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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

S WALLERSTEIN ASKS AN INTERESTING QUESTION

Here is what he [ ? ] says:

"Professor Wolff,
You refer to yourself as a "Marxist".
What exactly do you mean by that?
Someone who believes that everything Marx said is true?
Someone who believes that most of what Marx said is true?
Some who believes that Marx was right on all important issues?
Someone who believes that Marx was right on most important issues?
Someone who believes that Marx was right on more important issues than anyone else?
Or does believing in one or a few key ideas from Marx, say, the labor theory of value or class struggle, make one a Marxist?
None of the above?
Thank you."

A fair question.  Here is my answer, in five parts:

1.  Most rigorously, I mean that I believe that Marx's fundamental claim about capitalism is true, and that claim is so important that it justifies me in calling myself a Marxist.  The claim is:  Capitalism rests on the exploitation of the working class.

2.  Secondarily, I believe that Marx is a more insightful, penetrating, helpful guide to an understanding of capitalism than anyone else I have ever encountered, and calling myself a Marxist signals that belief.

3.  Thirdly, I believe that Marx is the greatest social theorist who has ever written, and calling myself a Marxist is an homage to him.

4.  Fourth, calling myself a Marxist, in America at this time, is a way of giving the finger to a great many economists, philosophers, sociologists, political theorists, and political figures, and it amuses me to do so.

5.  And Fifth, calling myself a Marxist is a plea, a message in a bottle, to anyone out there who might be similarly inclined, with whom I could therefore make common cause and who would, for that reason, be my comrade, wherever and whomever he or she might be.

7 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Thank you.

Reason number 5 is very important because it creates a bridge to people like Liberation Theologians and to those like myself who come to socialism for ethical reasons, without having read much Marx.

Jerry Fresia said...

Great answer. I liked the entire delineation. My guilty pleasure is number 4. If I were to add another, Marx explains much of my life, having been born into a working class family. And in addition to explanation, much of Marx's work, for me, provides direction.

s. wallerstein said...

Professor Wolff,

Actually, if you're looking for a book which will reach a wider reading public, take those 5 points, expand each one to 30 pages (easy on the linear algebra), add an introduction with a bit of autobiography (the "which side are you on" story, etc.)
and you'll have a very readable, short introduction to what it means to be a Marxist.

As you're writing, you'll probably come up with point 6 and point 7, so you'll have 200 pages or so, which suits the short attention span of most of us these days.

Chris said...

Hysterical post. I feel like 4 is all too true of myself.

I may go further on 1, in that I also think I) Alienation exactly as Marx describes it is unequivocally true, and II) in general historical materialism is true.

Jerry Fresia said...

s. wallerstein.....great idea! "What You Always Wanted to Know About Marx But Were Afraid to Ask"

trane said...

I also like S. Wallerstein's idea for a book very much!

Jerry Fresia said...

Continuing this line of thought....

You say that your "version" has not received a fair hearing "in the profession." In addition to this, the one book of yours that
seems to have created a "stir," as it were - and I'm just guessing of course - is your In Defense of Anarchism and if I remember
correctly it was a book that you rather quickly wrote.

No doubt, the book suggested by S. Wallerstein would not demonstrate the depth of your scholarly abilities, but given the
audience you are creating with your blog/youtube activities, perhaps it is time to cross-over. And with your newly acquired
fame and fortune that would surely accrue, "the profession" might be then ready. Or not! But my guess is you could "knock out" this sort of book. You could even begin by doing each of the five chapters as a mini-tutorial for your blog. "In Defense of Marxism," "Why I Call Myself a Marxist,"....."What Bernie and the Talking Heads Need to Know"........!!!! Didn't Beethoven write fun type pieces in between his masterworks?