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Essay: Determining Overdeterminism

Posted by Cindy Chan on December 5, 2001 at 00:55:26:

Determining Overdeterminism:
An Informal Reflection by Cindy Chan

Economics has always been for me a system of curves. There are supply ones and demands ones and curves that would belly up or down. In every class, my high school Economics teacher, a man approaching his late fifties, would rail on about the wonders of capitalism. Being a two-time divorcee and therefore a man of the capitalistic world, he accredited the bulk of his knowledge through life experiences, particularly those involving divorce. I remember sitting through one of his classes and thinking that he resembled some type of new-born evangelist preaching to us about the awesome power of capital and what joy it can bring. I have always wondered, however, what the world of economics would be like without a system of charts that determine the outcome of lives. College started me off in finding other economic theories that contradicts what my high school teacher has ingrained in me for years: Neo-classic economics is unflawed and absolute.
ECON 100 is my first introduction to Marxian ideals which I find I relate to more than Neo-classic theories. The idea of overdeterminism is one aspect of Marxian economics that I passionately agree with. From the experience of living, I've learned that every action is the reciprocal of all actions in the world. The world is connected and operates for the greater good contrary to what Neo-classic theories state. These relationships are always in flux so narrowing down the determinant of an economic process would be impossible.
A splendid example of overdeterminism is depicted in Mississippi Masala. In the film, I see situations in Demetrius's life that parallel my own. What's interesting about Demetrius's character is that he internalizes a lot of conflicts within himself. For example, given the chance to go to college, he chooses to remain in Mississippi and take care of his father instead. Moreover, he takes on the role as head of the family and is counsel for his younger brother. The breakthrough in Demetrius's life was when he met Mina and fell in love with her. From there the course of Demetrius's life drastically verged because his relationship allowed him the time to reevaluate his life, and with Mina's added perspective, Demetrius was no longer afraid to start anew elsewhere.
The events that led to the collapse of Demetrius's business are examples of overdeterminism. By spending the night with Mina and being discovered, Demetrius got arrested which stained his reputation as a credible businessman. Because the bank no longer deemed Demetrius as credible, the loans made towards his carpet cleaning business were taken away thus leaving him with the only option of closing the business. Other consequences of Demetrius's action are that of racial barriers and fake versus real. Real was not how the film began with the hotel manager befriending Demetrius and his partner to avoid a law suit. Real was the manager's reaction to what happened when he found out that Demetrius was involved with Mina. Another consequence that resulted is that of Demetrius's partner leaving the business to go to California to make his fame and fortune for it was obvious the business was going down. His partner would've never left had not Demetrius lost his loan due to his relationship with Mina. In retrospect, we see the single action of Demetrius affecting others which in turn affects still more others and the process goes on.
Applying this thought to my life, I see where the parallels met. Similar to Demetrius, I'm striving to better my status in life by doing well in school. First, in order to do well in school, it depends on the drive and type of institution one is put in. To get into a good institution in the first place would require me to be living in a lucrative neighborhood where funds are frequently allocated to support schools. In order to live in a lucrative neighborhood, my parents' income must be at least substantial. Because I have all these perquisites, I'm admitted to this wonderful institution. In order to do well in school, I have to have the right teachers and the right experiences. Of course, there is the likelihood that I might do poorly in school if I associate with people of poor caliber. However, because I decided not to follow that route, I work hard in my classes and make the grade getting me admitted to Mount Holyoke College. But what if my grade point average was a couple of points off? Would that determine my acceptance or denial? What about the SATs? I could have had a bad case of indigestion on the day of the test and scored low. If I hadn't hastily gulped down my glass of milk, would that result in a higher score allowing me to get into another college than where I am now? Overdeterminism says yes. Like Demetrius, I am trying to up my status in society by getting a higher education and finding a job that pays well. In order to get a notable higher education, I must do well in my secondary schooling which is determined by many factors explained above. Bottom line is that overdeterminism is depicted in Mississippi Masala as the chain of cause-and-effect events that lead to Demetrius's downfall whereas overdeterminism in my life is what affects the level of status I will achieve in the future.


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