Richard Wolff on Why Markets Destroy Community


Someday, if you have time, go back and
read a little Plato and Aristotle. Both of those great fathers of modern Western
civilization talked about markets. And both of them didn’t like them. They were
critical of markets. Why? They had the same argument: markets destroy community.
That was their argument. Markets disrupt and destroy society. They set people
against each other because in a market you’re always in this situation: I want
to get more and give less. I want to get the best price I can for whatever it is
I have to sell. I want to pay the least possible for whatever it is I want to buy. We’re always adversaries. We’re not
working together. We’re trying to figure out how to get one over on the next
person. This is not a way to build community. This is not a way to build
solidarity. iI’s not a way to distribute goods and services, which is why your
mother and father don’t do it that way at Thanksgiving. Even here in the United
States we got rid of markets in World War II. You know why? Because we
were fighting a war with the Germans and the Japanese and we needed all our
resources in America to fight that war. And we said, okay we’re gonna use
resources for the military to produce bombs, and bullets, and planes, and tanks. And that
means those resources are not available to produce consumer goods.
Now we could let the market deal with the reduced supply of consumer goods, cuz
we’re doing all this military work, but then only the richest people could
afford what remains of the consumer goods. And that would make the mass of
people very angry and we can’t have that and have a solidarity society to fight a
war. So we’re not gonna let the market distribute the consumer goods that are
available after military production. We had a ration system. The government
issued little cards and distributed them here in America for years. And you had to
have a ration card to buy milk, or sugar, or gasoline for your car, and many other
things. We didn’t let the market distribute because it is socially
divisive. And you know how the United States
government distributed rationed cards? To each according to their need. If you had
a lot of kids, you got more ration for milk. If you didn’t you got less. They
used a different non-market rule to distribute. Markets have bad effects. They
always have. They’re dangerous for society and their
negative dimensions deserve the kind of analysis that conservatives want to keep
from us for reasons that should make you deeply suspicious.




Comments
  1. Where is the Collective in (Capitalism?)

    I invented a Star. Everyone wants it! So I make more. They buy out the store. I hire the town. To make many a thousand. Pay a fair wage keep them in Houses. Now a man comes over the sea. Said he could make them for me! For 10% of what it cost now! So Now (Wealthy)_ This Town Lost The Cow.

    After 20 years and two generations of ten thousand specialty star makers. We are sorry to inform you. (A) 3d Printer will be an adequate replacement

    Am i responsible for all these workers and their families?????

    #1. (I) supplied the building, materials and machines to Produce the Stars!!

    #2. (U) all assembled and Produced. 

    So it took,all of us for this Star Business to be Successful!!

  2. TOTALLY DISAGREE. SO MUCH SO THIS CHANNEL IS BEGINNING TO MAKE ME SICK. My town has a local yearly craft market. It's very much a community builder. So this whole rant is full of shit. Should I also mention the multiple amish marketplaces in my county? It's a community builder where people of all religions, creeds, races meet and socialize together. Or my local furniture company which brings people from all over the world and I'm not being disingenuous. More community building.

    Markets build community. Capitalism is what destroys communities. They are NOT the same thing. 45 minutes from my house there is also a commune. They build hammocks sold worldwide. Communists working withing a marketplace. Imagine that.

  3. What a coincidence. I just shared a post I wrote exactly one year ago on Facebook in response to a TeleSur video about how rampant consumerism is destroying us. I'll share your video in the comments. In the meantime, you may be surprised and interested to read the comparisons I drew in my post as well: https://www.facebook.com/coolwater4animals/posts/10157901650047238

  4. I'm not so sure I agree about of rationing in W.W.II here in the U.S. I agree that the intent was social rather than actually dictated by need of goods. We can see now that unlike the U.K., there wasn't a real scarcity of most goods in the U.S. I think the intent was to make all Americans feel involved in the very unpopular war that F.D.R. had maneuvered the country into. It was typical of the way that capitalist president used things that seemed like socialism (and often architected by actual progressives) on the surface in twisted ways to preserve the interests of his class and avert an increasingly likely civil war.

  5. Watching this on Chrismas Eve Day is amusing. Tell me Wolff, does the decline of religion & Meaning also not mean destroying a sense of Self, which then extends to family, further carrying itself out into the larger community?

    Marx seemed think religion had no other purpose except to sedate people into accepting their capitalistic slave-hood.

    Did he not understand the importance of God?

  6. For literally 99.9% of our existence on planet earth we humans have lived in communal fashion in societies based in sharing and connection to the natural world. Now we live in highly individualistic fashion in a society based on greed and on endless exploitation of the natural world. There is no reason whatsoever to believe such a society as ours is sustainable in any longterm fashion, and we are proving this daily.

  7. Why I can't stand this bolshevik professor, we had markets in the 50's and 60's and we had the highest standard of living, but this bolshevik professor never talks about those years. When there's no competition there is no progress. In 70's and 80's 1 minute call to Europe was $1.00 on weekends and $ 1.29 during a week. Now I can call all over the world for free ,that's how competition saves money and improve our lives.

  8. Socrates didn't think democracy was a good idea and is Wolff is suggesting we should rationed our resources and put more effort into the wars in the Middle East?

    Maybe it was those hippies in the 60s that ultimately did America in. Should have participated more in the war effort instead of being so selfish trying to set up commune for themselves

    It seems like his argument is that Marxism is the best economic system for war time.

  9. Markets are fine. Whether it's a food market or the stock market, it's a meeting place for people for exchange. A bigger question is: How do we turn off greed? Whether it's a farmer who worked hard from sewing seeds through harvest and wants compensation for his labor, or a shareholder who wants to profit off his risk, because he bought low, and now wants to sell high. Also, (nearly) everyone in the workforce who worked hard all year for a raise/bonus next year. You can say you work hard because you take pride in your accomplishments. But that's only half the truth. You want more money – and that's fair. You'll be a more valuable employee next year than you were this year, and that translates into more cash in your pocket. That's the market: your skills vs. your employer's desire to keep you on payroll. If you believe you're underpaid, you may find another job where you're paid fairly.

    Maybe we shouldn't turn off greed. Maybe greed was the successful caveman's hedge against starvation. The altruistic caveman starved and didn't procreate. Greed may be programmed as a part of our individual survival instinct. And the markets? That's just a place where we exchange greed.

  10. I just have a question; markets are fundamentally divisive, no discussion there; but coops dont really solve this issue, they still operate in a market based economy; if the implementation of the market to the entirety of the production of goods and services is what causes the devastating effects of capitalism onto society, how are coops better if they operate with the same system? I mean they're democratic yeah, its still better than the traditional hierarchy, but most of the same problems still occur in the end dont they?

  11. The advocates for markets aren't aware of any other alternatives and why should they? The alternatives are not easy to find but they do exist and you can find them and they do check out.

  12. Capitalism is a system based on competition and this ultimately leads to the greatest competition…war. All for a couple of dollars.

  13. This sort of thinking is what causes shortages and inflation.

    Without markets and prices there is no way to find out what is needed by society.

    The only reason I can think of someone not liking markets is because they want to receive goods and services but don’t want to trade something of equal value.

    That is, they want to be a net negative for society, the very definition of a parasite.

  14. Wolff deplores the fact that producers expect people to pay for the goods they buy in the 'market'. He thinks they should give their products free to the people who need them the most (poor people). It never occurs to him that the producers would quickly go bankrupt and cease production.

  15. Markets promote less, since less is the only way to make a profit. Less worker wages and benefits, less quality items (since higher quality costs more), and less goods and services provided to save on costs. The market is incentivized to provide less to increase profits. It's an inherently broken system.

  16. Wolff's version of socialism is market socialism, so I'm a little perplexed by his scathing review of markets here.

    Humans now possess the scientific, technological, and intellectual capacity and know-how to usher in a post-scarcity society, one in which the work done today–much of it self-replicating and socially destructive–could be abolished outright or radically reconstituted and waged-labor, commodity production, and market exchange overthrown. Socialism and communism that don't harness these possibilities aren't worthy of the name. 

    In fact,  the preservation of markets and commodity production would leave a very wide opening for the reintroduction (or maintenance) of capitalism.

    Under a nominally socialist market system, there's no reason to believe that production wouldn't become geared to a significant extent toward the “needs” of those with the means to make the cooperative businesses the most money. To discount this possibility with a bunch of fluff about the cooperative form suppressing such tendencies is idealist nonsense.

    The fetish for workers democracy–in other words for market socialism–isn’t only lacking as a vision of a new society, it also points toward a tactical and strategic cul de sac to the extent that aspiring radicals put their efforts into creating cooperative businesses instead of engaging in the class struggle against the capitalist class.

  17. Wolff is turning far right now. Fix prices and stimulate the economy with war. Horseshoe theory is real. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory

  18. Great. This is the difference between free markets which have competitive accumulation based on special interest vs. socialist markets which are governed by socialist principles, such as collaboration, democracy, and the public interest. However, some argue that only input/output planning can achieve the goals of socialism.

  19. Oh Yeah? Markets destroy? In communities where people know each other psychopath can not hide and in old days people use to club 'Fish heads' . So from perspective of 'fish heads' they just do to us what we would do to them if we could , but we can not, because we have no power, power is in unity and we are divided. If humanity could unite in circles of self governing people like Libya was then harm doing people will have no power and no where to hide =O)

  20. THE HIGH CLASSES, INKLUSIVE PLATO AND THE ROMANS, WERE AGAINST MARKETS. YET, ADAM SMIT UNDERSTOOD THAT CAPITALISM WAS GOOD, DID FREE UP THE MARKETS AND GAVE WORK VALUE. MARX DID UNDERSTAND THIS!!!!!!!!!!!! LONG LIVE CAPITALISM. AND WE DO NOT WANT ABSOLUTE EQUALITY OR DEMOCRACY AT WORK.

  21. Professor, that markets destroy communities and pit people into a competitive dynamic is acceptable to the proponents of the current system & infact championed by them. Under our current system , competition is seen as net positive for the society as a whole. The destruction left its wake is even termed as creative and as being a central component of innovation. So your argument will not budge the proponents of markets in any meaningful way. A better argument is necessary as a humanist argument which have laid out while it may be desirable is seen as being naive and utopic. Their explicit logic is that competition is what determines who and what ideas get resources allocated to them. This is deemed as the most efficient way to allocate limited resources at our disposal.
    I agree with others who have pointed out that cooperative ownership doesn't address this problem & retains this fundamental logic with the explicit difference being few more people now own the means of production.

    The other argument for the proponents of markets is that it is the most efficient & decentralized way to determine prices, which are the result of market interactions between producers and consumers. Taking this away their argument goes not only makes it inefficient but necessitates the need for a central planner which in turn gives that planning agency..well..a lot of agency to set prices for different commodities.

    One can argue that the price system does not reflect the real prices/costs etc , not factoring in a lot of important externalities but here again we need an alternative conception without the need to envision mass depopulation and other such dystopian scenarios sometimes considered inevitable by large sections of the left.

    As many Marxists have suggested we need to decouple current relations of production which is undesirable from the forces of production which is desirable. But how we got about doing that without jeopardizing our current productive capabilities needs a proper working out. Otherwise we will not win the battle of ideas and we will never be able to provide to the masses an Marxist left alternative conception of reorganizing our society. A proper working out of ideas would also involve ways to transition from our current predicament.

    A lot of people on the left seem to not get importance of these details. Kumbaya is good in spirit but unfortunately we cant all live like that and the suffering electorate knows this. This is a fundamental reason why we on the left globally suffer electoral defeats. We might attribute that to al lot of things but the central concern of not being able to provide a viable & compelling vision along with a detailed working out of how we get there, remains. Until this is addressed , our positively utopian dreams will forever remain… utopian.

  22. well those 2 were greeks, Greece is BANKRUPT country : yes or NO ? why is Greece a bankrupt country ? simple because of thos 2 idiots PLATO and ARISTOTLE. do never read them or u will face same path

  23. This is even more misleading than usual. A functioning market system provides a means of economic interaction outside of your immediate family or group. We don't use a "market" at our family Thanksgiving dinner b/c families are already an exclusive, intimate group. But for someone across town? I exchange money for a good or service. It's not adversarial at all — why would it be? It's a non-coerced, cooperative and agreed-upon exchange.

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