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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, February 24, 2017

BELATED ENLIGHTENMENT

Faithful readers of this blog will know of my antipathy to Hegel.  Nevertheless, I believe in giving even the devil his due, so I will confess that this morning during my walk, as I was delivering in my head the opening of my first Freud lecture, I found myself reflecting that only now do I truly understand why I have chosen to give YouTube lectures on Freud and Marx.  The owl of Minerva does indeed spread its wings only with the falling of the dusk, as Hegel observed.

Here, in brief, is the reason [I shall open my lectures with this explanation.]  The great members of the Frankfurt School – Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Marcuse, Fromm, Benjamin, and the rest – did their most important work struggling to make sense of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism.  In this undertaking, they brought to bear both the insights into structural features of capitalist society afforded by Marx and the deep understanding of the non-rational sources of individual human behavior provided by Freud.  The effort to wed Marx and Freud produced such classic works as Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization [with its brilliant concept, surplus repression] and One-Dimensional Man, Adorno and Horkheimer’s The Authoritarian Personality, and Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism.


We now confront the sickening reality that fascism is come to America.  Each of us is tasked to do whatever he or she can to resist this home-grown twenty-first century variant of the defining evil of the twentieth century.  My forthcoming lectures on Freud, and the lecture series I shall record on Marx in the fall, are my tiny contribution to what must be a national effort.  Lord knows, they will not by any stretch of the imagination be important contributions to that effort, but perhaps they will amuse and entertain some folks after a long day of protesting and political work.

5 comments:

David Palmeter said...

Off Topic:

At last night’s history reading group meeting at Politics & Prose book store in DC, we discussed Mary Beard’s best-seller, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. What struck many of us were the parallels to what seems to be going on these days.

In discussing the fall of the Roman Republic—an institution that very much influenced the founders of our country as well as the founders of the political party that bears its name—Beard writes:

“Traditional restraints and conventions broke down, one by one, until swords, clubs and rioting more or less replaced the ballot box….A very few individuals of enormous power, wealth and military backing came to dominate the state—until Julius Caesar was officially made dictator for life….When the story is stripped down to its barest essentials, it consists of a series of key moments and conflicts that led to the dissolution of the free state, a sequence of tipping points that marked the stages in the progressive degeneration of the political process, and a succession of atrocities that lingered in the Roman imagination for centuries.”

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you David Palmeter. A chilling historical parallel. I rather imagine that supporters of the Roman Republic could not imagine that so old and solid an institution could crumble.

s. wallerstein said...

Hannah Arendt doesn't use Freud at all, in any of her works as far as I know.

She does use Marx, especially in the Human Condition, although she is not a Marxist. She does point out in the Human Condition (written in the 1950's) that Marx is a very great philosopher, her way of giving the finger to McCarthyism.

If Arendt's political thought goes back to any one philosopher, I'd say it is Aristotle, to his idea of man as a political animal and the ideal of a polis.

Political action or activity, which for Arendt is an end in itself, prevents, according to Arendt, the mass passivity and anomie which produces totalitarianism. That fits with the fact that in a society of the Super Bowl and the Celebrity Apprendice (not to mention other horrors of reality TV), Trump is elected president.

ES said...

Can't let you get away with claiming Arendt as part of the Frankfurt School. She was close with Benjamin (himself never really a member though certainly an influence) but she detested Adorno, Horkheimer, etc. That hatred was primarily one-sided (based in part on the not-entirely-false claim that they caused the death of Benjamin); the core members of the FS don't really devote attention to her except perhaps as a Heidegger acolyte.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

You are right. My mistake.