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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, October 23, 2010

A READING LIST FOR MICHAEL

Michael asks for a list, short or long, of books that have influenced my study of society. A tall order. Here are a few suggestions [since I do not read very much, I am very bad at suggesting bibliography, but much of what I read has a big effect on me -- otherwise I do not read it -- so these are all worth a look, in my judgment.]

As Michael indicates, Volume One of CAPITAL by Marx looms large for me. There is a good deal by Marx that is worth reading, including his letters to and from Engels, but certainly read THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. For sheer fun, not to learn anything much, read THE HOLY FAMILY, a youthful attack by Marx and Engels on some of their fellow left Hegelians.

Getting serious now:

Start with the great classical sociologists. Read as much of Max Weber's monumental work, ECONOMY AND SOCIETY [WIRTSCHAFT UND GESELLSCHAFT] as you can manage, but especially the famous discussion of types of legitimate authority. Most certainly read all of Karl Mannheim's IDEOLOGY AND UTOPIA. It is filled with extraordinary insights. [It is worth noting that both Weber and Mannheim were conservatives. I do not pick and choose great books on ideological grounds.] Along with these classics, which just about anyone would recommend, I would certainly spend some time reading THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman -- not a great book, but very useful, I find.

I strongly recommend reading some Freud. Long and difficult as it is, THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS is well worth the effort. With it, read Richard Wollheim's splendid book, SIGMUND FREUD for an overview. Then read Erik Erikson's CHILDHOOD AND SOCIETY, one of the loveliest books ever written. I learned a great deal from it. For fun, read some Erving Goffman. He wrote several short books [THE PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EVERYDAY LIFE, ASYLUMS, among others], and they are all worth reading.

Anything by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who all by himself has redeemed the Economics Nobel Prize from ignominy. The serious study of economics is, of course, essential to an understanding of society. For an analytical exposition of the Classical Political Economists -- Smith, Ricardo, Marx -- I really think you cannot do better than my book, UNDERSTANDING MARX.

This may strike some of you as odd, but I would strongly recommend spending time reading serious history -- especially the sort of institutional history written by the great historians of the ancient and medieval worlds. My own reading of history has been heavily tilted toward the history of Western Europe, but you ought also to read something about the history of China and the history of Islam. The libraries are filled with wonderful books of serious history, and I have only scratched the surface. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to mention some of the books I found especially fascinating.

During most of my life, I found American history utterly boring, but once I joined the Afro-American Studies Department at UMass and started to read the history of African-Americans, my attitude changed completely. There again, if anyone is interested, I will be happy to suggest ten or fifteen titles, all well worth the effort, beginning with W. E. B. Du Bois's classic work, BLACK RECONSTRUCTION IN AMERICA: 1860-1880.

Well, that should keep Michael busy for a while.

7 comments:

Chris said...

Professor,
Have you read the history series of the Western world - starting around the time of the American Revolution - by Eric Hobsbawm?

After I complete this Marx project, and your book Understanding Marx, I thought I try to tackle his series; but I've heard nothing positive or negative about it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Is it by Hobsbawm, or edited by him? If it is by him, you cannot go wrong with him.

Chris said...

Professor,
It's Hobsbawm. He wrote a series starting in 1789, and ends in 1991, over the course of 4-6 books.

Thanks for the commentary, I'll check out the series when this semester closes.

Ori said...

Please do post a list of recommended readings in black American history. It'd be very useful to me and, I'm sure, many others.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

OK. I will put up a list on my blog tomorrow. There are a great many superb works of historiography focusing on the Arican-American expwerience.

It seems that despite my best efforts to be a to-the-moment snarky blogger, I keep being pulled back into my role as teacher.

Selah.

Michael said...

Well, thank you very much professor. I'm sure this will keep me quite busy.
And who says "to-the-moment snarky bloggers" aren't teachers anyway?

bgbryant said...

My love of history has followed the opposite trajectory. My taste was originally quite provincially American. With age, though, I've grown fascinated with the European past.

So, count my vote for a listing of serious works of general history.