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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF [TO STEAL A TITLE FROM NORMAN MAILER]

Although my recent posts on this blog would seem to indicate that I am totally absorbed by the primary contests in the Democratic and Republican parties, in fact my mind has been for the most part lately focused on the two talks I shall be giving next week at Brown and MIT.  As I have thought through the sequence of things I plan to say, it has occurred to me that two of my on-line writings, when combined, form an extremely good introduction to the work I have done on Marx these past forty years or so.  If anyone has an interest in a brief overview of that work, they might read The Study of Society and A Unified Reading of Marx, both available on box.net via the link at the top of this page.  Together, those two essays run roughly 41,000 words, which is to say, about as long as what Professors of Law call “a note.”  To that one might add Narrative Time, originally published in Midwest Studies in Philosophy and also available on box.net.


The deeper message of all three essays is that the study of society is unavoidably ideologically inflected.  Hence my statement that one ought to read great works of social theory in the original rather than as redacted in textbooks.  S. Wallerstein asks which other works, besides Capital, one should read in that fashion.  I would certainly say Max Weber’s Economy and Society, Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Erving Goffman’s Presentations of Self in Everyday Life, and Emile Durkheim’s Suicide.  [Also many other works by Marx, but sufficient unto the day.]

6 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Professor Wolff,

Thanks. One more question.

I see that your list begins with Hobbes' Leviathan, that being written in the context of the English Revolution, at the beginning of the capitalist era. Hobbes's "war of all against all" is an excellent description of the capitalist market and unfortunately, of a crowded subway train in a neoliberal society.

However, would your idea that great works of social theory must be read in the original apply to pre-capitalist works of social theory, say, Plato's Republic or Aristotle's Politics (without taking into consideration that Plato's Republic at least is great literature and should be read in the original qua literature, like all Plato's dialogues)?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

All of Plato's dialogues need to be read as written, not in Cliff Notes versions. Indeed, it is hard to think of a great work of philosophy that does not need to be read as written. this is dramatically obvious about the writings of Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, but then it is even true of Spinoza's ETHICS.

s. wallerstein said...

Thanks once again.

Spinoza has a unique style, which is worth experiencing, although I confess to have skimmed some of the demonstrations. In any case, Spinoza is one of those philosophers who I feel good about and personally enriched from having met (which is different than agreeing with the basis of his philosophy).

I'm trying to think of a great work of philosophy that does not need to be read as written, but I can't come up with one. Maybe other readers can.

(There are philosophers who I'll never be able to read as written, say, Hegel or Adorno, but that's my limitation.)

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

What about Socrates, who didn't write anything?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

But we know of Socrates principally through Plato. The Socrates we all remember is a character in Plato's dialogues. Who knows what he would have sounded like in person?

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Gilbert Gottfried....