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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

YET ANOTHER INTERIM REPORT

Today I finished re-reading the great Chapter Ten of Capital, "The Working Day."  It is in this chapter that the clouds of mystification lift and the brutal reality of the factory system is revealed through the reports of the Parliamentary Factory Inspectors, most notably Leonard Horner.  It is here as well that we see the fruits of the endless hours Marx spent in the British Museum poring over volume after volume.

The challenge for me will be to help the students to see the connection between these stories of twelve, fourteen, eighteen hour days of grinding labor by children as young as nine and the world we live in now, where such labor, for the most part, has been "outsourced" so that it is out of sight and hence out of mind.  Part of my problem is achieving some sort of historical perspective in students who, after all, can only barely recall an American president before Obama.

I am reminded of my startling experience in a required graduate seminar I taught at UNC several years ago in the Public Policy Department, "Normative Dimensions of Public Policy."  One day, a propos I no longer recall what, I referred in passing to Gilbert and Sullivan, only to discover that not a single one of these intelligent, lively, socially committed students had ever even heard of Gilbert and Sullivan.  In particular, I must provide for my students some understanding of how much has been lost in the past two generations of the gains that American workers won through struggle in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries.

Marx does not make things easy for the reader.  There are page-long footnotes in tiny print that are really an essential part of the book.  I must motivate the students to read all of it, not just the highlights.  Somehow I think spot quizzes are not the answer.

More and more I am coming to believe that this will be, at least for me, a truly memorable teaching experience.

6 comments:

Chris said...

Sadly, 99% of my students don't even know who Edward Snowden is! Let alone people born before 1996!

I have another philosophical/economic question for you. I know you reject the LTV, but it strikes me as a borderline a priori truism that Marx's analysis of the working day is necessarily true, i.e., in order for profit to be made, the worker must spend some duration generating value for her labor power, and another part generating value for more than the reproduction of the means of productions, instruments of labor, and labor power.

Is this not true if you reject the LTV, or is it still very much true even if you reject the LTV. Because one of my key projects has been to show that one doesn't have to be a Marxist to understand the nature of the working day, and recognize that even left-liberals to conservatives are skirting the exploitation inherently embedded in the most mundane work shift.

The Constable said...

I'm beginning to think I shouldn't bother making cultural references during lectures. Recently earned blank stares: Janis Joplin, Marie Osmond, Lou Reed, and William Shatner.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

William Shatner indeed. Try Jean-Luc Picard for an equally blank stare!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Chris, I think that analysis is crucially important. Try page 308[Aveling Moore translation] lines 6-9 for the single most profound senmtence in the entire book. The whole history of mankind is contained in that sentence!

Chris said...

I referenced Casino (with Robert Deniro) and Seinfeld this week. Blank stares. You can imagine how confused people were when I brought up Woody Allen's Annie Hall! Alas, I don't even bother with Hitchcock.

Chris said...

Okay I read it. Yes I think Marx is right in what he says there, but I think the point needs to be pushed - and no doubt that passage reinforces the point - that one could reject the LTV (I don't), and still conclude that exploitation is occurring, no?

I know many economists try to reject value theory in general, but that always strikes me an untenable position at best, and grossly ideological at worst.