Hi Professor,

Hi Professor, I'd like to have your take on something lots of people say, that only finance capitalism is bad and productive industrial capitalism created lots of good things; that if we could go back to regulated capitalism, the kind that existed from 1945 to 1975 ( coined as the Glorious thirty in France), we wouldn't have the problems of inequality we experience today.

Thank you.

Official response from submitted

This is indeed and old argument. I recognize that it is tempting to distinguish among capitalisms so that opposition can be focused on only one type rather than on the system across its types. Finance versus industrial capitalism is one such differentiation among types. Here are some others: high-wage versus low-wage capitalism, foreign versus domestic capitalism, small versus large capitalism. For me, such differentiations can be useful to understand periods within capitalism's historical duration, but they are not useful in terms of countering the criticisms of capitalism as a system. There it is a little like distinguishing between slaveries that treat slaves better versus those that treat them worse, serfdoms that crush serfs versus those that leave them alone, and so on. While the differences may be important for understanding how they work, who suffers more or less in them, etc., none of them go to the heart of the problem with the system per se.

Capitalism as a system always tends toward greater inequality (unless stopped by mass worker counteraction), suffers from debilitating instability (business cycles) that affect the working class and poor more than others, and is manifestly undemocratic (it gives a tiny minority - major share-holders and the boards of directors they select) - all the economic power and most of the wealth while excluding the majority (workers) from participation in enterprise decision-making and much else. Industrial capitalism was as prone to all these negative qualities as finance capitalism. So I am not sympathetic to making a big deal of the differences among capitalisms; the task now is to move beyond all types of capitalism to a better system.

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  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-08-20 11:07:31 -0400
  • Laurent Vimeney
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-08-20 09:46:53 -0400