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understanding marxism

Why should we pay attention to the great social critics like Marx?

Published January 2019. New York, NY

Americans especially now confront serious questions and evidences that our capitalist system is in trouble. It clearly serves the 1% far, far better than what is is doing to the vast mass of people.

Marx was a social critic for whom capitalism was not the end of human history. It was just the latest phase and badly needed the transition to something better. We offer this essay now because of the power and usefulness today of Marx’s criticism of the capitalist economic system.

“To achieve a society that exhibits liberty, equality, fraternity, and democracy, the object to change first and foremost is the organization of production” - Richard D. Wolff

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. The graduate of Harvard, Stanford and Yale is the founder of the non-profit Democracy at Work, which produces media and live events that analyze capitalism critically as a systemic problem and advocates for democratizing workplaces as part of a systemic solution. He is the host of their most popular show, Economic Update which has been running since 2011.

“Probably America’s most prominent Marxist economist.” - New York Times Magazine

“Richard Wolff is the leading socialist economist in the country.” - Cornel West

Understanding Marxism is a small book, written by Richard D. Wolff in collaboration with the staff of Democracy at Work, a 501c(3) non-profit founded by Wolff. There are rising demands for accessible introductions to Marxism and to the social changes it suggests. This essay responds to that interest. It seeks to provide bases for real solutions now that the flaws and failures of contemporary capitalism are exposed again, and again. Marxism always was the critical shadow of capitalism. Their interactions changed them both. Now Marxism is once again stepping into the light as capitalism shakes from its own excesses and confronts devline. Hopefully this book can help our era’s renewal of Marxism.

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“Understanding Marxism is a pro-proletarian primer to help the masses comprehend some of the basics of a complicated worldview, as Wolff identifies some of the capitalist system’s essential contradictions.” - Ed Rampell, L.A.-based journalist

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Interview Richard D. Wolff about Understanding Marxism

Sample Questions:

1. What is the basic thrust of Marx’s critique of capitalism?

2. What is Marx’s distinctive concept of class?

a. A matter of property and its distribution?

b. A matter of power and its distribution?

c. A matter of the organization of producing and distributing surplus?

3. What are the roles of inequality and instability in Marxism’s critique of capitalism?

4. What is the relationship between Marx’s and Marxism’s critiques of capitalism and the actual economies of societies referred to as “communist” and “socialist”?

5. Why is Marxism less a part of US politics and culture than of most other countries’ politics and culture?

6. How would you compare the relationship between Marxism and democracy, on the one hand and capitalism and democracy, on the other?