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Friday, September 8, 2017

THIS IS SOMETHING YOU MUST READ

This essay by Ta-Nihisi Coates, is the best thing I have ever read about American politics.  Reading it is irritating because of the slowness with which it comes up, but be patient, it is well worth the effort.  I tried to say many of these things in my book, Autobiography of an Ex-White Man, but I did not say them as well.

6 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

He seems to be claim that racism was the major factor behind Trump's victory.

We've discussed that before in this blog, and people have pointed out that many white voters who supported Obama in 2008 and 2012 voted for Trump instead of Clinton.

So those voters, who are obviously not lifelong Republicans, were not motivated by racism 4 years ago (since they backed Obama), and thus, you would have to argue that Obama's presidency converted them to racism, which isn't entirely plausible, if only because racist attitudes seem to be formed fairly early in life before the voting age.

Hence, we need to posit another factor which led 2008 and 2012 white Obama voters to vote for Trump in 2016. No one denies that some Trump voters were motivated by racism, but it seems far-fetched to see Trump's victory as primarily the product of racism. In general, the analysis of a phenomenon as complex as voting patterns in a presidential election which explain it primarily by one variable, in this case, racism, but in other cases, the economy, are not convincing.

Carl said...

You misspelled his name, crossword champ.

Anonymous said...

Since Professor Wolff likes you, I'll go ahead and point out the fallacy of composition. The observation that some Obama supporters voted for Trump does not necessitate the assumption that most Trump voters were not racist.

Anonymous said...

If Trump were going to be so obviously bad for black America, why didn't more blacks vote and vote for Hillary? That would have clearly been the better choice given the two bad options.

s. wallerstein said...

There's no fallacy of composition in my first comment. The fallacy of composition involves confusing the part with the whole: to commit the fallacy of composition I would have had to go from "some Trump voters are not racist" to "all Trump voters are not racist", which I did not.

While the author does not claim that all Trump voters are racist, he did seem to claim that racism was the chief factor behind Trump's victory.

First of all, if those clearly non-racist Trump voters (those who voted for Obama previously) had voted for Clinton, Trump probably would not have won, since his margin of victory was relatively slight.

Second, even if most Trump voters could be called "racist" according to the author's criteria (which are worth examining), it may be that their primary motivation to vote for Trump was not racist. It is by no means self-evident that everyone who can be called racist according to the author's criteria is primarily motivated by racism in all their political actions, in this case, in voting.

Third, it all depends on what we mean by "racism". According to some very broad criteria, all whites are considered to be "racist", even those who actively work against the more blatant forms of racism in their daily life. If we use that criteria to define "racism", then even those whites who voted for Clinton and Stein are racist.

Fourth, the author generally uses the term "white supremacist" instead of "racist" to define Trump voters and many other white Americans. I'm not at all sure what he means
by "white supremacist" and it certainly would be worth discussing the meanings of the terms
"racist" and "white supremacist" in this blog.

Anonymous said...


I do not mean to be controversial or anything, but I was not impressed by that article.

Take the bit below, quite near the beginning.

That black people, who have lived for centuries under such derision and condescension, have not yet been driven into the arms of Trump does not trouble these theoreticians.

Coates believes with that he dismisses Charles Murray's claim (i.e. poor white voters voted for Trump because Eastern elites humiliate them with slurs like redneck, white trash).

As much as I hate saying it and as unsavory as Murray is, Coates' counterargument does not contradict Murray's claim.

That humiliation of which Coates writes drove those black people into the arms of Clinton. Clinton, who doesn't really give a damn about them, anymore than Trump gives a damn about poor whites. Those black people did for Clinton, Murray could reply, what poor white people did for Trump: they voted for the candidate who said cared about them. That is not so difficult to understand.

That kind of muddled thinking does not help the left.

Maybe I am being unfair, but after that I lost interest.

But do not let me stop you. Please, carry on.