Richard Wolff [ht: ja] explains, in an interview with the Guardian, how he has drawn inspiration for his critique of capitalism (from Marx) and for his speaking style (from Richard Pryor).
Anthony Arnove, an editor at Haymarket books, which is bringing out Wolf’s [sic] next work, Democracy At Work: A Cure for Capitalism, explained what he thought was behind Wolff’s remarkable rise. “He knows how to speak to people. He knows how not to speak over people’s heads. But he is also clear that that he comes from a Marxist framework,” Arnove said.
But Wolff, who speaks with a strong New York accent, also serves up his radicalism with humour. “I am an economist. I do apologise,” he said, opening his speech in a packed lecture hall at Columbia College to bursts of laughter.
That was a typical Wolff line. He went on to describe the inherent instabilities of capitalist business cycles with a parallel to a crazy roommate. “If you lived with with a person as unstable as this economic system, you would have moved out a long time ago,” he quipped.
Wolff’s inspiration for his speaking style is the famed comedian Richard Pryor. Wolff was a huge fan, and he studied Pryor’s delivery and technique and how he addressed taboos around race, sex and swearing. Wolff decided he would do the same but by tackling what he says is the true American taboo: the country’s political and economic system.
“What I do is half economics, half performance art. … I say the political sex words, the dirty political words, and they like it. They like a little radicalism. They have been waiting. They want this,” he said.