IMPACT
02/27/2018 08:50 EST

Richard Wolff Says Capitalism Drives Inequality With 'Explosive' Consequences For Society

Things are great for those at the top -- but "not at all" for everybody else, the economist says.

Greedy capitalism has led to decades of downward mobility as U.S. business interests exploit workers at home and abroad and automate jobs out of existence in search of greater profits, according to economist Richard Wolff.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Monday, the economics professor, author and speaker said the U.S. has gone “way overboard” in celebrating capitalism and overlooking its flaws. He put this down to the power of the ideology created around it.

Trump’s massive assaults on women, the labor movement, immigrants, minorities, etc have produced very little mass street action by social movements. How [to] explain such passivity in the face of such provocation? A declining capitalism has so far succeeded in presenting itself as the opposite, a super-strong totality impossible to budge.

While conceding that capitalism has allowed for periods of upward mobility ― for example, in the U.S. between the ’50s and ’80s ― that time is over, said Wolff, an expert on Marxism. “In capitalism, workers’ well-being is fundamentally insecure, held hostage to capital’s needs and drives.”

Inequality born of capitalism threatens the social fabric of the U.S., said Wolff, pointing to the folly of using the stock market as a marker of economic health. Examining additional factors, such as unemployment, wage stagnation, debt levels and the opioid crisis, shows that “for the top 5-10 percent things are going well; for the rest, not at all. And the resulting deepening split between rich and poor has explosive implications for the whole society,” he said. 

Wolff, who advocates moving away from capitalism to a different and better system, called on people to organize and to challenge the idea that capitalism is the strongest economic model.

Everything I know about human psychology tells me that many things motivate human efforts to innovate: love, fear, ambition for respect, prestige, money, pride, etc. Only capitalism, seeking to justify its exploitation of workers, would reduce the complexity of motivation to one motivator, money.”

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