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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

REPLY TO A COMMENT

Jacob T. Levy [who is, by the way, a distinguished member of the McGill faculty] observes a propos my little riff on Rambo's knife that while die-hard Randians may cultivate the fantasy of the lone heroic producer, free market proponents and libertarians generally embrace warmly the role of the division of labor in modern economies [and others as well.]  He is quite right, of course.  Indeed, they insist upon it. 

The point of my imaginary course syllabus tracing all the preconditions and filiations of Rambo's knife was to emphasize the extent to which we are all deeply embedded in and dependent upon the collective and anonymous products of prior labor and invention.  It is simply out of the question to untangle these dependencies so as to establish which of them are the result of rational bargains freely entered into.  Hence it is impossible to argue plausibly that present day individual holdings of private property are justified morally because they have arisen out of free and equal exchanges in the marketplace.

Every one of us comes into the world endowed with a material and cultural inheritance that we have not earned and can never justify.  There are no "takers" and "makers" in our society.  All of the takers are makers, and all of the makers are takers.  And quite often those who start out with, or end up with, the most stuff have worked considerably less industriously than those who start out and end up with the least.

It is this fact that constitutes the real justification for Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program slogan:  "From each according to his ability;  to each according to his need."

2 comments:

Jacob T. Levy said...

No quarrel with anything before the last sentence. :-)

And, after all, it is no surprise that Smith and Marx both had deeper insights into the real workings of socially embedded relations of production than does contemporary political debate-- or indeed that their insights were often (though certainly not always) similar or related. Hayek and Polanyi likewise would both have agreed with the key points here.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I threw in the line from the Gotha Program just to get a rise. :)
It has long been my impression that I could have a more fruitful conversation about these matters with a right-wing defender of the free market than I could with modern Keynesians with whom I would have a great deal more in common politically.