Richard Wolff: Capitalism Hits the Fan Lecture (2009)

Dandelion Salad

replaced video May 21, 2013 with a similar lecture

buddhagem Apr 26, 2009

American economist Richard Wolff at the opening plenary of the Left Forum in New York City on April 17, 2009. In this speech he explains our current financial crisis and puts it in the context of an en economic system that is fundamentally unstable.

Richard D. Wolff (born April 1942, Youngstown, Ohio) is a American economist, well-known for his work on Marxian economics, economic methodology and class analysis. Wolff received his Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1969. He frequently collaborates with fellow economist Stephen Resnick. Wolf is married to (and sometimes co-author with) psychoanalyst Harriet Fraad.

Wolff taught at the City College of New York from 1969-1973, and then began teaching at the Economics Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he has been full professor since 1981. He began collaborating with Stephen Resnick during their common appointments at the City University of New York, and continued after they both moved to University of Massachusetts. Wolff and Resnick have jointly published numerous articles and books that formulate a nondeterminist, class analytical approach. Their topics have included Marxian theory and value analysis, overdetermination, radical economics, international trade, business cycles, social formations, the Soviet Union, and comparing and contrasting Marxian and non-Marxian economic theories.

Wolff’s work with Resnick took Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar’s Reading Capital as its point of departure and developed a subtle reading of Karl Marx’s Capital Volumes II and III in their influential Knowledge and Class. For the authors, Marxian class analysis entails the detailed study of the conditions of existences of concrete forms of performance, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor. While there could be an infinite number of forms of surplus appropriation, the Marxist canon refers to ancient (independent), slave, feudal, capitalist, and communist class processes.

In 1989, Wolff joined efforts with a group of colleagues, ex- and then current students to launch Rethinking Marxism, an academic journal that aims to create a platform for rethinking and developing Marxian concepts and theories within economics as well as other fields of social inquiry. He continues to serve as a member of both the editorial and the advisory boards of the journal.

Wolff continues to teach graduate seminars and undergraduate courses and direct dissertation research in economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.



The panic of 2008 by Lee Sustar

Rolling the Dice on Derivatives by Ralph Nader

Berlusconi Says Leaders May Close World’s Markets

Anti-democratic nature of US capitalism is being exposed by Noam Chomsky

Who is Behind the Financial Meltdown? by Michel Chossudovsky

16 thoughts on “Richard Wolff: Capitalism Hits the Fan Lecture (2009)

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  11. Fascinating.

    One caveat is that the ‘bonanza’ refers to Corporate, big business employers, not small businesses, where the ’employer’ usually works as hard as any three employees, doing much of all their jobs.

    But if you worked for a big corp, you got very little of the pie, yet still did so much better than so much of the world– which he correctly attributes in the last 20 years to a lifestyle financed with credit (and abusive globalization, etc. etc.).

    Fascinating the idea that regulation didn’t work as it allowed the corporate class, still bent on vast exploitation, the means and impetus to take the regulations apart, and are now experts at it.

    Regarding his worker-based concept, I wonder what has transpired with all those factories gone-bust in Argentina taken over by the workers? I wonder if it worked in the end… it looked so promising.

    One problem is that as much as the corporados learned how to take regulation apart, workers have removed their mindset from that of management, accepting their unhappy place. While unions often became abusive gangsters, often tend to become gangs of corrupt, elitist goons… (not always, but often, sad but true…)

    Unions and entrepreneurs are generallyh a completely different mindset. Of course in industrial capitalism you must have unions to prevent abuse by management.

    I think there’s a huge problem with the entire coroprate, industrial capitalistic model. There is no easy solution if corporate industrialism is the path we’re committed to (which for me is the big question– I think it’s a bad path and to be avoided).

    You need small groups, like family farms, small companies. Only in that scenario can people make wares, develop their participation in their work, and take part in the success.

    Perhaps that is the only way communism can function. When communism becomes industrialized, massive, powered by ideology, or if commerce becomes massive, powered by marketing, and institutionalized greed, the whole thing becomes a herd-mentality, which ultimately undermines the idea of individual ingenuity and participation in the collective.
    Either way the worker is not happy.

    The link he may be missing, is how it came to pass that these small entrepreneurs whom he celebrates, strive to become huge mega-corporations: Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, etc. Striving to become an industrial monster, whether a nationalistic communist one, or an industrial capitalist one, is itself the weakness in the system.

    Something very strange happens when a small business goes public, becomes coprorate, begins issuing equities and valuations become paper not product, especially powered by venture speculation. That is where the real pirates step in and start trading in fear & greed, and the whole thing becomes an abstract house of cards (.com style).

    Similar problems of corruption & abuse seem to appear when the small collective seeks to create nationalized communism.

    But he’s got a fascinating position and very entertaining lecturer.

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