Richard D. Wolff
Wolff on The Laura Flanders Show , July 2015
Richard David Wolff
April 1, 1942
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
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Richard David Wolff (born April 1, 1942) is an American economist, known for his work on economic methodology and class analysis. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. Wolff has also taught economics at Yale University, City University of New York, University of Utah, University of Paris I (Sorbonne), and The Brecht Forum in New York City.
In 1988 Wolff co-founded the journal Rethinking Marxism . In 2010 he published Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, also released on DVD. In 2012 he released three new books: Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism, with David Barsamian (San Francisco: City Lights Books), Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian, with Stephen Resnick (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: MIT University Press), and Democracy at Work (Chicago: Haymarket Books). In 2019 he released his book Understanding Marxism (Democracy at Work).
Wolff hosts the weekly 30-minute-long program Economic Update, which is produced by the non-profit Democracy at Work, which he co-founded. Economic Update is on Youtube, FreeSpeech TV, WBAI, 99.5 FM, New York City (Pacifica Radio), CUNY TV (Channel 25.3), and available as a podcast. Wolff is featured regularly in television, print, and internet media. The New York Times Magazine has named him "America's most prominent Marxist economist".Wolff lives in Manhattan with his wife and frequent collaborator, Harriet Fraad, a practicing psychotherapist.
In order to escape National Socialism, Wolff's parents emigrated from Europe to the United States during World War II. His father, a French lawyer working until that point in Cologne, Germany, gained employment as a steelworker in Youngstown, Ohio (in part because his European certification was not recognized in the United States), and the family eventually settled outside New York City. His mother was a German citizen.Wolff's father was acquainted with Max Horkheimer. Wolff states that his European background influenced his world view:
"[E]verything you expect about how the world works probably will be changed in your life, that unexpected things happen, often tragic things happen, and being flexible, being aware of a whole range of different things that happen in the world, is not just a good idea as a thinking person, but it's crucial to your survival. So, for me, I grew up convinced that understanding the political and economic environment I lived in was an urgent matter that had to be done, and made me a little different from many of my fellow kids in school who didn't have that sense of the urgency of understanding how the world worked to be able to navigate an unstable and often dangerous world. That was a very important lesson for me."
Wolff earned a BA magna cum laude in history from Harvard in 1963 and moved on to Stanford—he attained an MA in economics in 1964—to study with Paul A. Baran. Baran died prematurely from a heart attack in 1964 and Wolff transferred to Yale University, where he received an MA in economics in 1966, MA in history in 1967, and a PhD in economics in 1969. As a graduate student at Yale, Wolff worked as an instructor.His dissertation, "Economic Aspects of British Colonialism in Kenya, 1895–1930", was eventually published in book form in 1974.
Wolff taught at the City College of New York from 1969–1973. Here he started his lifelong collaboration with fellow economist Stephen Resnick, who arrived in 1971 after being denied tenure at Yale for signing an anti-war petition.Both would then be part, along with Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, and Rick Edwards, of the "radical package" that was hired in 1973 by the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Wolff has been full professor since 1981. Wolff retired in 2008 but remains professor emeritus and that year joined The New School as a visiting professor.
The first co-authored academic publication by Wolff and Resnick was "The Theory of Transitional Conjunctures and the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism,"which laid out the pillars of the framework that they have worked on ever since. They formulated a non-determinist, class-analytical approach for understanding the debates regarding the transition from feudalism to capitalism. 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 Étienne 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.
|“||Marx used the word "exploitation" to focus analytical attention on what capitalism shared with feudalism and slavery, something that capitalist revolutions against slavery and feudalism never overcame.||”|
|— Richard D. Wolff|
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. For more than two decades, he served as a member of the editorial board of the journal. Currently, he continues to serve as a member of the advisory board of the journal.
Wolff was a visiting professor in spring 1994 at University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. Wolff continues to teach graduate seminars and undergraduate courses and direct dissertation research in economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and, most recently, in the graduate program in international affairs (GPIA) at The New School.
A founding member of the Green Party of New Haven, Connecticut, Wolff was the party's mayoral candidate in 1985.In 2011, he called for the establishment of a broad-based left-wing mass party in the United States. Wolff, especially since 2008, gives many public lectures throughout the United States and other countries. He is regular lecturer at the Brecht Forum. Wolff is often a guest on television and radio news programs, and, within the U.S., has appeared on a variety of programs, as well as writing for a number of publications and websites. Wolff hosts a weekly radio/tv show and podcast on economics and society, Economic Update, at WBAI in New York City.
One of his students, George Papandreou, became Prime Minister of Greece serving from 2009 to 2011. Wolff remembers Papandreou as a student who "sought then to become both a sophisticated and a socialist economist."However, CUNY Economics professor Costas Panayotakis observed that "after being elected Greek prime minister in the fall of 2009 on a platform that excoriated austerity as the wrong kind of policy to be adopted at a time of deep economic crisis, George Papandreou has reversed himself and, faced with a debt crisis, called in the International Monetary Fund and imposed the most brutal austerity program the country has ever seen."
Wolff is a co-founder of Democracy at Work, a non-profit that produces media and live events to expose capitalism's systemic problems and to show how democratizing our workplaces solves them.The organization is based off his 2012 book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. Wolff also hosts the nationally syndicated program Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff, which is produced by Democracy at Work.
In July 2015, Wolff endorsed Massachusetts physician and Green Party candidate Jill Stein for President.
In addition to his native English, Wolff is fluent in French and German.Wolff lives in New York City with his wife, Harriet Fraad, a psychotherapist. They have two children.
Paul Marlor Sweezy was a Marxist economist, political activist, publisher, and founding editor of the long-running magazine Monthly Review. He is best remembered for his contributions to economic theory as one of the leading Marxian economists of the second half of the 20th century.
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism has developed into many different branches and schools of thought, with the result that there is now no single definitive Marxist theory.
Heterodox economics is any economic thought or theory that contrasts with orthodox schools of economic thought, or that may be beyond neoclassical economics. These include institutional, evolutionary, feminist, social, post-Keynesian, ecological, Georgist, Austrian, Marxian, socialist and anarchist economics, among others.
James R. Crotty is an American Post-Keynesian macroeconomist whose research in theory and policy attempts to integrate the complementary analytical strengths of the Marxian and Keynesian traditions. He has made contributions to the social structure of accumulation (SSA) theory; the implications of radical uncertainty for macro theory and theories of financial markets.
Stephen Alvin Resnick was an American heterodox economist. He was well known for his work on Marxian economics, economic methodology, and class analysis. His work, along with that of Wolff, is especially associated with a post-Marxist and post-Althusserian perspective on political economy.
Rethinking Marxism is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal covering Marxist analyses of economics, culture, and society. It was established in 1988 and has been published by Routledge since 2003 on behalf of the Association for Economic and Social Analysis. The editors-in-chief are Marcus E. Green and Serap Kayatekin.
Criticism of Marxism has come from various political ideologies and academic disciplines. This include general criticism about a lack of internal consistency, criticism related to historical materialism, that it is a type of historical determinism, the necessity of suppression of individual rights, issues with the implementation of communism and economic issues such as the distortion or absence of price signals and reduced incentives. In addition, empirical and epistemological problems are frequently identified.
Samuel Stebbins Bowles, is an American economist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he continues to teach courses on microeconomics and the theory of institutions. His work belongs to the neo-Marxian tradition of economic thought. However, his perspective on economics is eclectic and draws on various schools of thought, including what he and others refer to as post-Walrasian economics.
J. K. Gibson-Graham is a pen name shared by feminist economic geographers Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson. Their first book The End of Capitalism was published in 1996, followed by A Postcapitalist Politics in 2006. Julie Graham died on April 4, 2010 from complications from cancer. Katherine Gibson is currently professor at the Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. The two women also founded The Community Economies Research Network (CERN) and the Community Economies Collective (CEC), "international collaborative networks of researchers who share an interest in theorizing, discussing, representing and ultimately enacting new visions of economy."
Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order is a 1966 book by the Marxian economists Paul Sweezy and Paul A. Baran. It was published by Monthly Review Press. It made a major contribution to Marxian theory by shifting attention from the assumption of a competitive economy to the monopolistic economy associated with the giant corporations that dominate the modern accumulation process. Their work played a leading role in the intellectual development of the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s. As a review in the American Economic Review stated, it represented "the first serious attempt to extend Marx’s model of competitive capitalism to the new conditions of monopoly capitalism." It attracted renewed attention following the Great Recession.
Herbert Gintis is an American economist, behavioral scientist, and educator known for his theoretical contributions to sociobiology, especially altruism, cooperation, epistemic game theory, gene-culture coevolution, efficiency wages, strong reciprocity, and human capital theory. Throughout his career, he has worked extensively with economist Samuel Bowles. Their landmark book, Schooling in Capitalist America, has had multiple editions in five languages since it was first published in 1976. Their most recent book, A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and its Evolution was published by Princeton University Press in 2011.
Ernesto Screpanti is a professor of Political Economy at the University of Siena. He worked on the “rethinking Marxism” research programme, in the attempt to update Marxist analysis by bringing it in line with the reality of contemporary capitalism, on the one hand, and to liberate Marxism from any residue of Hegelian metaphysics, Kantian ethics and economic determinism, on the other.
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that frames capitalism through a paradigm of exploitation, analyzes class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. Marxism uses a materialist methodology, now known as historical materialism, to analyze and critique the development of class society and especially of capitalism as well as the role of class struggles in systemic economic, social and political change.
Throughout modern history, a variety of perspectives on capitalism have evolved based on different schools of thought.
The terms neo-Marxian, post-Marxian and radical political economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic theory in the 1970s and 1980s that stems from the Marxian economic thought. Many of the leading figures were associated with the leftist Monthly Review School.
Jack L. Amariglio is a North American heterodox economist. He is well known for his work on economic history, class analysis, and on economic methodology and postmodernism in economics.
Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to the critique of classical political economy in the research by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other, and in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement or supplement other economic approaches. Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage rather than being synonymous. They share a semantic field while also allowing connotative and denotative differences.
Crisis theory, concerning the causes and consequences of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in a capitalist system, is now generally associated with Marxist economics.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Marxism:
Harriet Fraad is a feminist activist, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. She is said to be a founding member of the Feminist movement, owed in part to her founding of the Woman's Liberation Movement in 1968. She is the wife of Marxian economist Richard D. Wolff. Wolff and Fraad have two children together.
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