Sociology Essay, Research Paper
A pregnant woman chooses to give birth in her own home rather than in the hospital. Another woman has to stumble down a mile of a rocky hillside to get medical attention. Another woman has to borrow money from her neighbors, putting her family in debt, all to pay for the care of a doctor. This is happening in China. It is happening in many other nations as well. Women, children, and the poorer class in general are being ignored as their respective societies move forward in the name of progress. This is all detailed in the New York Times article As China Trims Health Care, The Rural Poor Suffer. China s market-oriented development has deprived the rural population of the popular barefoot doctors and free clinics that once were found throughout China s countryside. The centralization of many of China s social systems, including health care, has left those in the rural areas out in the cold. There are those that argue that this economically-motivated development violates the basic rights of these individuals who suffer because of it. The capabilities approach, developed in part by Amartya Sen, can be used to show how such a method of development deprives these people of their ability to achieve the quality of life that every person should. The capabilities approach was designed to provide an account of basic constitutional principles that should be respected and implemented by the governments of all nations, as a bare minimum of what respect for human dignity requires. This approach is designed with the interests of each individual in mind, rather than overlooking the less fortunate while concentrating on the goal of the society as a whole. By capability, we mean what a person is able to do or to be. Among all of the capabilities of human beings are central capabilities that are universal. Each one of us can be expected to live up to these. These capabilities, it is argued, should be pursued for each and every person, treating each individual person as his or her own end, rather than as a tool for the end of someone else. Around the world, women are important to identifying areas in which these capabilities are not being met satisfactorily because women often suffer from capability failure and their situations provide an interesting test of this approach. Women such as those being affected by this change in China depicted in the article are such women who show us how market-driven development fails to solve the problems faced by individuals. Women in general, in all nations, have struggled for equality. This is especially true in terms of the quality of women s lives compared to men. Employment discrimination, domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape have always been at the forefront of concerns for women. But recently added to the list has been hunger and nutrition, literacy, land rights, the right to seek employment outside the home, child marriage, and child labor. The majority of these problems belong to women of the poorer classes, whether in developing or developed nations. This factor should not make a difference in how we look at these problems. The fact that they exist is enough to warrant our putting energy into solving them. Our economic needs should not be met by denying liberty. The market-oriented development of nations has posed several problems. First, in an effort to be more efficient, the state has centralized its sub-divisions, treating them more like small businesses than social services. Instead of having them where they are needed, the state has moved them to where it is most cost-efficient to have them. While this may be beneficial to the government in countries like China, it makes it harder on Zhang Youlian and her family, who live in rural areas that used to depend on the barefoot doctors and free clinics. The market requires a social structure upon which to implement it, as well as the regulation of the government through laws. Thus, the market-development of countries cannot ignore the social issues of the society and rely wholly upon the state. Secondly, the clear distinction between public and private market entities does not exist. Ultimately, these organizations are mixed, with public organizations utilizing privately owned groups to enhance their own performance and efficiency. The affect of all of this is the de-emphasis of the needs of the individual and the emphasis of the needs of the state and its market organizations. Central capabilities may not be infringed upon to pursue other types of social advantage. This statement sums up the problem for the families in rural China. Their capabilities are being infringed upon by the centralization stemming from this market-oriented development of the last ten years.
Huge numbers of China’s 800 million rural people are in medical turmoil as once-vaunted system of ‘barefoot doctors’ and free clinics disintegrates, side effect of market-oriented changes of past decade. Central planners have withdrawn from people’s lives, taking with them most subsidies for social services like health and education. The rural health system has become hodgepodge of hospitals and clinics often privately run and almost always prohibitively expensive. According to the New York Times article, the United Nations reports health costs rose 400 to 500 percent from 1990 to 1997, so that rural Chinese have stopped seeing doctors except in extreme emergencies, enduring pain, infection and childbirth at home. The suffering of Zhang Youlian and her family in Bazuo in Yunnan Province is described in detail. It comes down to an issue of justice. This is obvious from the inability of women to attain a higher level of capability, even though they have as much a right to as men. These women should be the measuring stick by which the world gauges just how well we are doing at insuring that every human being has the same opportunities as the next. The problems of the rural families in China as described in the New York Times article, As China Trims Health Care, The Rural Poor Suffer, are just one of the many indicators of just how much we are failing at achieving this goal. The failures of the market-oriented development of third-world nations to allow individuals to live up to their quality of life potential can be clearly seen. While markets are important for the state, it must also be realized that the state is made up of individuals, and it is to those individuals that the state should ultimately be responsible, including the women. While the capabilities approach takes a predominantly feminist view of development, I feel it is justified by the results the approach brings about. The adoption of the principle of each person s capability, based upon the principle of each person as an end, is the approach that should be rightfully taken.