposition tension and struggle (Isbister 1998). He also states that these countries bring promise by hoping the ones struggling now hopefully won’t be in the future. A myth that many believe is that these countries are not changing. Isbister states that these stories are told through interviews about the people’s firsthand experiences with poverty. These people all share many unimaginable experiences of living in third world countries, and living in poverty.
I chose Domitila Barrios de Chungara to analyze with Karl Marx’s Marxist Theory. In chapter two of Isbister’s A World of Poverty, we were introduced to Domitila was a mother of seven, and a wife to a miner. They lived in the underdeveloped Siglo XX, a mining camp in the central highlands of Bolivia (Isbister 1998). Bolivia is a very underdeveloped and poor country. Most of its people live in unimaginable poverty. When the laborers of the mine went on strike, shootings took place, people were deported, and many arrests were made. The women went on a hunger strike to protest the arrests, which lead to the formation of the Housewives Committee of Siglo XX. Domitila lead the committee, which eventually lead to her arrest during one of the strikes. Domitila was tortured and beaten multiple times during the time of her arrest (Isbister 1998). Domitila bit one of the abuser’s hands, who happened to be the son of the Commanding Colonial. The abuser took over the beatings from then on, and threatened to get revenge on her son. During the birth of the child, Domitila passed out, and awoke to the abuser throwing her dead baby at her. Domitila survived with medical care, but still refused to leave the Housewives Committee of Siglo XX (Isbister 1998).
I believe Domitila’s life demonstrates relative poverty. Relative poverty is defined as one thinking of oneself as poor only if others are rich, and one’s poverty is measured against that richness (Isbister 1998). Absolute poverty is defined as standard of living so pressing that brings with it life threatening malnutrition and disease (Isbister 1998). Domitila was barely making ends meet, but she still had the funds to sustain life at Siglo XX, unlike those living in absolute poverty. I believe if Domitila couldn’t provide food or shelter over her family’s heads, then Domitila’s life could be considered absolute poverty. Domitila’s life at Siglo XX fits into many of the characters of poverty we know. Domitila and her family were living in poor living conditions, an underdeveloped community where there was wage labor but not enough employees. Domitila’s husband was working eight-hour shifts and she was selling salmas on the side just to make ends meet (Isbister 1998). Domitila’s lived a life full of insecurity because of the worry her husband would lose his job. If her husband lost his job they would lose the house and have to leave the camp. Isbister states that bad luck can strike anytime and I think that was a fear that Domitila had. Domitila’s family were deprived of security, especially for her husband’s job and the roof of their heads.
Next, I will be comparing Domitila’s situation to Karl Marx’s Marxist Theory. I believe this theory is a perfect example of the Marxist Theory. The Marxist Theory is a political theory on class structure and conflict, and mode of production. The theory was written by Karl Marx. One of the main points of the theory talks about workers needing to see themselves in the objects they prepare. I feel like this applies well to Domitila’s scenario since her husband had to work and live at the mine. His identity was developed around the mine, which meant his familys was too. The theory also talks about workers getting paid little while capitalist get rich. I think this really applies to Domitila’s case since her husband was doing very difficult work, but not getting paid well at all. The owners of the mine were somewhere else, not doing the manual labor, and earning money from the miner’s work, such as Domitila’s husband. I think the mining camp also reflects Marx point of capitalism is unstable. Like previously mentioned, Domitila’s husband potentially losing his job at any given time was a huge threat to their security (Isbister 1998).
Karl Marx had proposed an economic system that would benefit the poor, such as Domitila. Karl Marx believed there should be no classes. The government would control all resources and means of production to maintain equality with everyone. Karl Marx stated that means of production would not be owned by the wealthy, but by the laborers themselves. I believe an economic system like this would benefit Domitila for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Domitila would not have to live at the mining camp, and her family could have a home and space of their own. Domitila’s husband would receive the money he rightly earned for his hard work, instead of only receiving small payments for his work.
In essence, the people living in the third countries are living lives unimaginable to others who aren’t. The roof over her and her families head wasn’t promised and their basic needs were barely being met. Not having guaranteed access to basic things caused Domitila to be consumed with deprivation, insecurity, domination, and power. Domitila’s situation supported the Marxist Theory by the mining company making money while the workers suffer and are in terrible conditions. The more powerful benefited while the workers suffered heavily. Since the United States is such a developed country I feel like we should put more effort to educate and do more to help the underdeveloped countries.
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