Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

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Thursday, June 2, 2016


In the remake of the old 1942 Jack Benny comedy, To Be Or Not To Be, Mel Brooks plays the head of a two-bit touring company of  actors trapped in Poland when the Nazis invade.  At one point he describes his performance of Hamlet’s soliloquy as “world famous in Poland,” which I have embraced as a splendid description of someone who is a moderately big frog in a very small pond.  I was reminded of this by the suggestion of several blog readers that I do a series of videoed lectures on Marx, or even on Kant’s First Critique.  As a way of measuring pond sizes, let me list some figures on the views of various videos, as recorded by YouTube.
Here first are the figures on my ventures into The Cloud:

Brown Lecture:                                   1704 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture One:    3174 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Two     1193 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Three   1208 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Four      798 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Five       767 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Six         508 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Seven    356 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Eight     320 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Nine      230 views
Ideological Critique, Lecture Ten        189 views

You will notice a certain pattern!
Now compare these figures with two others:

Richard Wolff, Marxian Economics Versus Capitalism, 70,627 views
Michael Sandel, Justice, Episode 1   6,466,665 views.

I think I can without fear of contradiction describe myself as a tadpole in a teacup sized pond.
A series of lectures on Kant’s First Critique would make my Ideological Critique lectures look viral by comparison, I rather suspect, leaving to one side the fact that they would necessarily presuppose that the viewers were actually reading the Critique!  Perhaps I should return to my hut and practice the viola da gamba.



Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Kant videos? YES!

s. wallerstein said...

I agree with Andrew Lionel Blais about Kant lectures and I commit myself to trying to read the Critique (although it may be over my head) and to rereading the Foundations.

Sandel is a superstar and even has his own show on the BBC now. He'll probably end up as a regular op-ed columnist for the New York Times opinion page.

If I may offer some completely unsolicited advice, you begin your talks on Ideological Critique with a minute or two dedicated to one former student. I found that very human and I was interested in getting to know who Tom Cathcart is, as I eventually did in the comments section of this blog. However, if I were 20 years old and I was starting to watch a video in YouTube about Ideological Critique and some old guy comes on and begins to talk about students of his from before my parents were born, I'd change the channel. I'm 70 myself and I don't change the channel. If I were you (and I'm not you), I start my talks with a "hook" (as we used to say when I worked in journalism) and save my dedications for the final moments of the talk.

I. M. Flaud said...
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Tom Cathcart said...

Another comparison:

Ideological Critique, Lecture Ten: 189
1960 Kant course: 25

I agree, though, that your viewers would have to actually read the Critique. I have no doubt that S. Wallerstein would, but I'm not sure many would join him.

Would Marx lectures unaccompanied by reading "Capital" be any more successful?

Jerry Fresia said...

Professor: I'm convinced that the popularity of Rick Wolff is explained by the fact that he has crossed over. He does a pretty straight forward , simple, Marxism to explain current events and because of this he has been all over the media, not to mention Zuccotti Park. (For example,

All of which brings me back to the 10th Thesis. You are a first rate scholar and I think your blog readers, certainly I, appreciate this. I love having to study something to get the meat out of it and then go over it second and third times. On the other hand, you are also someone who would blow away all the prominent bloggers given your Hot Stove League analyses and given your ability to go deeper and more insightfully into current event -, and with a biting wit to boot!

You do both in the blog; I would wager that if you penetrated into the left podcast/media, you would be invited on Bill Moyers, Thom Hartmann, and other left media types. A good place to start would be Doug Henwood's Left Business Observor. He does great podcast interviews. Then your popular based audience might follow you into your scholarship. Besides, from what I hear, Rich Wolff still doesn't understand the meaning of "overdetermined."

Michael said...

I wonder if you might want to respond to this from a symposium on Marcuse (

"In his aptitude for theory and his disdain for positivism, Marcuse remained at least as much a German (or a European) as he was an American; and he wrote a book about the Soviet Union that obliged him to learn Russian. Yet he evidently saw no meaningful distinctions in the way that modern nations organized their capitalist economies, and his apparent conception of a fundamental homogeneity reinforced the abstractness that can make reading Marcuse such a chore. His analysis of capitalism ignored the imperative of the sustained comparative method. Were his objections to the American version of free enterprise valid for the Scandinavian nations, or for the Federal Republic of Germany, or for Switzerland (where he found refuge in 1933-34)? An assured answer is difficult to summon. To be sure the contrast between the shamelessly buccaneering capitalism of, say, the Gilded Age and the political economy forged under the New Deal can be overstated. But the coalition that Franklin D. Roosevelt forged and appealed to, the fierce opposition that he aroused among the representatives of concentrated wealth (and “I welcome their hatred,” FDR combatively proclaimed in 1936), surely made a difference–even if, for Marcuse, it made it worse, because the labor movement got domesticated; and the successes of reform blunted the prospect of more radical change. That the working conditions of millions of Americans became less onerous, that the foothold of their families became less precarious, and that a systemic transformation of the nation was not going to happen anyway, makes Marcuse’s perverse hostility to gradualism wrong, morally."

Tomasz Popielicki said...
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Robert Paul Wolff said...

The point of the entry and title was that I am really a very unimportant person in the Cloud -- as compared not just with superstars like Michael Sandel but also with scholars like my old UMass colleague Richard Wolff. It was intended as a bit of amusing self-deprecation. [p.s., my forebears come from Poland -- the little town of Suwalki in the northeast corner. In those days, they were named Zarembovitch.]