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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, December 25, 2013

DEPRESSING THOUGHTS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

No deep thoughts while walking this morning.  It was 26 degrees and all I could do to keep from freezing up solid.  But when I got home, I surfed the web idly and came on this by Joseph Stiglitz, one of the Nobel Economics Committee's few defensible choices.  I leave it to you to read the entire column.  For me, the most depressing statistic [among many] was the fact that "census data reveals that [American] men with high-school diplomas but without college degrees earn about 40 percent less today (in real terms) than they did in the 1970s."  Note:  this is an enormous absolute loss of real income, not a relatively smaller share of a steadily growing pie. 

Perhaps it is the fact that this is Christmas Day, always a down time for me;  perhaps it is the fact that I am forty-eight hours away from my eightieth birthday.  Somehow, Stiglitz's column just made me feel terribly disheartened.  Not angry, not mobilized to act, just disheartened.   Forty percent LESS than almost half a century ago.  As Stiglitz makes clear, a significant portion of the blame for this disastrous savaging of the American working class falls on the deliberate policies adopted by Democratic and Republican administrations alike.  Obama is no better than Clinton, who was not better than Bush or his son, and a Hillary Clinton administration will be no different. 

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Since I'm 3 months older than you and feel no different mentally than I did many years ago (and maybe better), I wonder why your 80th birthday is such a downer for you.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It weighs on me that so much that I hoped and worked for seems as far from being realised as when I was much younger.

JHW said...

Oy to the world

JHW said...

Reflecting on your recent posts, Professor Wolff, I am reminded of a story that I heard from Yehuda Amital many years ago in yeshiva.

“When I was young" he said, with "an ardent idealism burning inside me, I thought I could reform the world. Realizing that this was too ambitious, I resolved to change the citizens of my town. But the town was large and varied and resistant to change. Soon I realized that I’d better just concentrate on improving the residents of my city. But they were complacent with the way they were, so when I failed in that I turned to correcting the conduct of my family. But by then my children were grown and had their own views. Now I am getting old and finally realized I must begin by improving myself.”

The story resonated with me, and gave me a new understanding of the well known saying of Mahatma Ghandi: “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Indeed, perhaps the path to substantive improvement in the world is through the collective action of individuals' working to improve their selves, and the only way to improve the self is by improving the world.

This connection between the particular and the universal has been one that has occupied much space in my mind throughout the years. It is at once puzzling and empowering.

Whether you merit to see the proverbial fruits of your labor in your lifetime or not, you can rest assured that your influence has reached many people. Future generations of doers and thinkers are and will be indebted to you for the paths you have paved.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

What a generous and moving comment. A true Christmas present! Thank you.

LFC said...

Some of the 40 percent decline must have to do w the decline in the number of people employed in well-paying manufacturing jobs (mfg as a % of U.S. GDP might not have declined much -- I think it hasn't -- but the # of people employed in mfg since the 70s has declined).

This reminds me that Jefferson Cowie's book Stayin Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class shd prob be somewhere on my reading list in the new year. Given the length of the list, whether I'll get to it remains to be seen.