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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
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Journal Archives

Professor Richard Wolff on Capitalism and Socialism

Richard Wolff on Capitalism and Socialism: An Interview with C. J. Polychroniou

by Richard Wolff and C. J. Polychroniou.
Published on January 5, 2014

This article originally appeared at www.enet.gr

1. In a paper you co-authored nearly twenty years ago with Stephen Resnick for a co-edited book of mine, you highlighted the fact that here was a time when it was thought that societies can follow “one of two mutually exclusive forms. The first form, capitalism, is usually defined in terms of three key components: markets (determining prices and wages), private ownership of the means of production (including labor power), and, thus wage labor. The second, communism (or socialism), is generally defined as the absence of the same three components.” Ever since, you have been a leading advocate of the idea that these variables do not distinguish capitalism from socialism or communism, relying on a particular Marxist class analysis approach. Let’s start by asking you to highlight your understanding of class processes and class analysis.

In my analysis, capitalist and socialist are adjectives referring to class processes. The class processes are different from – other than – the processes that comprise ownership of property and also different from the processes of market exchanges, including the exchange between wages and labor power. Class processes are defined precisely as the producing, receiving, and distributing of surplus labor. It is these processes together that comprise a class structure. Thus, my approach differs from the traditional debates over capitalism and socialism by focusing attention upon a different variable that others choose to make the distinction between the systems. In my approach, capitalism and socialism or communism refer to the issue of class structure, the particular form of the processes of producing, receiving, and distributing surplus labor. Class processes so defined are interactive and interdependent with, but also irreducibly different from such nonclass processes as ownership (private, collective, or state), distribution (markets, command allocation, custom), and power (distribution of authority among individuals, levels of government, and so on).

2.If it is not wage labor, markets, and private property that determine capitalist class processes, what exactly is capitalism?

Crucial to my argument about systems is that there is no necessary or mechanical linkage between any of these factors and the presence of a particular form of the class process. It is not wage labor, markets, private property, parliamentary democracy, natural resource availability, or any other one or a subset of factors that are the key or essential determinants of, say, capitalist class processes. It is, rather, the ensemble of conditions, the totality of all the factors that interact and thereby generate the particular form of the class processes. So capitalism is that particular class process, i.e. organization of the surplus, in which those who produce the surplus are different people from those who appropriate and then socially distribute that surplus with the goal of reproducing that capitalist class process. In this way, capitalism is like feudalism and slavery. What differentiates capitalism from feudalism and slavery is the relationship between the surplus producers and appropriators. In capitalism, there is a contractual relationship (unlike ownership, as in slavery, or the personal relation of serfdom, as in feudalism) between surplus producer and appropriator via the wage system. But to push the argument to a logical extreme, if capitalist class processes can coexist in a society without wage labor, without markets and without private property, can this society still be called capitalist? The answer that flows from the definition I am advancing is, yes, if we can demonstrate that all the other social factors (other than wage labor, markets, and private property) impacting on its particular organization of the production, receipt, and distribution of surplus labor have overdetermined a capitalist form.

3. This is to say, then, that who predominates in state, economy and society, which has been the position of various socialists and communists, from Lenin to Lange and Sweezy, is not what differentiates capitalism from socialism?

Yes, exactly. What differentiates a systems is, as Marx showed, “how the surplus is pumped out of the producers.” If the surplus producers themselves collectively (i) determine the size of the surplus they produce, (ii) appropriate it, and (iii) distribute it socially, then you have socialism or communism as clearly differentiated from capitalism in which the surplus producers are precisely excluded from making that determination or that appropriation or that distribution. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://rdwolff.com/content/richard-wolff-capitalism-and-socialism-interview-c-j-polychroniou

Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?

Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:09
By Richard Smith, Truthout | News Analysis

This article is a lightly revised and updated version of the article originally published as "Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?" in Real-World Economics Review, issue 53, June 26, 2010, pages 28-42.

Given the relentless growth of global GHG emissions (currently growing at 2 percent per year, up 70 percent from 1990) and ever-higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere (currently at 400 parts per million, up 30 percent from 1990), climate scientist Kevin Anderson at the Radical Emissions Reduction Conference (December 10-11, 2013, at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom) concluded that "Today, in 2013, we face an unavoidably radical future." The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that "the current state of affairs is unacceptable. ... Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs" and emission trends are "perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet." In similar vein, PricewaterhouseCooper, the UK government chief scientist, and a growing body of academics and researchers are allying current emission trends with 4-degree Celsius to 6-degree Celsius futures.1 Tyndall scientists drew the only possible conclusion:

We either continue with rising emissions and reap the radical repercussions of severe climate change, or we acknowledge that we have a choice and pursue radical emission reductions: No longer is there a non-radical option. Moreover, low-carbon supply technologies cannot deliver the necessary rate of emission reductions - they need to be complemented with rapid, deep and early reductions in energy consumption - the rationale for this conference.2

How much do we need to cut and how quickly to prevent runaway warming? With the declared aim of keeping average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the Kyoto Protocol required industrialized countries to cut their average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 5.2 percent below average 1990 levels. For the biggest emitters, this would require cuts on the order of 80 percent to 95 percent by 2050.3 But we have blown right past the Kyoto targets. Instead of falling, developed country emissions have grown, some sharply. One study shows that from 1990 to 2008, emissions from developed country grew 7 percent, led by the United States, whose emissions grew by a whopping 25 percent in just 18 years.4 Meanwhile, China's emissions have doubled in just the past decade, and China is now the world's leading GHG polluter, in large measure because it's producing stuff Americans and Europeans used to produce for themselves - but under less salubrious environmental standards. So we're farther behind than ever, global emissions are soaring and, if we continue on this business-as-usual trajectory, we're headed for that "4 degrees Celsius world" before the end of this century.5 That's why James Hansen, the world's leading climate scientist, quit his job at NASA to devote himself full time to activism, education and getting himself arrested in front of the White House trying to impress the president and the public at large that we need "radical," "deep" GHG emissions cuts - "urgently" because we face a climate emergency.

So Where Are the "Radical" Solutions?

But the problem is how can we ever make deep cuts in consumption of energy (or anything else) in a capitalist economy? An economy in which we all depend upon growth to provide jobs and higher living standards? This is where the "Radical Emissions Reduction" conference fell flat. When the focus turned from the climate science to social science, no one could suggest anything like the sort of truly radical changes, indeed systemic changes, we would have to make to meet the climate emergency we face. Instead, participants rehashed the same tired anodyne nostums that have failed to change anything of substance over the past 30 years - "lifestyle" changes, "shaming people" into consuming less, and the like. Andrew Simms of the New Economic Foundation called for "green jobs" to get "more growth without increasing consumption" (as if!). Naomi Klein, the keynote speaker, called for a "radical movement" to push for "radical emissions reduction." But no one asked the obvious question, which is what would happen to the economy if we actually forced the fossil fuel companies to cut production by 90 percent? Seven of the ten biggest companies on the Fortune Global 500 are oil companies and auto manufacturers. If these companies had to cut production by 90 percent, or even 50 percent, that would mean immediate bankruptcy, economic collapse, global depression and mass unemployment. And not just the auto-oil industrial complex. Fossil fuel use permeates the entire economy: industry, transportation, farming, construction, services, fashion, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, the plastic junk industrial complex, the internet ... you name it.6 There is virtually no sector that is not significantly dependent upon fossil fuels. This means that given capitalism, given our dependence upon these "job creators," the public is never going to support cutting emissions on anything like the scale we need to save the humans - unless someone out there is promising them alternative employment. But who would that be? This is capitalism, not socialism. So growth and the environment seem to be completely at odds. What to do? ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/21215-beyond-growth-or-beyond-capitalism

Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals

from Der Spiegel:

The EU's reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking -- jeopardizing Germany's touted energy revolution in the process.

The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the "reckless" way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate.

But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much.

At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development ofrenewable energy. The stated aim of increasing the share of green energy across the EU to up to 27 percent will hold. But how seriously countries tackle this project will no longer be regulated within the plan. As of 2020 at the latest -- when the current commitment to further increase the share of green energy expires -- climate protection in the EU will apparently be pursued on a voluntary basis.

Climate Leaders No More?

With such a policy, the European Union is seriously jeopardizing its global climate leadership role. Back in 2007, when Germany held the European Council presidency, the body decided on a climate and energy legislation package known as the "20-20-20" targets, to be fulfilled by the year 2020. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/european-commission-move-away-from-climate-protection-goals-a-943664.html

Look How Gross The Water Is After The Chemical Spill In West Virginia

More photos at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/15/chemical-spill-photos-wv_n_4601746.html?ir=Politics&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009#slide=3313340

Over 300,000 West Virginians were left without water last week when a storage facility leaked several thousand gallons of a coal-processing chemical upstream from a water treatment plant.

While the water ban has been partially lifted and some residents have been allowed to run their water in order to "flush" the system, many are still seeing the effects of the chemical spill coming out of their taps.

Gotta love Bruce.......


Chris Christie, a noted fan of The Boss (when he isn't sleeping through his concerts), probably won't love this. Last night on "Late Night," Jimmy Fallon and his guest Bruce Springsteen donned '70s-era Springsteen attire to parody the seminal New Jersey anthem, "Born to Run." Except this time, the lyrics were devoted to the "bridgegate" scandal surrounding Christie's apparently political closing of the George Washington Bridge, causing major traffic issues.

This scandal has presented many unlikely things, but we didn't think Bruce growling "I really gotta take a leak!" over "Born to Run" would be one of them.

Love in a Time of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol

Love in a Time of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:23
By Krista Bryson, West Virginia Water Crisis | Op-Ed

Bryson Dowdy, 6, hands a jug to an emergency relief volunteer to be filled with water from a potable water tank in Charleston, West Virginia, January 10, 2014. As federal prosecutors opened an investigation on Friday into a chemical spill in West Virginia that had contaminated drinking water used by more than 200,000 residents, state officials said it remained unclear when tap water would be safe to use. (Photo: Ty William Wright / The New York Times)

When survival is just another word for heartbreak I will usually make a soup.

There is the act of nourishing, of course, and the comfort of garlic and butter steaming. There’s the wrist swirl required to brown the leeks, and then the bubbling that requires watching. Does the broccoli separate easily when pinned with a wooden spoon? Time is measured by tenderness.

It has been well over a year since Sandy washed me out of my Red Hook home in Brooklyn. The trips to housing court, always in a stiff skirt safety-pinned at the waist, have ceased. The government no longer offers emergency assistance for the costs accrued. Most of the businesses in my old neighborhood are back, their lights twinkling in the winter night, and the tides steadily rise and fall at the shore where they belong. Public housing residents still fight mold and generators prop up their aging infrastructure, but this is the stuff of periodic update in the paper of record, no more than a news item for most people. Many believe the storm has passed.


Charleston, West Virginia, where a state of emergency and ban on water use has rendered the city nearly silent for six days, is my hometown and only thirty miles southeast from the farm where I was raised. Social media puts me in the bathrooms of family friends with red and fuzzy tap water, of shared press releases that say little but reveal everything. The back-to-the-land strategy of my parents, with their hand-dug wells, protects them in this instance, but only marginally. Their economic and physical well-being is still tied to the capital city, where my mother washes dogs for a living, and where my kid sister attends high school. In the holler they’re safe from the pollution, but not its polluting effects, which will infect every aspect of life in the region in coming weeks. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21232-love-in-a-time-of-4-methylcyclohexane-methanol

Have an extra cup or two this morning.......

(NPR) Despite caffeine's , there's a belief out there that a daily coffee habit can cause dehydration.

So is it true? Not according to the findings of a .

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. studied the fluid levels of 50 men who had a habit of consuming about three to six cups of coffee each day.

With this kind of moderate coffee consumption, the authors conclude that "coffee ... provides similar hydrating qualities to water."


And, oh, I should mention another new that links caffeine to enhanced memory. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/13/262175623/coffee-myth-busting-cup-of-joe-may-help-hydration-and-memory

NYC: Water Main Break Causes Major Subway Delays

A water main break in Greenwich Village caused major subway disruptions Wednesday morning.

F trains are running on the E line in both directions from West 4th Street/ Washington Square to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue.

There is no service on the D line between Dekalb Avenue and 34th Street-Herald Square and on the B line
between Dekalb and Bedford Park Boulevard.

Northbound B trains are running on the Q line from DeKalb to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard, while northbound D trains are running on the Q line to 57th street. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.wnyc.org/story/water-main-break-causing-major-subway-delays/

Why Are Iraq and Afghanistan Not Looking After Themselves?

from truthdig:

Why Are Iraq and Afghanistan Not Looking After Themselves?

Posted on Jan 15, 2014
By William Pfaff

What more than a decade ago was believed by Americans to be the omnipotence of the United States in the Middle East and Central Asia (the “Greater Middle East” as the Bush administration called it) is today being replaced by a fear that the United States not only has decisively lost its power in the region, but is also responsible for why everything seems to be going wrong.

President Barack Obama is being accused by some Republican members of Congress of responsibility not only for the jihadist reconquest of the twice-martyred city of Fallujah in Iraq, but also for the jihadist resurgence elsewhere.

What did he do in Iraq? He did what the Bush administration had promised to do: leave Iraq. He fulfilled his own election campaign promise, made in 2008, to complete the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and turn to Afghanistan.

The American military and the George W. Bush administration had set a nominally democratic but overwhelmingly Shiite government in Iraq. Mr. Obama is blamed for the fact that while the American command wanted to keep a security and training force of limited size in Iraq after the main withdrawal, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, refused to accept this on the only terms that the Pentagon would agree. These were that American forces remaining in Iraq would enjoy extraterritorial legal status, which is to say that they would be accountable only to their own commanders for crimes or offenses under Iraqi law, and in addition would enjoy extraordinary anti-terrorist powers over Iraqi civilians (such as invading their homes in a search mission). The prime minister found this an affront to the new Iraq’s sovereignty. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_are_iraq_and_afghanistan_not_looking_after_themselves_20140115

So raise your cup if you are wrong in all the right ways !! ..... Coffee as memory booster......

(NPR) Despite caffeine's , there's a belief out there that a daily coffee habit can cause dehydration.

So is it true? Not according to the findings of a .

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. studied the fluid levels of 50 men who had a habit of consuming about three to six cups of coffee each day.

With this kind of moderate coffee consumption, the authors conclude that "coffee ... provides similar hydrating qualities to water."


And, oh, I should mention another new that links caffeine to enhanced memory. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/13/262175623/coffee-myth-busting-cup-of-joe-may-help-hydration-and-memory

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