The critique of Capitalism applied to all sorts of ownership

Hello Professor Wolff, I’m a French teacher living in Beijing and I would like to thank you and your team at Democracy at work for your fantastic job at educating and empowering the working people, and as far as I'm concern, I owe you guys a great debt of gratitude for your role in giving me this indispensable knowledge of understanding how the world works and how it could, should and must work...hopefully in our lifetime. Whenever I have conversations with my friends and family about what's happening in the world and what are the solutions to the catastrophe that's bound to happen if drastic changes are to late to come to fruition, capitalism, the inequalities and how to resolve the ills of the world inevitably arouse heated arguments. I'm more than ever persuaded that this shit -meaning capitalism- has go to go. But I'm also aware of my lack of theoretical and ideological knowledge and too often I find myself out of arguments when I try to argue that we don't need bosses or bosses are grossly overpaid for what they produce. When I listen to you or other heterodox economists, I often hear that only labor/workers produce value, therefore owners/bosses/capitalists shouldn't be the only ones deciding what to do with it, to which my friends tell me that bosses also produce value, that without them there wouldn't be any companies to works for or that they don't steal anything from the workers since they give them wages, etc. Now I agree completely to what Professor Wolff says at the large companies level: it's crystal clear to me that the CEO of Mc Donald for exemple gets paid outrageous amount of money and at the same time doesn't prepare any burgers sold at his fast-food restaurants; that he doesn't give his employees their livelihood but his employees give him his livelihood. But what about small business owners ? Or the owner of a gaz station or a barbershop ? Does the critique of capitalism still work ? Do the arguments still apply ? Should we distinguish from CEOs and very small businesses owners ? I know that the laters doesn't count politically and don't carry any weight when it comes to economic policies. Also most of the time I guess that they give themselves the same wages as their employees whom they are very close to professionally if related to them. They may also very well work more hours than their employees. But the way labor is organized is the same as in the big companies. Should we and how could we distinguish from CEOs, small business owners and independent workers (freelancers) ? Long story short: - are bosses useful? - are they parasites that steal what workers do regardless of the size of the company ? A warm thank to you, Laurent Vimeney

Official response from submitted

Marx was well aware - and so have been critics of capitalism ever since - that it is quite possible for a capitalist who hires workers to also choose to work alongside them. In small businesses, that is quite common and always has been. Analytically, economics handles that situation by saying such an individual occupies two class positions: one as worker and another as employer. It is no different from saying that an individual is both husband and father, or laborer and Catholic, etc. And of course, if and when a person occupies both capitalist class positions - employer and employee - the analysis must take that into account, as critics of capitalism always have (even if defenders of capitalism like to pretend they dont). Indeed, the chief point of critics of capitalism from the Marxian perspective has been that a better, more just system would make production a genuine democratic community in which all participants have an equal voice - one person, one vote - in deciding what, how, and where to produce and how to use the profits to which all have contributed.

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  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2016-11-24 09:42:41 -0500
  • Laurent Vimeney
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2016-11-18 03:19:32 -0500