Richard D. Wolff

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Richard D. Wolff
Richard D. Wolff in 2015.jpg
Wolff on The Laura Flanders Show , July 2015
Richard David Wolff

(1942-04-01) April 1, 1942 (age 78) [1]
Spouse(s) Harriet Fraad [2]
School or
Marxian economics
Alma mater

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). [8]

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". [9] Wolff lives in Manhattan with his wife and frequent collaborator, Harriet Fraad, a practicing psychotherapist.

Early life and education

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. [10] 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." [10]

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. [1] His dissertation, "Economic Aspects of British Colonialism in Kenya, 1895–1930", [11] was eventually published in book form in 1974. [12]


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. [13] 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," [14] 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.

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. [16] In 2011, he called for the establishment of a broad-based left-wing mass party in the United States. [17] 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. [18] Wolff hosts a weekly radio/tv show and podcast on economics and society, Economic Update, at WBAI in New York City. [19]

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." [20] 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." [21]


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. [22] 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. [23]


Richard Wolff on Bernie Sanders and Socialism

In July 2015, Wolff endorsed Massachusetts physician and Green Party candidate Jill Stein for President. [24]

Personal life

In addition to his native English, Wolff is fluent in French and German. [1] Wolff lives in New York City with his wife, Harriet Fraad, a psychotherapist. They have two children. [18]



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<i>Monopoly Capital</i> book by Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy

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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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wolff, Richard D. "Wolff C.V." (PDF). Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  2. "Richard Wolff - Guests".
  3. Crisis and Openings: Introduction to Marxism (2012) on YouTube
  4. Extended interview with prof. Wolff on how Marxism influences his work, Democracy Now! , 25 March 2013
  6. 1 2 Wolff, Richard D. Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy , University of Chicago Press, 15 July 1989, ISBN   978-0226710235
  7. "On Moyers & Company" by Richard D. Wolff, 22 February 2013
  8. name/Rampell>Rampell, Ed (May 22, 2019). "Understanding "Wolff-ism": Prof. Richard Wolff's Take on Karl Marx in New Text". Hollywood Progressive . Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  9. Davidson, Adam (February 5, 2012). "It Is Safe to Resume Ignoring the Prophets of Doom ... Right?". The New York Times Magazine . Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  10. 1 2 Goodman, Amy. "Democracy Now! March 25, 2013 Watch Extended Interview with Economist Richard Wolff on How Marxism Influences His Work". Pacifica Radio. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  11. OCLC   682061093
  12. Wolff, Richard D. (1974). Economics of Colonialism: Britain and Kenya, 1870–1930. Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-300-01639-0.
  13. {Re-centering Class in Critical Theory: A Tribute to Stephen A. Resnick (1938-2013) |}
  14. Resnick, S. and Wolff, R. (1979). "The Theory of Transitional Conjunctures and the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism," Review of Radical Political Economics, 11:3, 3–22 and 32–36.
  15. Richard D. Wolff (May 26, 2015). Critics of Capitalism Must Include Its Definition. Truthout. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  16. "Green Party of Connecticut: Election History". Connecticut Green Party . Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  17. Wolff, Richard D. (March 13, 2011). "What's left of the American left?". The Guardian . London.
  18. 1 2 Wolff, Richard D. "About Professor Richard D. Wolff" . Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  19. "Economic Update - Richard D. Wolff". WBAI . Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  20. Interview in "To Vima" Newspaper - Greek Publication Archived March 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine , 24 January 2011, translated by and uploaded on
  21. "Capitalism, Socialism, and Economic Democracy: Reflections on Today's Crisis and Tomorrow's Possibilities", by Costas Panayotakis, Envisioning a Post-Capitalist Order, December 2010
  22. "About – Democracy at Work". d@w. 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  23. "Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff". Liberated Syndication. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  24. "Endorsing Jill Stein for President: Professor Richard D. Wolff Economist" . Retrieved July 13, 2015.


External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Capitalism's Stunning Contradiction on YouTube
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Abby Martin & Richard Wolff Discuss Socialism in 2019 on YouTube