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Forum Post: We Can Do Better Than Capitalism -- Richard Wolff

Posted 3 years ago on Sept. 20, 2014, 1:13 p.m. EST by struggleforfreedom80 (6584)
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[-] 2 points by JackHall (413) 3 years ago

Wolff is saying more democratic input from labor in decision making would improve production results.

The public doesn’t understand the complexity. I don’t believe the democratic process is applicable all of the time. Information access is important for democracy. The assembly line allowed mass production. Division of labor created specialization in particular manufacturing procedures. Labor would need to know only a piece of the total manufacturing process as cogs in a great machine. Now labor has to understand the interdependencies of manufacture: engineering, design, materials, reliability, defects, assembly, delivery, installation, operation, costs.

In IT there are many examples where there are systems containing millions of lines programming code. In practice no one knows exactly how the whole system works.

JFK - We choose to go to the Moon, full length


This would apply to large complex organizations in general.

[-] 0 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 3 years ago

As this playlist shows, workers running their own enterprises works fine.

[-] 2 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

We can do better than Capitalism-Yes We Can.To all of those people who think we can fix the System-No We Can't.Unless the kind of far reaching structural change we need could be called "reform" To be a Radical is to desire to solve problems by digging the whole problem out by the" root" and destroying it so it Never Comes Back.The search for answers will lead to Democracy At Work.If the theoretical answer to a failed democracy is more democracy-I think we should give it a shot.

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

Much easier to evolve Capitalism ... to redefine Capitalism

[-] 1 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

Is it possible to water it down? We need to find out.

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

good point !! maybe "watering it down' is another way to look at it ...

imo... our current form of Capitalism has become out-dated ... it worked pretty well a century ago... but we are in new times now....

there really is nothing wrong with the ideology of "free enterprise" & private ownership of property... as long as Everyone gets a piece of the game...

as there is nothing wrong with the ideology of "communal enterprise" & shared ownership of property... as long as Everyone has the freedom to chose what they want to do...

there is no reason that we cannot provide the ideologies of both seemingly opposing structures at the same time... working together in harmony....

Currently ... the accepted use of Capitalism has become too powerful... favoring the wealthy and harming the others... this IS the only problem...

and that is because the current form of Capitalism is focused and driven by mere "monetary profits" ...

however in the real current world ... there are many more types of profits and wealths....

so... if we update how we value Capitalistic endeavors ... as giving value not merely to the "Economic Wealth" the endeavor provides ... but also to the "Social Wealth" it provides ... we will not only increase opportunity 1000 fold... but we will also even the playing field ... wresting away the evils that a system based on mere monetary profit creates....

[-] 2 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

The actual mechanical action is pretty easy to grasp.I can't imagine how it can be altered and still work.I think we can keep markets.Markets work well.First,an economic system has to answer these questions:what shall we produce;how shall we create product;for whom shall these products be created? Also consider the 6 things markets do in the order that they do them-now I can't read my own handwriting and I can't make a mistake here-so as the Governator said in one of his movies-"I'll be baaack."OK-The 6 things that markets do in the order in which they do them:1) commodification 2) determination of prices 3) allocation of resources 4) rationing 5)providing of information 6) clearance of shortages and surplusses

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

one thing to think about when studying this....

our Real goal is Freedom !! ... "Individual Freedom" (freedom to do whatever we choose) as well as "Economic Freedom" (freedom from economic oppression)...

therefore we do not want to build a system that is government controlled ....

we want to build a system in which the free-market controls... but also valuing the social good that the endeavor provides ...

also... what if the product produced is not something of monetary value... is not something that can be bought or sold.... but, is something that provides a service such as ... eliminating homelessness ?

[-] 1 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

There are 3 known economic systems-traditional such as Native Americans had before Europeans barged in;command.such as existed in Europe in Feudal times.and market based,such as Capitalism is now.We have to choose one of these.modify one of these. create a hybrid.or come up with something entirely new.A tall order?-or what-lol

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

not really tall order... simple really... the Bank of North Dakota has already set the path... BND .. has been ... for decades... provided financing for not how much profit a company produces... but on what the company does to better the people of the state... they actually provide negative interest funding .... (as far as I understand) ...

the only task is to do the same at a national level....

DC Central Kitchen is a wonderful example.... they employ (paid) ...homeless people to provide food for other homeless ... and in doing so they give those that want it... chef degrees... they last I heard they average over 600 chefs a year in culinary Art's .... most of which move to 4 & 5 star restaurants.... a huge success !! .... last I knew ... DCCK had 14 operations around the country....

anyway... currently they survive on non-profit donations....

what if ....

they were in North Dakota ... ND would finance them ....

that is the answer.... in today's world where manufacturing is going away due to automation.... we need new ways to be part of the system.... non-profits worked for a while...

but now many non-profits are more concerned about ... keeping their staff employed than their actual missions... same with church's ....

all we have to do... is establish the model that proves that the economy will do better by basing the system on social wealth building ... as opposed to monetary wealth building....

this is what many of the northern European nations are doing right now.....

very simple really.... it already has been done... we simply need to support it ....

further I think we want both.... support of social wealth building as well as monetary wealth building

[-] 1 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

I see two problem groups in society that do not contribute anything worth the having of.The extreme wealth group and the extreme poverty group.How can create a system that will make these disappear?

[-] 2 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

well... if anyone.... extreme wealth related... or extreme poverty related... could get funding to do something worthwhile.... then all of the extreme poverty groups would have opportunity... and many ..if not most of the extreme wealth groups would decide that they would rather do something of value... than simply turn profit.... no ?

anyway ... there is little argument here.... there is much movement in this dirrection already.... however it would help if Occupy jumped on board :)

search "Social Wealth"

added... a couple quick ones...



[-] 1 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 3 years ago

I will do that in a few-I am going to have to pause for work now.Back in a couple hours.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 3 years ago

If the population receive a base income

to collect good and services from the market

The market would move to produces those

to the people to collect the money.


close the loop by taxing success

and reintroduce that money on the bottom

to keep the market moving

1% of the people own 50% of the property

[-] -2 points by turbocharger (1756) 3 years ago

decentralized market economies. Whether state sponsored socialist concepts or voluntary is the sticking point with most people.


[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 3 years ago

"Richard Wolff sounds more like a salesman than an intellectual."

And you sound more like a fraud than a leftist: a childish provocateur who is obsessed with the "twinkle team". twinkle team this and twinkle team that, all day long. Twinkle team, twinke team, twinkle team! You spend all your time and energy on splitting hairs, getting obsessed with small little insignificant details, bashing the evil twinkle team, contradicting yourself by saying banning is wrong, and then saying 5 minutes later that DKA should be banned. You spend all this time on these things, while ignoring the important issues, of course. And then you get mad when we claim you're a troll, a pretender. What, do you expect us to take you seriously when you're doing all this? What, do you think we're stupid...it's as if you believe we're small children....

"Then he makes it seem like if all these decisions would be democratic, they would solve all the problems. Production would not go overseas we are led to believe, etc... I find this naive and dangerous. Many of the problems in capitalism have nothing to do with democracy. They have to do with staying in business, because being profitable is the #1 thing. If you go bankrupt, you can't even make decisions."

First of all, he did not say this would solve all the problems. It would however sharply reduce them, which would be a step in the right direction. I think the strategy proposed by anarcho-syndicalists and others, using direct action in order to change the society, trying to build a worker run society, piece by piece, in the shell of the old, is a good one. Don't you?

Secondly. If many workplaces are democratized, they can create federations and start cooperating and helping each other out, as we've seen with the Mondragon and the Evergreen Cooperatives, for example. In other words, if you have cooperatives that are knit together, they'd be concerned with mutual aid and togheter figuring out solutioons to their problems. And if these kind of anarcho-synidcalist-type models grow and become bigger, we'd be gradually moving towards a society where we focus on human need, not short term profit.

"Capitalism is a problem, but not because of lack of democracy in the workplace. Capitalism is a problem because it puts profits as the number #1 priority."

Well, the core of capitalism is the undemocratic structure (private ownership of the means of production) You can systems where profit is very important, without there being capitalism. But sure, the profit motive in capitalism is very destructive. But this abhorrent system can be overcome, if more people get involved in fighting for change.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33633) from Coon Rapids, MN 3 years ago

He goes on to list some of those decisions like moving production over seas. Then he makes it seem like if all these decisions would be democratic, they would solve all the problems. Production would not go overseas we are led to believe, etc... I find this naive and dangerous.

Says a PROPONENT (?) of direct democracy? Don't bother to reply.

Ignore Button = Re-engaged




[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33633) from Coon Rapids, MN 3 years ago


Shift the paradigm = capitalism driven by economic and environmental health ( part of a good approach - rather than driven by profits At ANY COST ).

Apple could afford to lose 90% of it's profits to operate solely in the USA - but that does not fit the current profit at all costs capitalism paradigm.

Ignore Button - Re-Engaged.


[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33633) from Coon Rapids, MN 3 years ago


Change for the better necessitates change for all.

That is what we are talking about - No? Yes ?

How the hell else do you think one moves from capitalism driven by Profits At All Cost ( including extinction ) - to move to health in all things 1st?

HINT - The People and Direct Democracy.

No don't bother to reply - just hop back up onto your rodent exercise wheel.

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

i have not read all of the discussion here but worker owned companies do not have to make a profit - they just need enough to pay the workers. not sure if you call that capitalism - i don't. did you see the movie by naomi klein - "the take" - about workers in argentina taking over closed down factories. it's very good. we could certainly create policies that would facilitate this type of production. there is a factory (400 workers) closing in my hometown - should be all sorts of tax credits or whatever which would help those people run the factory and sell the goods produced - that would be real democracy.


[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

we agree - and i understand exactly what you are saying. i don't need to watch the video, i have heard richard too many times. he is not my favorite for a number of reasons - some of which you pointed to. that said he has talked about co ops often - he has discussed the law in italy where unemployed workers can band together to create a company. there are plenty of laws and rules that could be passed to promote a better from of capitalism but it is still the same basic system with the same basic problem - profit! production for use and not for profit is what we will have to go to sooner or later - i think. also these discussions are interesting but nothing of the kind will happen soon i am afraid so small steps would be good. what do you think

[-] 0 points by timeforabigchange (-43) from Winnipeg, MB 3 years ago

Badiou, Chomsky, Zizek... Much better than this Wolff character. I'm not sure what his credentials are, but he sounds like a home made pseudo intellectual.

there are plenty of laws and rules that could be passed to promote a better from of capitalism but it is still the same basic system with the same basic problem - profit!

Indeed. Let's not refuse incremental improvements, but we have to remain very aware that improving the capitalist framework is not solving the general problem. It's only a way to attenuate the problems in the now, a way to stop the patient from bleeding too much as we figure out a way to solve the underlying problem.

production for use and not for profit is what we will have to go to sooner or later - i think.

Definitely, we will eventually need to have a system that prioritizes the well being of people before profit. However, it doesn't mean profit is bad and should be necessarily eliminated. It just needs to stop being the #1 priority. It can be #2 or #3. Profit is also the representation of how well a company works on certain levels. If you have two companies making products, the more efficient one will be fore profitable. Efficiency is a good thing. So, we need entities that make stuff first for the well being of people, and that secondly prioritize efficiency, etc... which is represented by profit and how well the business runs. In other words, if we both have entities that creates stuff for the people, there needs to be a way to favour the one that is more profitable, more lean, efficient, etc... The problem with socialism is often that the government handles an entity by having monopoly over it, so that it is not pressed by competition to be more efficient. An example is health care in Canada. It's great to have a system for the people first, but it would be cool if different entities could compete for that same goal. The health care system in Canada helps all canadians, but it isn't very efficient because of a lack of competition.

also these discussions are interesting but nothing of the kind will happen soon i am afraid so small steps would be good. what do you think

There are different types of small steps. That' what we have to remain vigilant about. Without a vision of what would really save our world and make things right, without a vision of a better way to run societies, we don't have a clear direction in which to aim those small steps in. So, instead of going towards a clear goal, the steps are based on small improvements. We don't know in which direction to walk, so we take a step which will improve things a little bit in the now. That can be like make rules to make capitalism fairer. But, as we both know, taking small steps in order to improve capitalism does not lead us towards an extremely better framework. It only improves the framework we are in now.

I'm not against small steps as long as we are very aware that we are taking them without having a clear vision of what a great future would be.

So take small steps, improve capitalism for now, but be aware it's not solving the big problems. We have to keep working on a vision for a really much better and fairer society.

People have talked about individual parts in this society.

How democracy might look like - some want direct democracy, some still believe representative democracy is good, others like jart and Moldbug believe democracy must be replaced by technocracy, etc....

Or talked about how production would be run. by co-ops, or libertarian syndicalism, etc...

But, no one has yet to profit a clear vision of an entire framework. We only have glimpses of parts of a new framework. We have to work on proposing entire frameworks that take into account all aspects of a society from politics, to economics, to daily living, to progress towards the future.

I'm a big fan of what Badiou says about revolutions and politics. I think everyone on this forum should pay attention to him.

One thing he says is that revolutions are rare, and as such cannot be forced. They can only be prepared. They are rare because he says there are two prerequisites for them:

  1. The people must be unhappy with the current system.
  2. The people must have an idea of what a better system would be.

We have number 1, but we aren't yet clear on number 2. OWS proposed anarcho-syndicalism as the new way of organizing America and other countries, but OWS general assemblies themselves failed horribly when they tried to use their flavour of direct democracy. I'm not saying direct democracy cannot be made to work, but we haven't cracked it yet. There remains fundamental problems which make it unusable at this time. The Democratic Reform Trilemma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy#Democratic_reform_trilemma), problems of micromanagement (why representative democracy was used in the first place), and some others.

As such, I believe Zizek is right when he says it's time to think and not act.


In short, we can act to improve things in small increments, like better and fairer methods for capitalism, but we can't force a revolution. A revolution will happen when we satisfy Badiou's second prerequisite. Most people know the current society does not work, they know some of the reasons why, but we have yet to propose a really comprehensive new framework to run society with. They know the current system is wrong, but they don't know what to replace it with. In that regards, it's time to think. It's time to start philosophizing about what type of framework would be best.

[-] -1 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

no time to respond in any detail. maybe later - lots of things to agree with and a few to debate. i have to prepare for work. i am a capitalist after all. i teach tennis for a living and run my own small business doing that. i do think some form of grassroots capitalism can be good. local hardware stores and mom and pop groceries etc.i assume you are aware of this - i am not a big fan of zizek.


By Noam Chomsky

July 20, 2013 Change text size: [ A+ ] / [ A- ] Email this page Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments: 3 I've received a number of requests to comment on the post: “Slavoj Žižek Responds to Noam Chomsky: ‘I Don’t Know a Guy Who Was So Often Empirically Wrong’” (http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/slavoj-zizek-responds-to-noam-chomsky.html).

I had read it, with some interest, hoping to learn something from it, and given the title, to find some errors that should be corrected – of course they exist in virtually anything that reaches print, even technical scholarly monographs, as one can see by reading reviews in the professional journals. And when I find them or am informed about them I correct them.

But not here. Žižek finds nothing, literally nothing, that is empirically wrong. That’s hardly a surprise. Anyone who claims to find empirical errors, and is minimally serious, will at the very least provide a few particles of evidence – some quotes, references, at least something. But there is nothing here – which, I’m afraid, doesn’t surprise me either. I’ve come across instances of Žižek’s concept of empirical fact and reasoned argument.

For example, in the Winter 2008 issue of the German cultural journal Lettre International, Žižek attributed to me a racist comment on Obama by Silvio Berlusconi. I ignored it. Anyone who strays from ideological orthodoxy is used to this kind of treatment. However, an editor of Harper’s magazine, Sam Stark, was interested and followed it up. In the January 2009 issue he reports the result of his investigation. Žižek said he was basing the attribution on something he had read in a Slovenian magazine. A marvelous source, if it even exists. And anyway, he continued, attributing to me a racist comment about Obama is not a criticism, because I should have made such remarks as “http://www.vest.si/2009/01/31/zizkov-kulturni-boj/. Of course, sheer fantasy.

It’s not the only case. In fact, he provides us with a good example of his practice in these comments. According to him, I claim that “we don’t need any critique of ideology” – that is, we don’t need what I’ve devoted enormous efforts to for many years. His evidence? He heard that from some people who talked to me. Sheer fantasy again, but another indication of his concept of empirical fact and rational discussion.

Accordingly, I did not expect much.

Žižek’s sole example is this: “I remember when he defended this demonstration of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a couple of texts claiming: No, this is Western propaganda. Khmer Rouge are not as horrible as that.’ And when later he was compelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Universe and so on, his defense was quite shocking for me. It was thatNo, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we didn’t yet know enough, so… you know.’ But I totally reject this line of reasoning.”

Let’s turn the empirical facts that Žižek finds so boring.

Žižek cites nothing, but he is presumably referring to joint work of mine with Edward Herman in the ‘70s (Political Economy of Human Rights) and again a decade later in Manufacturing Consent, where we review and respond to the charges that Žižek apparently has in mind. ........................................As the reader can easily determine, Žižek provides not the slightest evidence to support his charges, but simply repeats what he has probably heard – or perhaps read in a Slovenian journal. No less interesting is Žižek’s shock that we used the data that were available. He “totally rejects” this procedure. There is no need to comment on a remark that gives irrationality a bad name.

The remainder of Žižek’s comments have no relation to anything I’ve said or written, so I will ignore them.

A question remains as to why such performances are taken seriously, but I’ll put that aside as well.


[-] -2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

sorry to annoy you just thought you might be interested - i think it is time to act. i also think zizek is a blowhard but i really don't know much about him so it is not a strong opinion


[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

you mentioned his name and it made me think of the back and forth i read of those two. and now that i think about it i believe it is time to act and think. we need to act quickly to pressure our "leaders" to move away from war and towards renewable energy but we also need to think about how to move forward in the future. resource scarcity will make it harder for us to build the future so we need to be smart about how we use what we have left. having said that i do not think it will happen - i am trying to prepare personally for what is coming down the road. trying to give my grandchildren a chance


[-] -1 points by turbocharger (1756) 3 years ago

"Companies in America today cannot build everything in America. If they did, they would die because of competition. It wouldn't take long either."

Exactly. And I would say that capitalism- or any other system really- is only as strong as the people that govern it. I dont care what kind of system you set up, if everyone wants to patronize the multinationals to save a buck or two at the expense of their neighbor, and horribly mismanage any money they manage to save... Well, Im not sure a system exists that can withstand that.