Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Friday, July 19, 2019

LIFE'S SMALL PLEASURES

As reports start to come in for the Friday List, I continue to seek solace from the daily trauma in life's small pleasures.  Today's soothing delight is reading about Alan Dershowitz's effort to defend himself against the charge that he had sex with several of Jeffrey Epstein's victims.  Reading Dershowitz's decription of his "perfect sex life" is not quite up there with a Purcell aria or a Paul O'Dette lute solo, but, as the Good Book says, it is sufficient unto the day.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

THE REBIRTH OF THE FRIDAY LISTS


Among the many interesting responses to my doleful post asking What can I do? was Charles Perkins’ suggestion that I resurrect the Friday Lists.  For those who have forgotten or who have migrated to this blog quite recently, the Friday Lists were a series of weekly posts on which I simply listed what readers reported they had done politically in the preceding week.  The idea of the lists was to encourage people to take concrete steps of any sort to influence our politics, however minimally, and to strengthen their resolve by having what they had done reported publicly.  That was a brilliant suggestion, and I am hereby declaring the resurrection of the Friday Lists.

What sorts of things are you invited to report?

Here is a short list, intended merely as suggestions:

1.         Donations of money to candidates or political campaigns and committees
2.         Phone calls to state, local, and national office holders
3.         Emails, texts, tweets, or letters to state, local, and national office holders
4.         Campaigning for candidates [raising money, walking door to door, office work, etc.]
5.         Contacting friends or associates to encourage them to do any of the above
6.         Attending rallies, protests, campaign events
7.         Putting up a lawn sign [if you have a lawn]
8.         Putting a bumper sticker on your car [if you have a car]

Some restrictions, qualifications, and caveats:

1.         American citizens or permanent residents only.  I don’t want to run afoul of campaign finance laws and such.

2.         No Republicans.  This is not a Good Government exercise.  If you are a Trump supporter, I urge you to swear off politics and retreat to your basement to converse with the four hundred pound hacker you are hiding there.

3.         This is still primary time, and will be for a full year.  The purpose of this project is to encourage you to participate, not to foster internecine political warfare.  For example, I signed up some time ago to make a $9 a month donation to Sanders in perpetuity.  I also donated $500 to Warren a week ago.  There are undoubtedly Harris, Biden, Buttegieg, Castro, Yang, O’Rourke and Klobuchar supporters among my readers.  Until the party chooses a candidate, this website will not discriminate.  I will of course express my preferences, but not by editing the Friday Lists.

4.         This is not a competition.  Think of it as a cross between crowdsourcing and a flash mob.  The point is not to be seen to be doing more than anyone else.  The point is to encourage each of you to do something.

Instructions:  During the week, report your doings either with a comment or by email to me, at rwolff@afroam.umass.edu.   I will keep a list in the order in which reports come in, and post it each Friday.

Finally:  there are maybe a dozen or so regular commentators to this blog [depending on how you individuate the anonymati], but if Google’s metrics are accurate, there must be between 1000 and 2000 discrete individuals who visit the blog more than occasionally.  I am really really eager to hear from some of you as part of this effort.  Email me if you prefer not to post a comment.

First list:  July 26, 2019.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

SOBER THOUGHTS


When I was quite young, I became obsessed with the stories of wealthy Jews who could have escaped the Nazis had they been ready to forfeit their wealth, but who hesitated until it was too late and ended up in the death camps.  What I fixated on was not the money but the notion that there might be times in my life when I had to recognize a threat [or indeed an opportunity] in time and had to act at that moment if at all.  In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I recognized that this was one of those moments.  If I delayed getting out of Hyde Park [I was teaching at the University of Chicago], by the time I tried to leave the roads would be jammed and it would be impossible to get a flight.  I had reservations on flights to Canada and Mexico [depending on which way the wind was blowing] and stocked my VW bug with a Geiger counter and dried food.

Thirty years later, in 1992, when Esther Terry invited me to transfer from the UMass Philosophy Department to the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, I instantly saw that my welcome into the department would depend on my eagerness to join it, and instead of saying judiciously “Well, that is a very interesting idea.  Let me think about it.” I said “yes” without missing a beat, and spent the last sixteen years of my career happy as a clam.

This time feels that way to me.  I am very fearful that if Trump wins re-election, my world will be made irreversibly worse in major ways.  I do not want to look back, during my last years on earth, and regret that I did not do more to stop him.

WHAT CAN I DO?

This is not a rhetorical question.  I mean it as a serious request for suggestions.  There are perhaps sixty to seventy million adult American citizens, eligible to vote and by any reasonable definition of the terms racist xenophobes who deeply, angrily, hate the fact that America is becoming less White and are prepared to support a would be dictator who is hell bent on using the power of the presidency to destroy such legal and other protections as we have against fascism.  I am an eighty-five year old well educated affluent man whose personal obligations place significant constraints on travel or other actions that take me from home.

What can I do?

I can vote.  I do.

I can give money to political candidates.  I do.

I can work locally for candidates.

I do.

I can speak publicly, at least if the Web is considered public.  I do.

What else can I do?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

INSIDE BASEBALL


I think AOC and her colleagues missed an opportunity yesterday during their joint press conference, an opportunity to expand their real institutional influence beyond what their very small numbers have gained them.  They could have started with a full-throated endorsement of Nancy Pelosi, saying that their policy differences pale into insignificance beside the vicious racism of Trump.  This would have put Pelosi in their debt, and Pelosi, who is a superb institutional player, would know that and would reward them with committee assignments or other forms of genuine political power that, over the long haul, would increase their real importance.  It would have been a sophisticated move of which AOC is, I believe, quite capable.

Oh well.

Monday, July 15, 2019

ONE FINAL NOTE


As a footnote to the discussion of pay inequality, consider the salary inequalities in the United States Army, arguably [I would say] one of the most efficient and successful large corporate structures in the world.  A Four Star General earns about $180,000 a year [plus various perks], which is roughly six times the salary of a Corporal [E4] who has been in rank for several years.  Imagine a private corporation in which a secretary earned $40,000 and the CEO earned $240,000 a year – not $24 million, but $240,000.  Unimaginable!  A Master Sergeant with a whole sleeve full of hash marks indicating time in grade can make $70,000 a year.  And these are people who risk their lives, not just their weekends, for advancement.

IT CANNOT BE REPEATED OFTEN ENOUGH

The number of people who voted for Obama in 2012 and for Trump in 2016 is significantly smaller than the number who voted for Obama in 2012 and simply did not vote in 2016.  We do not need a moderate closet Republican as our nominee.  We need someone who will inspire the sort of turnout we saw in 2018.