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Capitalism Hits the Fan

Richard Wolff on the Economic Meltdown

Capitalism Hits the Fan

Duration: 57 min
ISBN: 1-932869-30-1
Date Produced: 2008
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Study Guide
Press Room
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Praise for the Film

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Capitalism Hits the Fan
Richard Wolff on the Economic Meltdown

With breathtaking clarity, renowned University of Massachusetts Economics Professor Richard Wolff breaks down the root causes of today's economic crisis, showing how it was decades in the making and in fact reflects seismic failures within the structures of American-style capitalism itself. Wolff traces the source of the economic crisis to the 1970s, when wages began to stagnate and American workers were forced into a dysfunctional spiral of borrowing and debt that ultimately exploded in the mortgage meltdown. By placing the crisis within this larger historical and systemic frame, Wolff argues convincingly that the proposed government "bailouts," stimulus packages, and calls for increased market regulation will not be enough to address the real causes of the crisis, in the end suggesting that far more fundamental change will be necessary to avoid future catastrophes.

Richly illustrated with graphics and charts, this is a superb introduction that allows ordinary citizens to comprehend, and react to, the unraveling crisis.

Available in two different versions (57 mins and 34 mins) on the same DVD.

Sections: Introduction | Three Things the Economic Crisis is Not | How We Got Here: American Exceptionalism | History Interrupted: The Trauma of Flat Wages | Coping With Trauma: The People's Response | The Meaning of the "Trauma" for Business | Bust and No Boom In Sight | What Won't Work: Re-Regulation | So What Might Work? | Beyond Free Markets and Regulation

Richard Wolff

Richard Wolff has been a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts since 1981. Dr. Wolff's major interests include the critical comparison of alternative economic theories (neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian), the application of advanced class analysis to contemporary global capitalism, and new developments in Marxian economics. He is a member of the editorial board of several academic journals including Rethinking Marxism. He also publishes regular analyses of current economic events on the websites and He has co-authored several books with Stephen Resnick, including The Economics of Colonialism: Britain and Kenya; Rethinking Marxism: Struggles in Marxist Theory; Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy and Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical. He also co-authored Bringing it all Back Home: Class and Gender in the Modern Household with Harriet Fraad and Stephen Resnick. Visit him at

Filmmaker Info

Written & Presented by Richard Wolff
Producer & Director: Sut Jhally
Editor: Jason Young

Film Festivals

Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival | October 2010

Press Reviews

Chronogram | Lorna Tychostup | December 22, 2009

Progressive Radio Network | June 25, 2009

KPFK | April 23, 2009

Republic Broadcasting Network | March 31, 2009

KPFK | March 25, 2009

South Dakota Public Broadcasting radio network | March 25, 2009

WZBC | March 21, 2009

KPFK | March 20, 2009

KZYX&Z | March 20, 2009

KBOO | March 17, 2009

March 17, 2009

WPKN | March 16, 2009

KDKA | March 15, 2009

KPFK | March 10, 2009

Praise for the Film

"With unerring coherence and unequaled breadth of knowledge, Rick Wolff offers a rich and much needed corrective to the views of mainstream economists and pundits. It would be difficult to come away from this viewing with anything but an acute appreciation of what is needed to get us out of this mess."
- Stanley Aronowitz | Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education | City University

"This video is a real tour de force. In just 57 short minutes U. Mass economics Professor Richard Wolff lays out in macro terms the contours of the present crisis of US capitalism. He does this in a clear, concise way avoiding by and large the use of jargon. Any relatively informed person can easily understand the message. Throughout, actively moving graphs and charts liberally sprinkle the text and aid the viewers' understanding of the message. The presentation (filmed before a live audience) is broken down into 10 short subsections each with a single central theme. Brief pauses between sections allow one to digest what has been said and at the same time prepare for what follows. Some of the mini topics covered include: How We Got Here: American Exceptionalism; Bust and No Boom in Sight; Why Re-Regulation Won't Work."
- Hobart Spalding | Socialism and Democracy

"This lecture is useful in outlining the background to the current (and unfortunately, ongoing) economic crisis. Wolff's opinions are well laid out and will provide opportunities for research, discussion and debate both for the serious student of economics and finance as well as someone whose eyes glazed over at the mention of economics but who is now paying attention."
- Educational Media Reviews Online

"...Brimming with an electrifying explanation of how the "American Dream" evolved into the "Nightmare on Wall Street"...Wolff tautly strings together an economic theory (some of the observations with which we might differ) that offers a persuasive explanation of how Wall Street exploded by increasing our indebtedness as individuals and as a nation, at a time when wages remained stagnant. Normally lectures (if you remember them from college) leave a lot of time for day dreaming, but Wolff's explanation is so timely and cogent that you won't want to break away. Beyond Wolff's final conclusion about worker-owned companies, he succinctly has built a case about why leaving the arsonists on Wall Street in charge of putting out the fire that they started is an untenable strategy that will lead to even more economic implosion."

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