It's a book about economics without the economic jargon. Fun and easy to read. I recommend the "monthly update" from Prof Wolff. You can watch it on his website or on Youtube. Very, very informative and I feel it is an honest and unique perspective about the whole we are in, and how things can change.
Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism This is a small book which contains what he says in the U-tube video. Frankly, I like the video better than the book. However, it is useful to have the book. The book gives you references and links to other works and websites that you cannot pick up from the video.
Rick Wolff is always such an energetic person and a good speaker. However, his book should have been a book (with tables, figures, pictures etc), rather than a mere pamphlet-style long talk reprinted as a book.
I wonder why so many reviewers and critics of this book keep comparing his proposal with the USSR and failed to remind us Tito's Yugoslavia, because the system the author proposed in the book is exactly what they tried and what happened several decades ago in Socialist Yugoslavia. This is actually nothing new, but my point is, maybe it's due to the tragic huge contrast before and after the civil war in Yugoslavia, people tend to ignore and forget that Tito's Yugoslavia used to be the most successful political system in the world at that time. I never saw any books, despite I tried so hard to find one, that seriously and objectively analyze the success and failure of that system, and hence here someone is proposing it again as something entirely new.
I'm not trying to discredit the author's originality, because that's missing the point. The point is if we want to try something new it better has to be tried before, either in the USSR or some other country like Yugoslavia. And starting from what they failed doesn`t nessarily mean we will fail too, but the failure of those countries give us priceless lessons we should not ignore. So the critical point is: we got to really study what really happened in the heyday of Yugoslavia or USSR and what history is trying to teach us by showing the progress of those failures, so we can succeed without repeating the same mistakes.
If we want to build something different from capitalism like the worker's collective ownership of enterprises, the previous lessons from Yugoslavia, especially the economic and political lessons, should not be ignored and should be taken seriously so that they can serve as our starting point and theoretical foundation. This is because society is not an ant farm or lego theme park to which you can undo anything that turns out to badly. As history taught us repeatedly, trying to build a new society, no matter how reasonable and reliable the new idea appears to us, is a much much riskier business than we thought. The Soviet Union and all the other countries tregically showed those lessons to us throughout their history at the cost millions of human lives, and they don`t deserve to go unnoticed.
Here someone is proposing collective ownership socialism again, but doing social experiments at the cost of risking real people`s lives sounds very unattractive, so why don`t we, instead of starting from something new and without real historical data, sit down and analyze the 60`s and 70`s history of Yugoslavia and based on that start to plan how we should revise those legacy system to make it work? It's a much easier call and a whole lot less riskier.
Because Socialist Yugoslavia ended in a tragic and horrific civil war doesn't necessaryly mean the system is an entirely failure. Quite the opposite, it used to be considered by many people back then as the most successful, egalitarian, efficient, and just system we ever invented. But like any thing that`s beautiful and good, it`s delicate, that`s how things are in nature: good things are weaker.
Any tiny misstep could destroy a good society as a communist society. American-style capitalism is extremely ugly and in-organic and evil and greedy and suicidal, and that's exactly why it's also stronger and flexible and cancerous. It`s hard to be defeated, like virus. So if we socialists want to start over again, try to save human race from self-destroying future and bio-suicidal consumerism and bring back a peaceful and beautiful world like the 60`s Yugoslavia, we need to do it really really careful at each step this time. One misdecision, there would be no 2nd chance, because we are fighting capitalist monster designed to exterminate the entire humanity.
This book is divided into 2 parts. The first half is a shallow and general rant against capitalism, where the author calls socialism and communism as a form of public administrative capitalism; he sees these government models as fundamentally unfair since the employees (the producers of surplus value) don't call the shots. The second half is an incoherent proposal where employees are the directors of the companies they work for; but in this proposal he provides no solution for any of the challenging cases... how to handle build vs buy (ie, a cleaning company), or how to handle education (it's still a government operation?). This is a short (tedious), religious book -- either you believe that employee directed enterprises are the solution to all the worlds problems, or you don't. The book provides no real evidence or thoughtful discussion of why it might be a good model for government and commerce.
Richard Wolff writes with a clarity and ease I've often found to be lost in the translated works of others. He begins the book by outlining what the conventional Cold War definition of Capitalism and (State) Socialism were, and how he differs of opinion, instead focusing on the workers' right to control their workplace directly, on building an economic democracy. Throughout the book things such as the Soviet Union, Occupy Wall Street, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession get referenced frequently to help contextualize objects of discussion. Part 3 of the book is dedicated to how one might build and the principals on which one might operate such a structure, which Wolff calls WSDEs (Workers' Self-Directed Enterprises). Overall the tone is very reminiscent of Anton Pannekoek's "Workers' Councils", if with a more updated context and a somewhat stronger emphasis on direct democracy for the workers versus Pannekoek's emphasis on councils; though the two concepts can certainly intertwine and coexist. An excellent read, especially if you're looking for something of Libertarian Socialism.
Richard Wolff is really someone I admire. He speaks without hesitation because he knows his issues thoroughly, he believes in his convictions, and he doesn’t need to lie, omit, embellish, etcetera. This book is quite good in the respect that it is quite informative. It is always uplifting to read such writings, as it is uplifting to see this man speak. His smile lets us know that he knows what he is doing. I have now two versions of this book. I like to give my support to those few people who represent most of what I believe in.
I'm a big fan of Professor Wolff and this is no exception. That being said I only recommend it as an introduction for people to anti-capitalist and far left views. If you've watched Wolff for a bit and are decently read on the subject you can skip this book.