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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Sunday, July 26, 2009

HERBERT MARCUSE -- WORDS OF SOLACE IN DIFFICULT TIMES

I have been getting more and more depressed by the unwillingness of Democrats to pass meaningful health care reform. I assumed the Republicans would be obstructive, and that there would be some heavy negotiating with so-called Blue Dog Democrats, but the level of resistance has surprised me, even though I come to the political world fully outfitted with Marxist presuppositions and a lifetime of disappointments. For solace and wisdom I turned, as I often do, to the words of my old friend and one-time co-author, Herbert Marcuse, now long departed. In the Preface to his most powerful book, ONE-DIMENSIONAL MAN, Herbert apologizes for the abstract character of the analysis, with these words:

“In the absence of demonstrable agents and agencies of social change, the critique is thus thrown back to a high level of abstraction. There is no ground on which theory and practice, thought and action meet. Even the most empirical analysis of historical alternatives appears to be unrealistic speculation, and commitment to them a matter of personal (or group) preference.”

He then continues, a paragraph later: “The fact that the vast majority of the population accepts, and is made to accept, this society does not render it less irrational and less reprehensible. The distinction between true and false consciousness, real and immediate interest still is meaningful.”

The fault, in short, lies not in our President, but in ourselves. Were there sufficient support in the electorate for the necessary and salutary changes he seeks, there would, I have no doubt, be a sufficiency of Representatives and Senators willing to vote for them.

What to do? Well, I spent a few hours yesterday at the Chapel Hill Public Library, collecting signatures on a petition being circulated nationally in support of the principles underlying Obama's health care proposals. As might be expected, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. In ninety minutes, two of us collected seventy signatures. The principal resistance came from a few folks who were holding out for a single payer system. But Chapel Hill is to North Carolina as Berkeley is to Northern California, Madison is to Wisconsin, Hyde Park is to Chicago, and Harvard Square is to Cambridge. Still, the welling up of protest here in the newly Democratic South does seem to have turned Kay Hagen around, and perhaps a comparable outpouring in other swing constituencies will do the trick.

Is it any wonder that I have retreated further into the clouds even than theory, to spend my time spelling out a fantasy of the ideal college?

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