Weekly Roundup: May 12th, 2021

Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work.

New this week: Cities After... (a new d@w podcast!), Economic Update, Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, Capitalism Hits Home, Ask Prof Wolff, and Wolff Responds...


Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work!

Introducing a new podcast: Cities After…

This new podcast is hosted by Miguel Robles-Durán, an urbanist with expertise in the design and analysis of complex urban systems and urban political-ecology. Please enjoy the first two episodes of this new show. 

Cities After... Urban Emptiness and the Pandemic

In the first episode, Prof Robles-Durán explores the urban shifts surrounding the dramatic rise of commercial and residential vacancies during the global pandemic.
Robles-Durán: “The empty cities that we learn to navigate in 2020 were in many ways already empty… Having vacant spaces didn't mean that there was no economic output out of those spaces. A lot of people were making money out of them.”

Cities After... David Harvey on Urban Emptiness

In this episode, Prof Robles-Durán and guest, the Marxist geographer David Harvey have a conversation about possible futures to the new empty spaces that now permeate our cities.
Harvey: “There's a great deal of loss and a great deal of devaluation, but it also is a tremendous investment opportunity. This is an externally imposed creative destruction. And one of the things that it seems to me we should be thinking about is there some way in which social movements can collectively get together and say, 'No, we want to guide this process.'”


Economic Update: Capitalism vs. Democracy

On this week's show, Prof. Wolff presents an analysis of how and why capitalism is an undemocratic economic system. The first half is devoted to the micro-level, namely to the organization of the enterprise (factory, office or store). Its undemocratic character is exposed using examples and empirical evidence. The second half has a macro-level focus that shows how capitalism's generation of growing income and wealth inequality impels the employer class (a small numerical minority) to use their money politically. Their practice undermines real democracy leaving only its empty forms.

Wolff: "Capitalism, by concentrating wealth in the hands of a small number of people, contradicts democracy... The biggest assault on our democracy is the economic system we do not question enough and that we don't change.”

Anti-Capitalist Chronicles: Keynesianism of the 1960s

Prof. Harvey talks about the economic evolution of the 1960s and the suburbanization of America. To establish and secure its position as the global leader, the US invested heavily in the military, guided by Keynesian policies of deficit spending. The military-industrial complex came out of the post-war period, in an effort to keep up with the Soviet Union's militarization and protect the world from the spread of Communism. The suppression of socialism at home was supplemented by the experience of the affluent working class, facilitated in large part by the creation of suburbs. However, marginalized minority workers, who did not benefit from the increased standard of living enjoyed by mostly white workers, fought against economic injustices and fueled the Civil Rights movements of the 60s.

Harvey: "A segment of the bourgeoisie realized that the racial issue was a very important one for the US reputation around the world. And if it was going to be involved in a struggle over communism in Africa then it had to have credibility with African politicians. And you couldn't have a credibility if you maintain racial segregation inside the United States."

Capitalism Hits Home: The American Family

Where did our family form come from and how is it doing now? This episode of Capitalism Hits Home looks at what is happening in America's families. As Americans, we present ourselves as a family centered nation. However, our families are certainly not the center of our economic, political, or legal support systems. In fact, they are in deep trouble. Supports are needed and possible.

Fraad: “Our families are in very deep trouble, and the family system of the isolated nuclear family is no longer sustainable. We need a transition through the kind of family support that all the other Western industrialized countries have (child care, after school care, and summer care). We need that and we have to fight for it with a vital left.”

Ask Prof Wolff: Defining Historical and Dialectical Materialism

A patron of Economic Update asks: "Can you breakdown historical materialism and dialectics."

This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.

Wolff: “These ideas have a lot to teach us because they are ways of interrogating not only the historical past, but the present. How do the hard economic realities of today shape the way people think? And how do the ways people think react back on to shape the reality we're living through? That would be a dialectical or historical materialist way to examine the present.”


Ask Prof Wolff: Inflation's Risks

A patron of Economic Update asks: "If there is a relationship between inflation and the capacity of a country to absorb newly printed money, how do international markets affect inflation since dollars are used around the world and some of the new money would make it to the world in general? Is the dollar less prone to inflation because dollars are used around the world? If so, is there a measure of inflation resistance for different currencies to get an idea where the dollar stands vs other currencies?"

This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.

Wolff: “If the United States is busy around the world (which it is) then a good bit of that money can flow elsewhere in the world. It may cause inflation over there, but not here… Here's another way this can happen. If you pump money into the economy it may not be profitable for anyone to produce more goods and services... That money the government pumps in is offset by the reduced spending of all the unemployed... Then, the money may only go into one area. For example, in the last 10 years the additional money has gone overwhelmingly into the stock market. And guess what, there's inflation [in the stock market]... There's evidence right now of rising prices because the stock market is so high that money is more and more scared to go in there and is beginning to look elsewhere to make money, by bidding up the price of real estate… And that may get us closer to the more traditional inflation.”

Wolff Responds: Evaluating Biden's Shift Leftward

In this Wolff Responds, Prof. Wolff comments on Biden's policies and his shift to the left. Wolff argues that Biden is simply softening and slowing the effects of a declining US economy, but shows no signs of wanting to stop or reverse it. Biden's tactics are nowhere near as aggressive as those employed by FDR.

Wolff: “There has been a movement to the left. The programs being offered [are] more aggressive, it’s a bigger role for the government, and the notion that it will be paid for at least in part by taxes specifically targeting corporate profits and the richest amongst us, are more than was suggested, and more than we had any reason to expect, given both the long position of Mr. Biden (dead center in the Democratic party) and the dominance of the Biden-Obama group in the party… I’m glad Mr. Biden saw the handwriting on the wall. But the movement, so far, is hesitant and small. It doesn't begin to equal what FDR did, which is a shame because my guess is it will have to, and it will be bad that it wasn't done sooner rather than later.”


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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