Ask Prof Wolff: Demoting Profit from the Bottom Line

A patron of Economic Update asks: "Dear Prof. Wolff, Douglas Lane, on the Zero Books podcast, recently summarized a critique of worker co-ops from "a Marxist perspective," saying that "market forces" determine that co-ops can only reduce work hours or raise wages if the enterprise remains "profitable." If profit is the surplus value that owners extract from labor, and co-op workers are the owners, in what sense must a worker co-op be "profitable"? In what sense does profit even enter into a worker co-op? (Maybe he was confusing "profitable" with competitive?)."

This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.

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Showing 1 comment

  • P DiGesu
    commented 2021-09-16 09:25:30 -0400
    Cooperative business is the best social business system. That said, they still work for profit, they simply cannot work for loss, why work at all? In a competitive system they must provide a superior product that sells. Only within a controlled economic system by a central government, “can work, profit, prices, and production capability (or necessary means to produce) and frequency of output allowed into the market for distribution be shared for the survival of all.” This would also limit the damage to our ecology by limiting the production and consumption of everything.
    As for education from public schools to Universities, they suck in more cash being right up there with medical, defense, state courts / legislature and other too big to fail industries and civil service powers of take. This from a middle class schmuck who forks out 100 grand for a university education and two thirds of my property tax annually to public schools. So Yale (and others) accept grants and charity from alumni, and other financial sources when times are hard who have accumulated great capital wealth -“through capitalism”? What would happen if the backbone of middle class tax providers stopped working and profiting? who would subsidize us or your high salary university employees and everyone else who feeds on those institutions? Would we all work for a same LOWER return under a barter system for services without cash or would they consider their offer or services more “valuable” than mine??? At this point in our present state, path and our lack of understanding the gravity of the problem, we start losing respect for government, law, economics and our own intelligence.

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