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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, October 18, 2016

RUEFUL MUSINGS

I wrote In Defense of Anarchism when I was thirty-one [though it was not published until five years later.]  It was a youthful work, full of insouciant bravado.  How apt were Wordsworth’s lines, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven.”  The argument of my little tract was so simple that it could have been stated in a short paragraph with room left over for embellishment.  Further along in the text, I drew on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous critique of English representative democracy to break a lance for something I imagined as television democracy [“The people of England deceive themselves when they fancy they are free; they are so, in fact, only during the election of members of parliament: for as soon as a new one is elected, they are again in chains, and are nothing.  And thus, by the use they make of their brief moments of liberty, they deserve to lose it.”]

Television democracy rested on the conviction that men and women, offered the opportunity to give direct legislative expression to their desires and convictions, could be relied on to inform themselves, vote their interests, and set aside irrational hatreds and anxieties.

It is more than half a century since I wrote that tract, and in this terrible election season, I am forced to reflect that it is perhaps Yeats rather than Wordsworth to whom I must look for guidance.
           

                   And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
                   Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

3 comments:

djesno said...

It is apparent and unfortunate that so many here lack either the ability or ambition to do any of those three things.

s. wallerstein said...

There are a lot of points between the extremes of Wordsworth and Yeats, and I would bet that we're somewhere in between the two. Business as usual will go on being business as usual.

Jerry Fresia said...

"insouciant bravado" - great description, should be a tempo marking.....

Rosseau's critique sounds a bit like Marx in On the Jewish Question.