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Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism [Kindle Edition]

Richard D. Wolff
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Ideas of economic democracy are very much in the air, as they should be, with increasing urgency in the midst of today’s serious crises. Richard Wolff’s constructive and innovative ideas suggest new and promising foundations for much more authentic democracy and sustainable and equitable development, ideas that can be implemented directly and carried forward. A very valuable contribution in troubled times.”—Noam Chomsky

"Probably America's most prominent Marxist economist."—The New York Times

Capitalism as a system has spawned deepening economic crisis alongside its bought-and-paid-for political establishment. Neither serves the needs of our society. Whether it is secure, well-paid, and meaningful jobs or a sustainable relationship with the natural environment that we depend on, our society is not delivering the results people need and deserve.

One key cause for this intolerable state of affairs is the lack of genuine democracy in our economy as well as in our politics. The solution requires the institution of genuine economic democracy, starting with workers managing their own workplaces, as the basis for a genuine political democracy.

Here Richard D. Wolff lays out a hopeful and concrete vision of how to make that possible, addressing the many people who have concluded economic inequality and politics as usual can no longer be tolerated and are looking for a concrete program of action.

Richard D. Wolff is professor of Economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is currently a visiting professor at the New School University in New York. Wolff is the author of many books, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. He hosts the weekly hour-long radio program Economic Update on WBAI (Pacifica Radio) and writes regularly for The Guardian,, and the MRZine.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 479 KB
  • Print Length: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books (2 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #294,581 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy in the workplace 14 Aug. 2013
By Charles TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is about how America come to be in the current economic mess caused by capitalism, why alternatives to capitalism such as socialism and communism have failed, and how to solve the mess.

In America as business profits increased so did workers' earnings but in the 1970s this stopped, this was caused by the following
1) Computers allowing businesses to become more efficient which results in them needing less workers.
2) More women entering the job market creates more competition for jobs.
3) Globalization means that factories can be moved to cheaper locations abroad.

Business profits and pay for the upper classes continued to soar but for the above mentioned reasons the middle and working classes stopped seeing any improvement in real earnings.

With all the extra profits made by not passing the increasing profits on to workers the money got put in the banks. The banks had to figure out how to use it to make money. One way was in easy credit on credit cards. Because workers had no improvement in their wages they were forced to borrow heavily on the credit cards running up massive dept. The sub prime mortgage mess was also the result of banks desperately trying to find ways to loan out all that extra money and resulted in giving mortgages to people that could not afford the repayments.

The massive profits also allows business to corrupt politics resulting in politicians no longer serving the general public and being nothing more than puppets to corporate interests.

The end result of all this is that Americans are working longer hours for no improvement in real earnings, they have massive credit card dept and the dream of owning their own home has turned out for many to be nothing more than a scam.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not a bad read 14 Feb. 2014
By Graham
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Richard Wolff's you tube presentations. He's a great speak, and while the book is very well written I have to confess I got a little bored with the subject matter that dragged on a little. Still - what he discusses makes a lot of sense and Richard puts the ideas forward in a clear manner.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 28 May 2015
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Excellent book!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  95 reviews
80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary 27 Oct. 2012
By Hans G. Despain - Published on
Recently Rick Wolff has been a one-man Revolution. He is the most dangerous economist in America to the oligopolistic hegemony of the American corporation. He is recently off the widely acclaimed success of his book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It and DVD Capitalism Hits the Fan: Richard Wolff on the Economic Meltdown. This book and DVD explain how and why the crisis hit and why it was so deep and economically devastating.

More recently his book Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (City Lights Open Media) explains the economic and material conditions of American protests and Occupy movements and predicts that ultimately these protests won't go away because the problems persist.

He has published with Steve Resnick Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian which explains and compares orthodox microeconomics, with Keynesian macroeconomics, and with a political economy approach to understanding capitalism from a Marxian economic perspective.

The current book under review is an important complement to these other works and is unambiguously an argument for an alternative to the American economic system which is completely failing 40 percent of American citizens (nearly 40 percent of Americans are double the poverty rate, or equivalent household income for a family of four people of $46,000; more than 50 percent of the American full-time work force make less than $25,000; more than 16 percent of the American workforce are underemployed).

Wolff shows the political response to resolving income and wealth inequality, poverty, and economic instability and financial crisis is both absent and politically impossible. The traditional debates between Republicans and Democrats have centered on lower taxes and government spending increases filling the gap for a lack of private investment. Neither is a viable solution to the Normal state of capitalistic stagnation. More progressive politicians and economists argue for a public jobs program, and the federal government being the Employer of Last Resort.

The economics behind job programs and Employer of the Last Resort legislation can be argued to be irrelevant, because the political avenues are blocked, hence political viability approaches zero.

At the same time the indebtedness of American citizens, low incomes, and the overworked lives of American workers are not sustainable.

In this volume Rick Wolff argues the solution will come from American workers themselves. American workers and citizens across the nation are creating "workers' self-directed enterprises" or WSDE. More than 10 million Americans are members of Cooperatives. WSDEs would build from these already in place Cooperative organizations. In a WSDE, workers become their own board of directors. This is already happening across the country, especially Cleveland Ohio, and across the globe, especially in Spain, Italy, and Japan. Wolff explains not only that these phenomena are occurring, but he offers a model of how to create and sustain these enterprises and how they would function for the betterment of the American worker in the form of higher pay, profit sharing, more leisure, fewer hours of work, greater benefits in the form of health-care and retirement, etc..

These WSDE would make a significant contribution to reducing income and wealth inequality, poverty, and to stabilize the American economic system.
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I have been waiting for! 16 Oct. 2012
By Earl Powell - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been following Richard Wolff for the last few years. He often talked about the idea of a Workers Self Directed Enterprise (WSDE). I have been looking for more information on such an organization and how to create and manage such an organization. Richard Wolff's new book "Democracy at Work, A Cure for Capitalism" is just the "nuts and bolts" book I have been looking for. The first half of the book covers the "why" and the second half of the book covers the "how" to create a Workers Self Directed Enterprise. Please pay attention to Richard's reference to Italy's Marcora law. I am having meeting this week to see how we could create a pilot Marcora type law in California to support new entrepreneurial enterprises in Silicon Valley.
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A light at the end of the tunnel 18 Nov. 2012
By William H. DuBay - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Simply and intelligently written, Richard Wolff plots a way out of our economic malaise by centering on Worker Self-Directed Enterprises (WSDEs).

He contends there is no denying that the world-wide recession we face demonstrates the failure of capitalism as a system of production. The New Deal attempts to "fix" and tame capitalism in the 1930s have failed. Capitalists will always have the ability to defeat any attempt to control or limit its predatory reach. It is time to look for a better alternative.

As Marx and many others have taught, work is central to our lives. Separating workers from the products of their labor is deeply alienating and vastly dysfunctional for both the individual and society.

The author shows how both capitalism and state socialism have failed by failing to observe Marx's central teaching on the surpluses created in production. Under capitalism, those surpluses are appropriated and distributed by capitalists, people who do not produce them.

The socialist experiments in USSR and China also failed for the same reason. While they nationalized industries and used central planning, they failed to engage the workers in the in the appropriation and distribution of their surpluses. It was a form of state capitalism, in which the surpluses of production were appropriated and distributed by party officials and other apparatchiks of government. This led to precisely the same dissatisfaction and inequalities experienced by workers in capitalist societies.

Wolff's solution is found in the workers' appropriating and distributing the surpluses they have created. It is a brilliant solution that salvages the best features of capitalism including private property, free enterprise, and the market. It greatly increases the workers' participation in entrepreneurship and competition by integrating them more fully in the operation of the business.

Wolff is very good at illustrating the autocratic effect of capitalism on culture and society. He relates the current ennui and the alienation of people from groups and political life with the powerlessness they feel in the workplace, where workers have little say in the direction of their own companies. While giving the workers a much greater stake in their business, it will also involve them much more deeply in the welfare and health of their community, the environment, and workers everywhere.

The book also takes us through the scenario of how WSDEs could change society by encouraging and developing more participation in public and community life. He also calls for a concerted effort by unions and modern feminist and environmental movements and their intelligentsia in promoting WSDEs.

Wolff points out that, as capitalism offered an alternative to slavery, WSDEs, by democratizing the workplace, give us an alternative to capitalism.

"Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" is at once a new Democratic Manifesto, an economic agenda, and a light at the end of the tunnel.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Though Stuffy 22 Feb. 2013
By P. Schumacher - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not as good as Wolff's "Occupy the Economy."

It lays out the same basic proposal--worker controlled workplaces--but treats it in a more academic and stuffy way.

In "Occupy the Economy," Wolff is on fire. He not only explains his positions, he advocates for them. He gives a wealth of history and fact to support his conclusions.

But here, in "Democracy at Work," he confines himself to an abstract, almost soporific, presentation.

This is a shame, because his ideas have real merit.

Wish I could give five stars, but after "Occupy the Economy," this one's a letdown.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Explanation 1 Nov. 2012
By Bette Waters - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Best explanation of what is happening to our country politically today. Wolff lays out capitalism in its disguises--private capitalism versus state capitalism --called socialism by some--which is always in some degree of a pendulum swing between the two. Whether private or state it is still capitalism. Wolff lays out the problems with both choices and promotes what he calls worker ownership of the surplus goods they produce where the worker owns the profits from their work, not stockholders of corporations. This has not been tried as a system. Opponents to any choice that includes ownership by workers use devil words like communism, marxism to disclaim the value of any move away from capitalism.
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