Weekly Roundup: June 23rd, 2021

Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work.

New this week: Economic Update, Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, Cities After..., and Ask Prof Wolff...


Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work!


Economic Update: Insurgent Working Class and Organization

In this week's show, Prof Wolff presents updates on the efforts to finally add dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare, the effects of Trump's tariffs on China, and the contradictions between capitalist profiteering and healthcare. In the second half of the show, Wolff is joined by Professor Manny Ness to discuss worker insurgencies and political organizations in the global South today.

Ness: "Workers are constantly in a process of struggle against their employers and their oppressors... Without organization these insurgencies will lead to nothing. And by that I mean a working-class socialist organization that has a commitment, and principled analysis and program for social transformation."

Anti-Capitalist Chronicles: Dumping Surplus Capital

In this episode of ACC, Prof. Harvey talks about the changing dynamics of capital accumulation since Marx's analysis in the Grundrisse. The disempowerment of workers as part of the Neoliberal strategy of the 1980s to the present day, led to declining wages and standard of living for workers, but an increase in surplus capital and wealth for corporation and wealthy elites. Military expenditures (military Keynesianism) and fixed capital - what Harvey calls "mindless urbanization"- become sinks for disposing over-accumulating capital.

Harvey: "What are the mindless forms through which capital can successfully dispose of its surplus product? There are two mindless forms which comes straight away to [my mind]. Since 1945 one of the mindless forms is military expenditures... The other way is through what I would call mindless, stupid urbanization.”

Cities After... Urban Crises and the Architecture Discipline Today

In this episode, Prof. Robles-Durán talks about the outmoded forms of knowledge that architecture and related urban design disciplines uphold, as global populations face ever-growing social and environmental urgencies in their cities. 

Robles-Durán: “To give up all existing & future urban land to developers and landlords is without doubt to surrender all of society’s elementary sheltering needs to the one privileged class of speculators. I believe that this was one of greatest urban tragedies of the last years of the twentieth century, which is the pervasive naturalization of private property rights over the housing rights of most of the world’s population.”

Ask Prof Wolff: Reform vs. Revolution

A patron of Economic Update asks: "I’ve heard a critique of social democracy from some socialists and it goes like this: because of increased taxes for social democratic reforms, corporations will seek cheap labor and resources of the global south to stay competitive on the global market. Now this would give incentive for a social democracy to inhibit the global south from their own socialism or just increased living standards because then our prices would also increase, possibly even leading to cutting those reforms. Please give your thoughts on the validity of this critique.

Wolff: “It's the struggle for reform that can teach the lesson of the need for more than reform, for a literally global transformation, in the sense of going from one global economic system capitalism to one that doesn't work this way… Let's not get caught in that stale old reform versus revolution mentality. Let's understand that reform can be- doesn't have to be- but it can be the road to revolution, and that depends on those who see where that road leads being very active in and among all of those fighting for reforms.” 

Ask Prof Wolff: What is the Surplus Value of a Secretary?

A patron of Economic Update asks: "I have some trouble understanding the concept of how to quantify surplus value for jobs that don't directly contribute to the production process. For example, a secretary who works in the in-house legal department at a solar-panel production facility: how would I calculate her surplus value for purposes of determining her exploitation ratio?" This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.

Wolff: “The secretary does correspondence. The secretary handles inquiry. The secretary answers questions of potential or actual clients and customers. All of those things must be done or else the business falls apart... [In Marxian economics] that person is not producing surplus because they are not adding value to, for example, the tools, equipment and raw materials because they're not engaged in that activity. They're doing something else. What the unproductive laborer does is enable the productive laborer to be in fact productive of surplus.”

Learn more about Prof Wolff's latest book, The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself.

Now also available as an eBook!






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