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



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Monday, November 18, 2013

ONE LAST WORD

A propos the dispute triggered by my response to Michael's comment, let me say one last word.  I think the discussion about structural or systemic analyses of capitalism misses the point of my response.  I was not suggesting that the correct way to understand the current state of affairs is to look at what individuals can do in their own lives.  I quite agree that the proper way to understand a society -- any society -- is to look at the structural or systemic nature of the political economy of the society as a whole.  That, if anything, is what it is to be a Marxist.  But that does not answer the question:  What should I do?  No doubt, we would all prefer to live at moments when great progressive changes are under way.  As Wordsworth observed about the period of the French Revolution, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven!"

No doubt.  Unfortunately for me [and even more so for those younger than I who did not even have the privilege of living during the height of the Civil Rights Movement], we live in a time of defeat and retrenchment, not of progress and revolution.  And yet, the question remains -- What should I do?

Note that the problems posed by the Roman Empire did not trouble Jesus, whose concern was eternal life, not social improvement -- " "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" [Matthew 22:21].  Those of us who do not have the hope and consolation of eternity are compelled to come to terms with whatever brief moment of historical time is vouchsafed us as the span of our lives.

The extraordinary power of Marx's analysis of capitalism derived in part from his conclusion that capitalism was moving inexorably toward a socialist revolution.  It is quite exhilarating to be swept along by the irresistible currents of historical change.  But for reasons that I have outlined in my paper, "The Future of Socialism," I believe that Marx's analysis of the structure of capitalism, which is largely correct, does not entail the optimistic prognostications he drew from it.

So, once again, we are left with the question:  What should I do?  Michael's answer appears to be, "Sell your IPhone and donate the proceeds to OxFam."  I have made other choices -- starting and running a charitable organization for twenty-five years, getting myself arrested in a demonstration, writing books, donating fifteen thousand dollars in the last two years to political and charitable causes.  But I think I will keep my IPhone.  Now if I can just figure out why it has stopped rotating to landscape view when I turn it!

[Oh yes.  I just this moment donated $100 to Oxfam in honor of Michael.]

6 comments:

Michael said...

Professor Wolff,

Right after reading your blog post this morning, I came across this interview with a newly elected socialist member of the Seattle city council. In it, she also addresses some of the questions you bring up regarding the extent to which the US is moving towards or away from socialism.

http://www.salon.com/2013/11/18/capitalism_is_a_dirty_word_meet_the_nations_new_socialist_councilmember/

Michael said...

(Incidentally, i'm not the same Michael who initiated the latest conversation.)

Michael Llenos said...

I'm very sure Dr. Wolff knows that.

Mikey said...

Prof. Wolff,

This article - http://support.apple.com/kb/TI152 - may be helpful with your iPhone issue.


Mikey in Plano

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you. I will look at it.

Magpie said...

Prof.

One of your best posts.

It may sound strange, but I am glad the other "Michael", with his comment, planted to seed for Chris' and your own comments.