In an Intelligence Squared Debate Win, Prof. Wolff Argues That Capitalism is Not a Blessing

At IntelligenceSquared Debate, Prof. Wolff argues that concerns over income inequality increase and issues of racial, economic, and social justice become more prominent in the public sphere as the capitalist system faces growing scrutiny. Prof. Wolff and debate partner Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor of Jacobin, sway an audience in a debate win against the motion that capitalism is a blessing.

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  • Mike Bell
    commented 2019-12-19 13:18:32 -0500
    Great ending by Prof Wolff, thank you for again debating this important subject. Power to the young left wing politicians! Supported by some wise old guards.

    Looking at the world over the ages, isn’t it quite logical that democracy develops further and that it will thus enter the workplace? The sooner the better of course. Hopefully this momentary right wing upsurge is overcome soon.
  • Cesar Providenti
    commented 2019-12-11 15:06:09 -0500
    As for an example of a society (“country”) that was successful without Capitalism, and has gotten worse as a result thereof, just ask any Indian (North or South America). Certainly, many (likely most) Indians of Peru and Bolivia will tell you (as some have told me) that they were much better off under the Incan Empire than now. (And repeatedly have told us so via their quixotic uprisings against the colonial powers.)
  • Cesar Providenti
    commented 2019-12-11 13:15:12 -0500
    I’ve seen a few of these debates (involving you and others, such as Yanis Varoufakis), and I think it’s time to start directly attacking (i.e., questioning) some of the arguments made in defence of Capitalism. This is not a criticism, just a suggestion.

    For example: Argument: Capitalism has resulted in vast increases in the production of goods. Counter: Great, but is so much production truly necessary any more? You often touch on this point by mentioning the environmental problems that Capitalism systemically encourages, but there are other reasons to question increased production. E.g., often, the products that result are shoddy and second rate. (Why is my new cellphone constantly updating its software?) And do we really need so many of these products (e.g., souvenir mugs picked up on holiday)? [Note: This is John Ralston Saul’s argument, so I cannot take full credit. Also note Mr. Dippolito’s comments, just before mine.]

    Another example: Argument: Although flawed, Capitalism is the “best” system so far, can’t imagine a better one. Counter: Sure, you can’t imagine a better one, but who’s to say the rest of us can’t? After all, doesn’t Capitalism itself, by your admission, motivate us to improve processes and products constantly? Given that experience, is it not possible that its failings could inspire some of us to imagine (and put into effect) a “better” economic system? And if so, why not let those people try to do so? [“I can’t imagine anything better” is not a valid argument. You have to somehow prove there is nothing better, which is basically impossible in this context.]
  • Michaelangelo Dippolito
    commented 2019-12-10 11:25:57 -0500
    A better system is production for use. Not exchange. Eliminating currency. Recognizing that labor is the only source of value. Also using optimal design and materials for the things that we need so we don’t need to continue to incessantly reproduce them to satisfy a system that thrives on unlimited consumption.
  • Michaelangelo Dippolito
    commented 2019-12-10 11:23:55 -0500
    When you continue to argue with in their Paradigm of a production for exchange system based on currency, you will lose. Worker-owned Cooperative that exist within that system that is production for exchange and use this currency will never prevail.
  • Benjamin Schroeder
    commented 2019-12-08 20:27:22 -0500
    Professor Wolff,

    I do not think your side won, The audience was generally young, those who are is now working want this economic system. They want job this security because they understand this system. They are do not want change!!!!!! If you are part the not employed; homeless, or underemployed, etc. Here is what I see for the future:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ? Dec 2019
    I have been thinking about this phrase above! It’s hard to believe that I have been using this phrase over 70 (seventy) years now. Is the world getting better now? Am I happier now? Society has indicated that it is no longer appropriate to use “Merry Christmas” any longer because it might send/offend the non-Christian and give the wrong message to the migrants/non-Christians.
    Our American society has more homeless people; more people who do not have jobs; more people who work part-time; more people working more than one job to make ends meet; more people who are working at or below minimum wage than ever before. Just listen to a credible news source about how really bad life is to the majority of Americans. The middle class does not exist as it once did! The bad news goes on and on! Just look at your mail (U.S and internet spam) which has more and more requests for donations!
    The businesses and the people with the money, the advertisers, the internet sellers of products now call this period “Happy Holidays” (to save this money spending period; to make a profit for the rich 1%) , buy now before it’s too late, load up your credit cards, pay later, etc. So what is so “Happy” about the end of this year or about beginning of next year? All we hear is more nonsense from Washington!
    The Presidential election that is coming up later in 2020 – What a joke? Also, been getting ads about the race in or about Bloomberg ex-New York City mayor? He thinks he is the best candidate that is running for president – trying to cover-up his bad record! Can’t wait till the political ads start appearing on the TV; the internet; on the radio; between now and election day. Who are the rich 1% rooting (paying) for who will do their bidding for their campaign contributions to keep the rich one percent richer? The rich buy our leaders who make laws to make us poor!
    When the money system as we know it “fails”; when food shortage begin; when more and more people are out of work; when the government fails to deliver social programs or social security; our nation will be in crises to exist as we knew it! Our nation will be plagued with riots in the streets; no respect for the law; lawlessness, riots; marshal law; etc.
    Wish I had better news, something that made us Happier! But I must get ready for what may come to our nation and life for the next 5 or 10 years – a real heart breaking depression is coming (worse than in 1928 and 2008); life values change and people against people (you name it) is coming! Are you ready for this change?