Economic Update: Meanings of Class


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This week's episode includes updates on the Swedish plan for peaceful transition beyond capitalism, ripoffs in car insurance and Ferguson, MO's credit downgrade. Prof. Wolff's response to listeners about the CA drought and the best solution for corporate abuses like VW's. Major discussions include what class means and what is at stake in the different meanings of class and guaranteed income vs guaranteed jobs.


Showing 16 comments

  • followed this page 2016-09-13 17:17:35 -0400
  • commented 2015-10-11 14:20:57 -0400
    Professor Wolff,

    I was wondering how you see the traditional work of raising children and running a household in a model that moves beyond capitalism. You state at the end of this program on class that you believe that guaranteed jobs are better than guaranteed income. As you know, the market economy is built on an unpaid economy that revolves around child rearing. Do you see this as a “job” and if so, how would it be paid? It is difficult to approach a gender equal society without at least considering this work important. What are your thoughts.

    Thank you for all of your work,
  • commented 2015-10-09 14:17:13 -0400
    Remember the book by C.Wright Mills: " The Power Elite." This book formed alot of
    my understanding of what class is, terms that I could grasp.
  • commented 2015-10-09 11:52:26 -0400
    As always, I appreciated Dr. Wolff’s critical explorations of the short news items as well as this week’s more comprehensive talk about class. His unique and insightful perspectives are crucial in understanding some of the more complex aspects the way we are all affected by the economic system(s) at work. One constructive critique I would like to submit: Please fix the itunes link! As I listen to more than twenty podcasts each week, it would take an inordinate amount of time to go to each website and download them manually. Also please consider segments on future shows which address the “how to” aspects of forming worker self directed enterprises. Maybe interview people who have done it, maybe interview people from organizations who assist co-ops, maybe interview someone from the Food Co-op initiative or the National Cooperative Bank. Thanks for all you do!
  • commented 2015-10-09 02:33:27 -0400
    the “class” thing needs a whole lot more definition before the mass of people really understand.

    When I was growing up, I was taught that it is good that “the many labour for the few so that the few can lead us well – they are not called to toil in the fields or factories – thus they have time to consider our future”.

    But now?

    No. the robots and machines are doing all that now.

    By my father’s argument – we are ALL ruling class now.

    So what happened?

    Class happened.
    Humans have great difficulty dealing with peer-groups greater than about 300.

    Class is not a political issue – it is a species issue.

    Baboons have no problems with this – they keep themselves into troops of 200 or so. (See Robert Sapolsky).

    Robert was reticent to conflate this into human behaviour, but my observation is that humans can do core-troops of about 300 (men/women, children, the sick, the old).

    They pay ephemeral fealty to interest groups to define a multiple of networked “troops”- but when scarcity bites, they contract to simian tribes of around 300.


    this is, as you said, ln the process of “classification” – it is what we do to symbolise our senses into categories of advantage for our selves and our core “tribe”.

    Humans can maintain many different levels of “fealty” based on the scale of scarcity against abundance.

    In this time if huge abundance, humans are fractured – experiencing the drift of fealty against the assumed scarcity – which is false.

    Scarcity is a media artefact.

    However it is not an artefact – our huge abundance is a loan against our habitat.\

    The idea was that we “drew-down” a deficit, to afford our way through. However, we assumed the deficit was in the realm of humans – and we forgot to pay back to our habitat.

    The “idea-makers” are long dead – and the pundits of our time take liberties of translation. – And if it comes through out TV.?. We suck it up as if it was truth.

    I dare you to escape that without banishing the TV from your life – few can do that.

    So “class”:

    YOu and the Greeks and all the rest define this in terms of “advantage”

    But you fail to understand “advantage over what?”

    Mostly you fail to understand and assume that it’s “advantage over other humans” .. and well . “nature? That’s a done deal – killed that years ago!”

    And you fail to understand that the defeat of nature is simply your own fear of death.

    Death comes to us all.

    The Tribe:

    At the end-we work until we die.

    And all of our life is dedicated to the life of our people – about 300 hundred of them.

    YOU look at all lobby groups- I defy you to identify any lobby organisation that has more than about 60 at its core.

    Let alone 7 billion humans- the tribes split and split.

    They split horizontally to form sister-tribes within a region.

    Or they split vertically to create hierarchies of rulers and ruled (patriarchy).

    In 7 billion .. that’s a lot of vertical split.

    Unfortunately, patriarchy is the ONLY generator of law.

    Law destroys adaptation.

    There you have a challenge. I hope you overcome it.

    Next: Insurance:

    Insurance represents either one of 2 things: A confidence trick. or a social risk-spread.

    There is only one valid model of insurance: social insurance – I.E medical guarantee and non-work (unemployment).

    The “society” defines the spread of the risk.

    What is the spread? Who does it cover? Who pays for whom? And why?
    These questions are not on of the forms we fill out ..and these are the most critical questions – who do we pay for their risk – and why do we give a damn?
    But no – we are redirected to personal advantage and required to not think about that.
    All insurance, that is not social insurance, is a confidence trick .. a rip-off- you join a tribe that you don’t know. And you pay for that “ghost-tribe” to rule you. Talk about :“uninformed” – well . now you ARE informed. Will you act? ..I don’t expect it – you, the “progressive” even you ..maybe about 1% of you actually know what I just said .. who cares?

    And if you are not insuring your “home-tribe”. You are being ripped off – by both the state and the corporate empires.

    Humans are “Cross-hatched” by ephemeral allegiances in lieu of true need. This is evidence of your abundance being concealed from you!

    Burtwe are “cross-hatched”. We are not baboons. we are humans.
    we maintain multiple allegiance in a hierarchy of need – and it morphs on the timescale that we are averted to see.

    5% or +/_ minus 10 years of emitting the fossilized carbon of the pre-Cambrian .. the Carbonaceous? Where the largest creatures were less than a millimeter?

    I assume that humans are bigger than that?


    Well why are you taking up so many more magnitudes of space than the Carbonaceous people?

    Get the picture?

    Take out a policy with single-celled=organisms?

    Your “law”

    Did you ever see a bacterium larf?

    Tell it your “law” – and watch.
    Post your data.

    Claim against cockroaches -are they going to pay?

    Real-time humans.

    Laws are over – economy is phantasy.

    Do like I do and dissuade your children from joining ISIS- they are strongly attracted. For good reason.

    Can you give a convincing argument why not?

    I’d like to hear it!

    For sentimental reasons, I’d rather my son was not a mass-killer.
    Otherwise. . I better fund him.
  • commented 2015-10-08 20:26:20 -0400
    To those who’ve said they’re having problems hearing the podcast, I’m using the Downcast app on an iPod Touch with the KPFA feed and have had any problems.
  • commented 2015-10-08 16:11:44 -0400
    Every second, Americans are losing choices, rights, the Commons, and the Rule of Law, and you’re advising us to reform the system, one worker co-op at a time? Egads man, one could sooner empty the ocean with a thimble.
  • commented 2015-10-08 15:36:15 -0400
    Unfortunately, I’ve been having trouble listening in my preferred format (the podcast app on my phone). The RSS feed I used to use is no longer maintained and I no longer can find on that works. I think an RSS feed for the show was overlooked in the upgrade to all this new infrastructure. If there is one, I can’t find the link on this site anywhere…
  • commented 2015-10-08 15:27:40 -0400
    I listen to your program every week, (or on a Podcast if I can’t at the time it’s broadcast.) I think it is a clear, interesting and very valuable delineation of the economic and also social issues that affect all of us in these times. As there is no other Marxist economist on air in the US, it is crucial to have access to this point of view.
    I found the class issue interesting, but a little bit simplistic. Isn’t it true that power and wealth are intertwined and have been in nearly every system that has been in effect for any length of time in human society? It’s time we tried to change that! Many thanks for the program. Hedi Saraf
  • commented 2015-10-08 06:23:57 -0400
    Dr. Wolff,
    Please consider including some discussion in a future ’ Economic Update ’ about the horrific nuclear energy ( Fukushima disaster), nuclear weapons, … and the geoengineering (..spraying of nano-particle heavy metals into our atmosphere ) realities that we all face today.

    Thank you for your excellent presentations. My wife and I listen every week.

    Best regards,

    S. Parsons
    Maine, USA
  • commented 2015-10-08 03:23:19 -0400
    I find the entire episode was excellent. Especially to my interest the discussion on class was truly fascinating. I keep listening Prof. Wolff’s lectures on class and marxian economics. It gives me immense intellectual pleasure and clarity on this topic. Prof. Wolff’s unique way of explaining difficult concepts lucidly dazzles me every time. Being a researcher in cooperatives I shall try to support this project as much as I can.
  • commented 2015-10-07 22:19:07 -0400
    The situation with automobile insurance is far worse than what Dr. Wolff described. In many states, if you don’t have auto insurance, your driver’s license is immediately suspended (thanks to the insurance company notifying the state). Once your license is suspended, you have to pay fees (and possibly retake the driving test) in order to have your license restored. If you don’t have the money to pay for insurance, how are you going to have the money to pay to have your license restored (and the “high risk” insurance the state requires once your license is restored)? In TN, it is said that 1/3rd of the cars on the road are driven by people without a license.

  • commented 2015-10-07 22:10:13 -0400
    I have been operating under the assumption that class was defined by one’s relationship to work, not necessarily income or wealth. The capitalist class (or ownership class) owns and controls the means of production and pay workers (the working class) a salary or wage. The middle class operate with relative autonomy because of their education or modest wealth. I guess I was surprised and a bit dismayed that this model was not re-enforced.
  • commented 2015-10-07 21:41:24 -0400
    Could someone please tell me why I’m having trouble listening to these it keeps crashing on my iPhone 6
  • commented 2015-10-07 19:30:05 -0400
    Questionably relevant commentary by a certain expert logistician, but that’s nothing to do with another excellent podcast.

    On another note, it’s been two months since separately emailing Wolff and Democracy at Work about the disappearance of Economic Update from iTunes—has anyone addressed why this happened? I haven’t heard back.
  • commented 2015-10-05 04:36:24 -0400
    I agree


    Classification is a function of “world-view”.

    Have a look at this observation by George Lakoff:

    The technology is waaaay ahead of politics and economics.

    YoU talk about “class” – but you have no idea about the dynamics that cause modes of classification.

    Marx .. yes yes ..he attempted to exceed his “world-view” do all great people.

    So how do we get beyond the trap of “world-view”?

    All I can think of is to observe Dunbar’s number – small neighborhood units connected by a code.

    Suddenly I am thinking of the unregulated UBER Vs. regulated Taxi paradigm.

    You have had words on this.

    However – you are not a Logistics expert, and I am.

    You talk about the labour dimension of it, however, there is a practical element too.

    As a rep of a corporation, I could fire any contractor who failed the mandate to deliver. The UBER thing has much less oversight .. it becomes a ticking of boxes .. and the customer is removed from the loop.

    This troubles me.

    I worked hard to make sure that your cornflakes were there just in time for your hand to reach out for them.

    The certainty I laboured to fulfil for you is now replaced by a dogma – a faith in “the cloud”.

    UBER, Amazon and everyone else with such a dogma will have to accept what they get.

    It will take generations for this “cloud” to re-discover “quality”.

    But as far as the neo-lib corporation is concerned?

    They already got their bonus and move on into government or another project.

    We are now being asked to bear the cost of “the cloud”?

    However .few of us have that much left.

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