Global Stuff Michael Zweig

Episode 2 February 27, 2024 00:58:37
Global Stuff Michael Zweig
KMUD Global Stuff
Global Stuff Michael Zweig

Feb 27 2024 | 00:58:37


Show Notes

Michael Zweig is the emeritus professor of economics and founding director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is a lifelong activist and advocate for building a country that quote “treats its workers with respect, opposes war, conserves a healthy natural environment, and defeats the many forms of white supremacy and patriarchy that cause suffering among so many millions of people.” In this episode, originally broadcast in January 2024, Jimmy and Michael discuss his new book: Class, Race and Gender, Challenging the Injuries and Divisions of Capitalism, a comprehensive history and examination of class in the United States and how the working class majority can take a significant role in shaping the direction of the country.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:02] Speaker A: KMod podcast presents. [00:00:16] Speaker B: Good evening, and welcome to the show. This is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Dershlag, and we're going to have a very interesting show tonight, I think, and we're finally going to get a chance to talk with Michael Zweig, who was scheduled for the last show and due to some various circumstances, could not make it. So he's with us tonight. As you may know if you've listened to the show before, my name is Jimmy Derschlag. Global stuff is about talking to people who are working on a wide variety of issues with global import that affect all of us in our lives, even right here in our rural corner of northern California. So that certainly applies to the guest we have for this show. Michael Zweig is the emeritus professor of economics and founding director of the center for the Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His most recent book, which came out last year, fairly recently, class, race, and gender, challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. That's what we'll be focusing on. He has a long history of social activism and has written several books, appeared on many shows, including Bill Moyer's democracy now featured in the New York Times. His other books include the Working Class Majority, America's best Kept Secret, religion and economic justice, and what's class got to do with it? American society in the 21st century. But he's here now, as I said, to discuss class, race and gender. Welcome to the show, Michael. [00:02:08] Speaker C: Thank you very much for having me. Sorry about the last time around. I had a hospital emergency with a dear friend, and I just had to take care of that. [00:02:17] Speaker B: Well, I understand that happens, and I'm glad we were able to do it again and make it happen, because certainly it was a very interesting and educational, informative read of reading your book, which in its, it's not that long, 230 pages, but it is so packed with information, you could read it several times without getting all of it. It's kind of like a history, and yet also an economic, social, political analysis. You talk about class, race, gender, power, and I wouldn't call it a manifesto, but it certainly does give some pathways to achieving some things that I think most of us would support for our society and looking at the various conditions of our society that are keeping us from realizing some of the important aspects. I call it progressive, and in the book you call it progressive. I know all of these words are loaded and sometimes can lead to negative responses, especially these days. It seems like almost anything polarizes discussions in certain circles. But how would you define the kind of shared values that you think we can promote, and that would bring people, a majority of people, or at least a significant groundswell of people, to work together towards these better societal values. [00:04:04] Speaker C: Well, right away, in the very first paragraph of the introduction, I talk about exactly that question where I write. This is a book for anyone interested in learning about, thinking more deeply about, or engaging in progressive politics. For me, anything that relieves human suffering is progress. Anything that improves the material conditions, organizational strength or intellectual capacity of the working class qualifies as progress s analysis or activity that moves society in these directions is what I mean by progressive politics. So that's how I start the book. And the book is really directed towards, is meant as a resource for the activists who are involved in the bubbling social movements that are vying for power in this country today. The labor movement and the fight for 15 and the Starbucks organizers and the UAW organizers, and also the Black Lives Matter and the MeToo movement and the women's movement, LGBTQ movement, all of those environmental movements, all these different movements are addressing problems and injuries and divisions in capitalism that I think have their origins in the way capitalism works. And so even though there are all these different movements, these different particular places where people are active, depending on what their own particular interests are, we're all really involved in one common movement to confront the power of capital and the power of capitalism. And that's what this book is trying to unpack and trying to explore and trying to explain how all that works, why that's true. And then what does that mean in terms of the politics that we follow. [00:05:56] Speaker B: And what you say also in the very beginning, in the first chapter, some of those issues that you identify and that are a theme throughout, such as universal health care, affordable housing, good jobs, living wages, environmental responsibility, and the basic thing of democracy and respectful treatment of all people, I think those are very commonality, common factors. And it's amazing to me how far away we've gotten from a lot of that. But certainly the first word of your book and in a lot of the work that you've done in looking at the nation and the structure of our society, the word is class. And again, that's another word that's highly charged, because I think a lot of people have said and think of us as a classless society, which doesn't make sense, really, but the definition of class, what is working class, what's considered working class, what would be the capitalist and the ruling class, is fundamental to the way you look at the structure of our society. So maybe you can go into that talk about the issue class a little bit. I'm sure it'll come up over and over. [00:07:09] Speaker C: Well, thanks for bringing that up, because I think it is central to what we need to understand as we do our politics and as we build these social movements. When we talk in this country about class, very often, and particularly politicians will talk about a broad middle class. This is a middle class country, and we have some rich people at the top and some poor people at the bottom, but really, we're all middle class. And that has class defined in terms of income or wealth. I don't think that those are very helpful ways of understanding class. You can do it. You can divide up an income distribution or distribution of wealth and say, these are in the middle, these are rich, these are poor. But I don't think that that tells you much. For me, the question of class is a question of power. And of course, power is a relationship. Someone has power when someone else doesn't. Someone relatively has less power when someone else has more power over them. So when we talk about class in a capitalist society, we're talking about the power relationships that operate in production. When people go to work, and most of the people in our country are people who go to work and they don't have a lot of control over what that work is. It's a job that has do this, do that. You work under more or less strict supervision, and that's the working class in this country. And that is not just the typical construction worker or manufacturing work or somebody working in an auto plant in Fremont. This is a question of power, and that extends also into the service sector. So if you're working in a call center or you're a home healthcare worker, or you're a nurse, or you're a school teacher in an inner city school, those are basically working class jobs that are undertaken under more or less closed supervision according to the plan of work that other people give you, and that's the working class. And rather than think about it in terms of income, like I say, want to think of it in power. Now, we don't have a measure for power directly like we do for income or we do for how many school years you've been in. But as a sort of proxy, as an approximation for power, I use occupation. So, as I say, if you're a home healthcare worker, you don't have a whole lot of control and power over that job. It has its skills and it has its particulars, but you work under more or less close supervision, and that's what you're supposed to do. So if you think about that, the US Department of Labor has job classifications. They have data on that. How many people are home health care workers? How many people are school bus drivers, how many people are truck drivers? How many people work in a factory? As a machinist, we have all those data, about 800 different occupations. And what I've done is I've gone and looked at those data and allocated and assigned people to the capitalist class, the middle class or the working class, according to those occupations. And what I found is when you add them all up, the working class is about 62% of the labor force, the capitalist class, which is the other side of that power grid between labor and capital, the capitalist class is about 2%, and then the middle class is about 35 or 36%. And that middle class are people who have some attributes and some sort of attitudes that are closely associated with the working class and some that are more associated with the capitalist class. So those would be small business owners, those would be managers and supervisors and also professional people. So that, I think, is the basic structure of class in the United States. That, I think is the place to start when we understand how an economy works and then what its implications are for power relations everywhere else in the society. [00:11:22] Speaker B: So that's the starting point with class. And as you're defining it, going to 62% and then up to 67% within the next ten years, as you say. And how do you get to the place? And we'll talk more about capitalism, how it works and issues of the types of work, productive versus non productive. But how do you begin to develop? Because people don't look at themselves. When you say middle class, I'm middle class. They don't want to necessarily think of themselves in the same category, it seems like, especially with all the divisive language that's being put forward in the media and through politicians as having this commonality with, like the service workers you're talking about or the lower paying jobs, how do you begin to develop a commonality or have people look at it that way? [00:12:18] Speaker C: Well, I think if you start with understanding, what's the question to ask? If you ask people in a survey, which many people do, what class are you? Upper class, middle class, lower class? Almost everybody says they're in the middle class. Some people will admit that they're rich, and some people will think that they're poor and say, yeah, I'm poor, but most people will say middle class. If you put working class into the mix and say, well, what class, are you? Upper class, middle class, working class, lower class? About 40% of the population says working class. So right away there's an identification, a self identification with the working class. And I think that's one place to start. Now, often in the popular media, what we see and in the cultural representations of people's existence in this country, working class is something that comes to be associated with white workers. And black workers are considered black, and women workers are considered women, and white workers are considered workers. So I think right there is a place to stop and try to unpack that. So a black worker is a worker, a woman worker who's working in a health care center or working in a grocery store, black worker working in a factory or working in a call center. Those are working class people every bit as much as white workers working in those occupations. So I think if we start and look in the workplace at who has power and who doesn't, and what is the grid of power relationship in a workplace, people see pretty quickly that white workers and black workers are both workers in regard to who's the supervisor, who's the boss. And I think that's really the place to start, is what is the reality of people's lives. And when you look at that, you can start to break down some of these stories and myths and sort of examples that people put Forward in order to divide workers and have them think that they do not have in common. White to black to hispanic to asian to native american. And I think that's what we have to start to unpack, starting from people's own experience at work. [00:14:38] Speaker B: Again, I want to remind people this is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Nurslag. My guest for this show, Michael Zweig. We're glad to be able to schedule him for this month. We're talking about his most recent book just out towards the end of last year. Class, race, and gender, challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. And just in the title, you can see how much it addresses. We've already talked about class a little, and he's bringing up the whole issue of race and gender, which he goes into in detail in several of the chapters. But what's very interesting that you deal with from the very beginning is kind of the capitalist structure and how it keeps people in certain positions. And I think your talk about how develop a commonality about people seeing themselves in a commonplace. And yet within the job structure, as you talk about, people are encouraged to look at it. It's their individual responsibility. If they're not wealthy or if they're not rising up the ladder even, no matter what. The real societal obstructions there are to really attaining a higher level of income that it's seen as an individual responsibility for them to lift themselves up. And yet it's really the structure that certainly keeps people in a certain place. And maybe you can talk about that a little bit. [00:16:12] Speaker C: Yeah, I think that's also very important. And it relates to a number that you had spoken of just a short while ago when you were talking about that 67% in the next ten years. What that is, again, is what are the new jobs that are coming in? And if you look, the Department of Labor, also the US Department of Labor publishes every year what they expect in the coming ten years to be the new jobs that are created. How many people are going to be hired in as scientists or how many people are going to be hired in as airline pilots or as security guards? So if you look at those data, what you'll see is that over the next ten years, about two thirds of all the new jobs that will be created in this country are working class jobs. There are home health care workers, there's private security workers. Those are the two biggest categories. And then there's a number of other ones that when you add them up, two thirds of all the new jobs are not high tech jobs, are not jobs where you're skilled trades, skilled computer programmers and all that. That's not where the new jobs are. So what that means is that if you want to bring people up and have everybody rise, you can't do that by having everybody be a computer programmer or everybody being an airline pilot, because those aren't going to be the new jobs. Two thirds of the new jobs are going to be stone working class jobs. Truck drivers, home healthcare workers, security guards. And so even though an individual may rise from a working class position through education and become a computer program or a business owner on a social level, that's impossible. That can't be, because that's not the structure of an economy. That's not what the jobs are going to be. And so on a social scale, there is no way to solve the problem of a working class life by doing away with the working class. What you have to do is improve the conditions of the working class. And that means working people have to work together through the union movement, through political organization, through cultural means, to enhance the power of working people. And that is the avenue, the economic necessity that drives the political agenda that we might be able to forge out of it. [00:18:53] Speaker B: And as you say, the question you ask and talk about is who is really creating the wealth. You talk about surplus, a surplus which is used in a variety of ways. And that's what the owners, the capitalists, or ruling class, I guess. Ruling class. The upper level of what you call the capitalist class. That's what they're pushing for, is the profits and the surplus that doesn't go back into the maintenance of whatever business they're doing. But the wealth is really being created by this working class and this surplus. Talk about a little bit about that. What's productive versus non productive, and the whole concept of the surplus in the capitalist system. [00:19:46] Speaker C: That's a very central question, and it goes back to Adam Smith, actually the founder of modern economic analysis, writing in the 18th century, when he wrote the wealth of nations and other books. What Adam Smith was trying to understand, as the title says, what's the origin of the wealth of nations? Now, in feudal times, that was thought to be trade. So you get something cheap, you sell it for more money. The difference is the profit that you make. And that's the basis of wealth. Adam Smith came along and no, no. Wealth comes only from one place. It comes from work. It comes from the labor of people making things and producing goods and services in the society. That is what creates wealth. And he says, this is Adam Smith. Now, that wealth gets divided into two pieces. First of all, all of it, when it's created, belongs to the capitalists, because they own the businesses, and they own the resources that are created. And the products all belong to capital. But the capitalists pay workers a wage. And with that wage, workers go back into the market and they buy back a certain part of what they've already made. Now, maybe not what they made personally, because they buy shoes, but they don't make shoes. They make coats, but the whole working class makes everything and gets, through wages, a certain part of it back. And the rest the capitalists keep. Now, the surplus. And again, this comes from Adam Smith, not from Karl Marx, although Marx picked it up and did a whole analysis with it. But the idea of a surplus is when people, working people, the people who create everything, produce more than what they need themselves to survive and raise their family and have children, take their place. Whatever they produce, beyond that need for themselves and their children, that extra is surplus. And all of that surplus belongs to the capitalists. So that surplus takes many forms. It takes the form, of course, of profit, but it takes a number of other forms, which I try to describe and explain in this book. Everything that goes to the financial sector, all the money that goes to the banks, and all the money goes to the financial sector, all the money that goes to commerce, into the stores. All of that stuff is surplus. But it may be necessary, at least some of it is necessary for a society. We don't want a society in which there are no banks, no surplus, and no commerce. Everything goes back to workers. But the question of how much of what workers produce they get to keep through their wages or through social programs that provide products to workers. Products which they themselves have made, incidentally. All of it. Everything beyond that is surplus. And that is a battle between labor and capital, between the boss and the workers, not just in each industry, or in each factory, or in each employment place, but on a social scale. How much of what workers produce are they going to get back in their living standards and how much is going to stay with capitalists? That's the question. And I have a lot of information and data and explanation of how that works in this book. And that's part the beginnings of an answer of your very important question. [00:23:37] Speaker B: And when you talk about productive versus non productive, there's various kinds of non productive. We can think about productive work fairly directly as a producing of goods or services. But there's a lot of non productive work that's essential to the functioning of the society. The police force, there's a whole lot of them, the military. But then there's a non productive work such as financial institutions and others, which is ways of creating wealth that doesn't really produce other than in this financial way. How would you talk about productive versus non productive work? [00:24:23] Speaker C: Well, we'll start with what are we producing? What is being productive? Productive is anything that makes something a good or a service which supports the working population. Because if you don't support that working population, if you don't give back or find a way for people who do the work to survive, they're going to die and a society will collapse. So the first order of business of any society is to produce things and to make sure that those people who are actually producing them get enough of what they're producing so they can continue to work and continue to live. Anything they produce beyond that is surplus. Anything that produces beyond what is needed goes to capital, because that's what's left over after capital returns back to the workers what they've already made. Now that surplus is not just profits. That surplus goes to support banks, it goes to support stores and commerce and trade. Now those things are important, but they don't create anything. They facilitate production. Yes. So it's not like we don't want banks or we don't want commerce. We do. But how much and how much of the resources of society should be given over to the people who do that kind of activity? Because it's all unproductive in the sense that it doesn't really support directly the living standards of the population. Now, you can think about it this way. If you've got kids and they are going to school and they're taking exams, you can be a parent and you can coach them and you can do whatever you want. But in the end, it's their task to go and take the exam. If you're a coach in a basketball team, very important function. And you work with all your players and you get them to operate as a team, and you get them to know who to pass to and when to pass and when to do this and when to do that and when to cut here and when to cut there. But no matter how good you are as a coach, it's the team that does the winning or the losing. The coach doesn't win anything. The team wins. The coach is essential. But let's make a distinction between who's actually doing the work, who's actually producing, and who is facilitating or organizing or managing. And I think that that is another way to get at this question of who's being productive and who is unproductive. [00:27:01] Speaker A: KMUD is a community radio station in the redwood region of northern California. Donate to support peoplepowered [email protected]. [00:27:20] Speaker B: I want to remind the listeners, this is global stuff. My name's Jimmy Dershlag. Michael Zweig my guest, the emeritus professor of economics and founding director of the center for the Study of the Working Class life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and has long history of social activism, like many of us in our community, has come up through working on a variety of activist issues and has learned a lot about the way the society works through that, but also is a scholar and has published many scholarly works, has been on many, done a lot of media work and has several other books. We're talking about his most recent book, class, race and gender challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. This is a call in show. If you do have a question for Michael Zweig or brief comment, you're welcome to call us up at 707-923-3911 what you bring up that is so interesting to me, especially in the current dynamic of things, is values and beliefs, because there's this whole thing of what is truth right now, right? Alternative facts that came up, which should never have been even an issue came up under Trump's administration. But as you say that we've been talking about class dynamics and the differences in the understanding of class, and you say that the choice of people's values, and you talk about it in several different chapters is really underlies a lot of that, people's belief systems and how that affects them and how that comes about. Perhaps you can discuss that a little more and what its part is in all of these dynamics. Sure. [00:29:23] Speaker C: Let me say first that if anybody's interested in this book and wants to get more deeply into it, you can get it from pmpress. That's, and you'll find it there. Class, race and gender. How do we know things? You've got a belief, I've got a belief. Everybody's got their own way of thinking, way of looking at things. I think that what we need to get a handle on is the way to distinguish one belief system from another belief system is to test that belief in practice. Now, you can have other ways of deciding what's right or wrong. You can say, if I say this and you say that I'm right because I'm closer to what it says in the Bible, or I'm right because that's the way my parents taught me, or you're right because that's closer to what Karl Marx said or what Ronald Reagan said. So we go by what the texts are, and what I want to say is the way we judge what's right and what's wrong is by comparing it in practice to the results that we get when we implement our thinking. And that's essentially the scientific method. If you've got an idea, that idea is then checked out and made into a theory that relates activity to outcomes. And then you test your idea as a theory that says, if I do this, I'm going to get that, and then you do this. And do you get that or no? Well, those are things that we have to do in the way of experiments, in the way of checking out our belief system against a material reality outside of our wishes, outside of our minds that's out there, that we have to comprehend. So that, I think, is a very basic point of departure in any discussion. How are we going to judge the disagreements among us? And I think what we have to do is judge those disagreements according to how the world works, whether it's the physical world, the natural world, or the social world, or the interpersonal world. That's where the test comes the test of practice. And so I have a section in the book, in a chapter called how do we know what we know that goes more deeply into exactly this question. [00:31:54] Speaker B: I want to jump in here because I do want to continue this discussion, but we do have a caller, so we'll let them. Come on. Hi, you're on the air. [00:32:05] Speaker D: Good evening, Jimmy. [00:32:07] Speaker B: Good evening. [00:32:09] Speaker D: How are you tonight? [00:32:10] Speaker B: Doing all right. How about good? [00:32:11] Speaker D: I turned 70, and I'd like to ask your guest a question. [00:32:15] Speaker B: Go right ahead, sir. [00:32:18] Speaker D: I'm very concerned since I am from Boston and was around square many, many years ago in the 70s when things remained somewhat open and MIT and all the coffee shops of Harvard Square. I was over by BC and Bu, and I was all around that area. And now I'm very concerned about their actions against President Claudine Gay. And I would like to know your opinion on that and also how they're attacking other universities around the country and the leaders because they're protesting against the Palestine takeover. All right, thank you. [00:33:05] Speaker B: All right. Thanks for that question. I think that does fit into what we're talking about now in terms of people's beliefs, and certainly they've been put up against it by Congress. Do you have some comments on that? [00:33:19] Speaker C: I think that the attack on Claudine Gay and the other university presidents is part of an attack on public higher education and higher education in general in this country and an attack on knowledge. Now we can get into whether her answer was the best answer or the most. Did she thump her around too much about if you call for the eradication of all Jews, is that okay? I don't think it's okay. And I think that she could have been a little more forthright about how she answered that question. But the basic point that a university is a place where you have all kinds of ideas and where you have all kinds of propositions that are grounded in one way or another in reality, in the physical and material and social world. Now, anybody who says that the Palestinians deserve what the Israelis are doing in Gaza, I think is not in the real world with the proper values and proper orientation to the experience, to the reality of what is going on in Gaza today. So I think that what we had there in Congress was an attack on the leaders of some serious intellectual homes in the United States. And I think that that was really what was driving and motivating. They thought they had something there that they could drive home. Colleen Gay, I think, was a little off her game and maybe got caught off guard, was not properly prepped and did not give a proper answer to that question. I don't defend her answer, but I think that what's going on there is not any great concern for the truth or any great concern for humanity, because I think the people who are pushing that line are the same people who are trying to undercut Medicaid, undercut all kinds of social services in this country that have very harmful effects on people, murderous effects. Poverty kills people. And I think that if you look at who is leading this attack on Harvard and who's leading the attack on Penn and all the other institutions, you'll find that there are people who are not friends of working people in this country. [00:35:56] Speaker B: Well, thank you for that. And thank you for the caller for the question. And getting back to what you're talking about in your chapter three, how do we know what we know? And also, of course, in other parts of the books, including the chapter on religion, values and interests, the issue of beliefs and values, and the beliefs and the values that are undercut those beliefs and how they're derived and whether they're actually verifiable in what's going on around us in the natural material world, the natural world and the social world, and how these beliefs, it seems like now the beliefs are driving such a large percentage of the country, many large percentage of them working class, maybe most of them, under the definitions we've talked about already, and yet it almost undercuts against their own self interest. So this whole idea of belief and wedge issues and the fact that some people think beliefs are more important than other people's verifiable information, how do you relate to all of that turmoil that's going on around that? [00:37:16] Speaker C: I think we have to come back to people's lived experience. So there are different values according to different class positions. So the working class, broadly as a class, has a different set of values and norms in life than the capitalist class. And I'll give you a couple of examples. I would say that the culture of the working class is a culture of mutual aid, of looking out for one another. When somebody gets sick, their neighbors come over with a casserole. If somebody's house burns down, the neighbors come over with building materials and try to help out people help one another. And people do that because that's what's necessary in the life of working people. And it's also what's necessary when you go to work. People work together. I'm in a fire department out on east end of Long island. I've been a volunteer there for over 30 years. When we respond to a scene, we're working, and we are working together. It doesn't matter if we're white or black or Republican or Democrat. We're working together and our lives depend on one another. If you're capitalist, you don't have that attitude of mutual aid, and we're all in this together. You have the attitude of me, myself, and I I'm first, I'm going to excel. I'm going to make money. I'm going to do what it takes to be on top for me, and I will use whoever's around in order to advance my own purposes. But it isn't anything that's mutual. And I think that that is a difference in the actual structural position of the capitalist class and the working class or capitalists and workers in society. So I think that if we start with coming back to that basic question of mutual aid and helping one another and being part of a social and sort of collective effort, that you don't get anything done on your own, you get things done with other people. And there may be leaders and there may be people who are chiefs or lieutenants in the fire service who have more experience, who have more training, who can sort of guide and direct the activities of other people. But those aren't class differences. Those are just differences in skill. Those are differences in the way in which people contribute different pieces to a collective effort. That's not true among capitalists. And so I think that the way to overcome a lot of these divisions, these racial divisions and gender divisions that we see in the working class is to keep coming back to that basic reality again, that material reality that we're all in this together. We working people are all in this together, and we have to stick together. And that's actually the old basis of a union, for example, a trade union. [00:40:20] Speaker B: Let me jump in again, because we do have another caller. [00:40:24] Speaker E: Great. [00:40:25] Speaker B: Hi. Welcome to the show. [00:40:28] Speaker E: I assume that's me, right? [00:40:29] Speaker B: Yes, that's you. [00:40:31] Speaker E: Okay, great. I'd like to go back to Adam Smith for a minute and ask you a couple of questions about it. I really liked his work and the impact he had. Same time he published wealth of Nations was the same year declaration of independence was signed, and these truths that were self evident were put out to the world. There are bookends, really, that should be cultivated and looked at more carefully now, along with poor Richard Zalmanak, which would help a lot, I would think. But question is about chapter two, or book two, whatever, about the division of wages, profits, and rent and how critical he was to say, in terms of working together, that the people who lived in the area were wage earners or rented land to the investor, people who would put money and equipment in there and make a crop. But of those three groups, the two that would cooperate more would be the wage earner and the local farmer who owned the landowner. But the guy who was investment capital, the banker or whatever, would have the short term profits in that endeavor, even if it hurt the land base and move on somewhere else to another opportunity to invest that money into another similar thing, right? [00:41:53] Speaker C: Well, that's right. And that's why Adam Smith was a clever fellow. He understood a whole lot about how things work, and in particular, how things work in a new society. That's challenging feudalism. So when he's talking about the financial and the landowners there, he's not talking about landowners who are the old feudal lords. He's talking about farmers. He's talking about agricultural labor who are on the land together with the laboring population in businesses, the actual workers, as being the creators of wealth. And so when he talks about those creators of wealth being the people who actually do the work, that work can be agricultural and it can be in the manufacturing. At that time, we didn't have all that many services. It was mostly manufacturing. And. [00:42:57] Speaker B: Uh, was there another question you had? [00:42:59] Speaker E: No, I'm just saying that that was a balance against what people think of Adam Smith as the free market capitalism, as they fair take the government out of your hand and the invisible hand of the market. He was careful to put that other part in there that we just described. And that's why it's political economy, not economic politics, which has become now. [00:43:21] Speaker C: All right, well, that's right. And now what you have, what's called political economy has to do with how the policy arena can make markets work more efficiently. Let's do everything we can so that markets work efficiently, which means that people, businesses, can make the maximum profit. And I think that Adam Smith had a whole different way of understanding things, and it's been turned upside down, as you say. And I think that that's a very important point. I'm glad you brought it up. Thank you very much caller all right. [00:43:55] Speaker B: Thanks for your call on that. Appreciate it. I do want to remind the listener, this is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Derschlag, my guest for the show today, Michael Zweig, the emeritus professor of economics and founding director of the center for the Study of working class life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, joining us from the east coast and a long history of social activism and has written many books, appeared on many shows and in some of his other books, the working class majority, America's best kept secret, religion and economic justice. And what's class got to do with it? An american society in the 21st century, and we're talking about class, race and gender, challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. I thought that might. Was that, is that available from some of the other outlets as well? [00:44:49] Speaker C: It's available everywhere. [00:44:50] Speaker B: Everywhere? [00:44:51] Speaker E: Everywhere. [00:44:52] Speaker B: You mentioned their publisher, so you could go to their website. [00:44:55] Speaker C: Yeah, you can go to That's the publisher. But Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Abe books or any place that you want to get books, your local bookstore could get it for you if they don't have it on the shelf already. [00:45:12] Speaker B: You have a very detailed discussion of a lot of areas, a chapter on the issue of race. Another thing that's been coming up more and more and more and even addressing white to white males or white people about that issue. Now, we were talking about Adam Smith and the capitalism. And you're saying that early concept of capitalism not had a more egalitarian approach to it. And yet a lot of what you're saying we need to change right now, or would be important in order to support basic human values, is based on capitalism. And you talk about socialism. It's the last chapter in the book. Is it that capitalism has lost its way or it never really was a system because of the people at the prop, those who own the means of production or the employ, the working class, are always going to be in their own self interest? [00:46:33] Speaker C: Well, to the degree that capitalism historically came along and blew up feudalism and destroyed chattel slavery in this country, you'd have to say it was progressive. You'd have to say it was a step forward in human history. There is no doubt about that, I don't think. But everything changes over time. And I think that right now we have a situation where the continued operation of capitalism as it is now in this country and around the world is extremely destructive. It's destructive of the environment. It's destructive of people's futures as workers and as young people growing up. It's destructive of resources and depressions and recessions when factories lay idle. And it's just a very damaging system. And it creates suffering, it creates injuries, it creates divisions that people respond to by developing movements to correct it, to address it, to challenge it. And what I'm trying to do in this book is to provide a foundation of understanding of where those injuries come from, where those divisions come from in capitalism today where it is no longer this progressive revolutionary system that is moving humanity forward. It's standing in a way. It's a problem. And so we have to come to grips with the reality of that and then address it politically in an appropriate way, which includes breaking down the barriers between racial and ethnic barriers, gender barriers. And that is, again, the importance of some of the chapters that I've written to try to unpack that material. [00:48:19] Speaker B: Again, we have another caller. Hi, welcome to the show. You're on the air. [00:48:26] Speaker F: I just tuned in just a teeny bit ago, but I'm really interested in the subject, and I'm guessing that your guest, I don't know if your name is Michael, maybe? [00:48:36] Speaker C: Yes, Michael, yes. [00:48:38] Speaker F: You're a fan perhaps of Michael Hudson. You know who he is, right? [00:48:43] Speaker C: I don't think do. [00:48:45] Speaker F: Oh, ok. He's another professor of economics, forget what state, but either kind of the central part of the country somewhere. But basically he talks about a lot of the same kind of concepts. And one of the things he differentiates between in terms of capitalism is he calls kind of the old model of capitalism, industrial capitalism, and then he talks about the modern form of capitalism that we're in, calls it finance capitalism. And basically where those two deviated is a major problem, I guess. And just theoretically he talked about how everyone from other countries or other economic kind of systems kind of looked towards capitalism as naturally evolving into something else, maybe a little more socialist or something. But then this finance capitalism where basically I look at it as like the people who want a free ride and there's more and more people trying to go for a free ride on the backs of the workers type of element, and it's built on a huge pile of debt, and that can't go on forever. But one thing I'll just mention quick, before I hang up here, is you were talking about the difference between the working class versus the capitalists, I think is really important. That's almost more important than who holds the money and the ability to sway people's influences with that money through communications. But it's not sustainable to have a huge colony of any kind of organism where each organism is out for itself as a large colony, which is basically what we are now. We're all interdependent and it's not sustainable to have us all out for ourselves. So the main thing I just wanted to say, let's see, I was going somewhere with that. But essentially, if you look at the native american tribes, from what little I know about their kind of social system is that it basically was a community based society where everyone's out to try to make the tribe, the larger society function right. And where we've deviated and going horribly wrong is this everybody out for themselves. And so the last thing I'll say is the people at the top, the ruling class, I'll call them, are able to sway us against each other with these different issues or wedge issues, but they're also holding out the promise of us lower class people basically being able to ascend to the one in a million that makes it up into that upper echelon. So I'll get off the air and listen to you guys some more. I really appreciate it. [00:52:12] Speaker B: Well, he's really selling a lot of the things that you talk about in the book, Michael, so I know you would agree with the need for collective action, and there's no question about that. And you talk about a lot of the divisive issues in the book as well. So I don't know if you have other comments. [00:52:30] Speaker C: Well, a couple of things. If you look at the native american populations and the First nations people, when they produced a surplus, when they produced more than what they needed at the end of the year to survive, they ate it up. They had a potluck, they had a big party, and everybody was together. Now there might have been a headman and there might have been hierarchies within the people, but everybody just sort of consumed the surplus that everybody had created. And now in a lot of societies, what has happened is that once that surplus is there, instead of eating it all up, somebody comes along and says, you know what? I'll take that. That's mine. And you'll now next year make that surplus again. And it's going to be for me. We're not all going to eat it up. I'm going to take it and I'll build a palace or I'll have big banquets and feasts for my family and my friends, and you all can go back to work. And that's the beginning of exploitation. That's the beginning of creating surplus by one group of people, and that surplus is taken by another. That is a basic, fundamental beginning of class differentiation and class society. So I think that the caller there was talking about something that was very important in human history that has given way to a number of different structures and feudalism and slavery and capitalism. And then on the financialization and the growth, the very prominent growth of finance in the last 30 or 40, 50 years in this country, in this economy, if you look at what has happened to productivity in this country, you'll find that it's gone up pretty steadily since the 1970s, but wages haven't gone up hardly at all. So workers are producing more, but they're not getting that much more. So where is it going? It's going to capital. And that's the basis of the change in the distribution of income and wealth, in the great inequality that we've discovered and is very well documented, the great inequalities in income and wealth in this country, which are also exacerbated by racial and gender differences. So I think that what the caller was talking about there with the growth of finance helps to understand why it is that all the productivity increases that have gone to finance. You can go to an ATM machine or you can move money around the world with a click of a mouse. Well, none of that is productive. All that so called productivity only makes it easier for finance to capture the surplus and the wealth that is created elsewhere. And as that sector, finance and commerce, but finance in particular, has grown more prominent, it's grown by 50% as a share of the total economy went from 13% to 21% of the economy in the years that we're talking about here. What you have is that financial sector capturing for itself in unproductive ways, in ways that don't produce anything that really advances the material life of people. And that's the increase in inequality that we see and the great advances in wealth at the top, particularly among finance capitalists. [00:56:13] Speaker B: Well, I do want to thank you for being on the show. We've only got a little more than a couple minutes left here. Michael Zweig, we've been talking about his book, class, race, and gender, challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. An incredible book, which I recommend that you check out, despite all of the things going on right now, which there's a lot of political hate being bred, which is very upsetting to many of us. But you see some positive developments as far as organization and working people coming together. Any last words about that before we end the show? [00:56:52] Speaker C: I do see many interesting things. There's all the stuff going on with the Starbucks workers. So the great work that the United Auto workers did in their strikes against the big three auto manufacturers, what the Teamsters did with ups, there's a lot of stuff going on. Black lives Matter, the metoo movement, the environmental movement that's challenging capital. All these things are bubbling up in this country, and they're all focused on the same basic target, which is how capitalism works. And what I've done in this book, class, race and gender, challenging the injuries and divisions of capitalism. What I've done there is try to unpack what it is that all these movements have in common so that we can bring ourselves together out beyond our individual silos and have the kind of solidarity across movements that together can challenge capital for power in this country. That's what this book is about. That's what I'm hoping to contribute to. [00:57:50] Speaker B: I really appreciate you taking that. It gives me some hope and appreciate you making the time to be with us. Thanks to Michael McCaskell for engineering. This has been the global stuff podcast. My name is Jimmy Derschlag. Our next month's podcast will be with Joshua Landis, director of the center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. [00:58:18] Speaker A: This has been a KMUt podcast us to listen to other shows and more episodes of this show. Find us on all the platforms where you get your podcast and also on our website,

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