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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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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Saturday, March 31, 2018

THIS AND THAT


I hate holidays in general, and religious holidays especially, even though the music played on classical music stations during Easter isn’t bad.  Here I am sitting at my computer on the day before Easter Sunday, casting about for something to blog about, but nothing comes save idle thoughts.  Still and all, a blog is just the place for idle thoughts, so here goes.

Let me begin with the delightful fact that a high school senior has driven an A-list right wing bloviator off the air, at least for a week.  David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland massacre and a participant in the nationwide student protest against gun violence, was ridiculed by the reliably despicable Laura Ingraham, who described him as whining because he had been rejected by four colleges despite having a 4.1 GPA.  Unfazed, Hogg tweeted the names of twelve companies who advertise on her Fox news show, urging his fellow students to contact them, and so many of the companies withdrew their advertising that she has announced a one week absence from her show.  And they say there is nothing good about capitalism!

[By the way, in case anyone is mystified as to how a student could have a GPA that averages better than an A, the reason is that Advanced Placement courses for students aiming for college carry an additional point on the grade score, so 5.0, not 4.0, is the top GPA possible.  Schools with a heavy minority representation are less likely to offer AP courses, one of the countless structural obstacles facing Black and Latino/a students.]

Which brings me to a question much discussed and misunderstood by cable news commentators:  Why can’t Donald Trump fire anyone face to face or even on the phone, despite having made his name on TV by “firing” people on The Apprentice.  The answer is obvious.  Trump is a coward.  He quite literally does not have the courage to look someone in the eye and tell him or her to pack up and go.  His language is completely revealing.  He repeatedly describes people as kneeling before him, abasing themselves before him, begging him for money or a job or approval.  He is obsessed by such fantasies as only a sniveling coward would be.  Like all cowards, he is desperately insecure.  There is no amount of flattery sufficiently fulsome [in the correct meaning of that word] to reassure him.  I think we can assume without too much risk of error that as a very small boy he was ridiculed mercilessly by his father, and nursed secret fantasies of retaliation.

On a more serious note, I have been brooding about the curious strengths and weaknesses of the odd Republican form of government established by the Constitution.  Beneath the clown show of presidential politics, a group of genuinely awful cabinet secretaries and other appointed government officials have been doing everything they can to reverse eighty years of socially and economically progressive federal policies.  The latest example is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attempt to roll back regulations limiting automotive exhaust fumes.  This is pointlessly, gratuitously terrible, but thanks to the federal structure of the United States, it is probably fruitless.  California has enacted strict pollution standards as a sovereign state, and California’s economy is so large that car manufacturers are forced to comply or lose that market.  Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, is dedicated to destroying public education, but the funding for education is so radically decentralized that there is very little she can actually do.  And so on and on.  The striking exception is Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department can in fact inflict a very great deal of serious harm on people of color, something Sessions has lusted to do his entire life.

When progressives controlled the Congress and the White House, people like me fumed [rightly so] at the resistance put up by benighted states to humane, decent, forward-looking policies.  Now we can take comfort that those structural obstacles to centralized power are working for us rather than against us.

Needless to say, these thoughts raise interesting questions about the best form of a socialist government.

I end with a troubling thought that came to me as I was walking this morning.  I have been blogging for nine years now, and some of you have been with me most of that time.  I think of you not as an audience but as friends, as comrades, as, at the very least, reliable conversationalists.  And yet, save for a handful of you whom I knew before I started, like Tom Cathcart, I have never met any of you.  Indeed, I do not even know most of your names, let alone how old you are.  That is, for someone my age, really strange.

Friday, March 30, 2018

SUCCESS!! [I THINK]

Several of you have gone above and beyond to help me with my label problem.  Thank you.  I just Googled "Avery 8160 template" and up it popped.  I downloaded it for free, saved it, and now once I buy some Avery 8160 labels from Amazon I think I am in business.  Not bad for an old guy.

Meanwhile, the world continues to go to hell.  I shall have something to say about that as soon as I get finished ordering my labels.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

THANK YOU

all for the suggestions.  I shall try them and let you know what happens.

I NEED SOME HELP

I am trying to sort out my papers.  I want to set up a file drawer in which there is a separate file folder for each of the papers I have published, labeled with the title.  I can buy a bunch of file folders, and I can buy some sheets of peel and stick labels, but I cannot find a little program that will permit me to type onto a regular WORD page the titles of the papers, and then print that on the sheet of labels so that the titles are appropriately centered on the labels.  I am supposed to be able to do that in WORD, in the Mailings section, but I cannot seem to configure it.  Obviously there must be a thousand ways to do this.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE POWER OF SILENCE


I just watched on my computer a video of the speech delivered by Emma Gonzalez at the Washington march organized to work for gun regulation.  Gonzalez is one of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who were trapped during the brief, deadly shootings there.  Her speech is the most chilling, powerful, oratorically courageous performance I have ever seen.  You can view it here.

For those who do not understand what she was doing, Ms. Gonzalez called the names of all of her classmates who died in that terrible event, and then stood stock still, absolutely silent, for the six minutes and twenty seconds it took from the first shot was fired until the last.  Six minutes and twenty seconds in front of a vast audience is an eternity.  The members of the audience, puzzled by the silence, strike up chants and call out support, but she does not budge, and little by little the efforts by the audience die away.  Finally, when the time of the shootings has elapsed, she speaks again and explains what she has done.  This, she is saying by her silence, is how long it took for all of the fellow students whose names I have called to die.

I have seen videos or films of many great speeches, but none was as powerful as those six minutes and twenty seconds of silence.

WHO KNEW?


As readers of this blog know, I now live in Carolina Meadows, a Continuing Care Retirement Community, or, not to put to elegant a gloss on it, an old people’s home.  It turns out, I just learned, that one of the other residents here is Walter Dellinger, a very successful, still quite active lawyer, who once was Acting Soliciter General of the United States and has just written this Op Ed for the NY TIMES arguing that a sitting president can be indicted.

Who knew?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ENFIN

And so, my long story comes to an end with this seventh and final lecture on Marx.  I hope you find it of interest.  After thirty videotaped and posted lectures, I am going to take a little break.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2018

UPDATE


Well, Duke lost, the Stormy Daniels interview was interesting but somewhat disappointing, and I decided to make today’s lecture the last in the series.  So much for anticipation.

I must confess I liked Stephanie Daniels.  She came across as tough, pulled together, and utterly in charge of her life, a stand up kind of person, unlike Trump.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Today’s lecture will be my thirtieth videotaped YouTube lecture, a considerable pedagogical effort when you think about it.  Even if you have not seen the first six Marx lectures, you might want to watch this one, because it will follow a line of argument that no one else, to my knowledge, has ever developed concerning Marx.

Three weeks from now I will begin a short six week course of lectures here at Carolina Meadows under the auspices of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute branch at Duke, an Introduction to the Dialogues of Plato.  Then back to Paris for the Brussels lecture, after which I will prepare for my Fall Columbia course.

I am about to score an enormous triumph here at Carolina Meadows, a first for me:  I will next month be elected to serve for two years as the Precinct Representative of Building Five.  How do I know I will win the election?  Because I am the only candidate.  I tried this once before in 1977, when I put my name in for one of two at-large seats on the Northampton, Massachusetts School Committee.  I had heard on the radio that there were no candidates, and with two seats I thought I could win running unopposed.  But after I threw my hat in the ring, two other folks did also, and it was a real race.  I played up the fact that I was the Cubmaster of the local Cub Scout Pack and also a veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard, but when the votes were counted, I had run third, losing by 16 votes.  A recount cut my loss to 12 votes, but there it was.  So unless one of my neighbors in Building Five decides to make a run, I will, at eighty-four, finally fulfill my lifelong ambition to win an election.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A QUIET SUNDAY AT HOME


After an early morning walk in ever so light mist and drizzle, I am settling in for a Sunday featuring first, a final review of tomorrow’s lecture, then a de rigeur stint in front of the TV watching Duke play Kansas for a ticket to the Final Four, and finally, the capstone of the day, Anderson Cooper’s interview with every progressive’s favorite porn star, Stormy Daniels.

The lecture is ready, but it is the most important in the series, and I want to make certain my show and tell display boards are in order.  This is the lecture in which I attempt to fulfill my promise to unite the several lines of Marx interpretation in a unified story, to introduce the irony into the equations, as I put it in a deliberately provocative preview.

The Duke/Kansas game is a civic necessity.  When I moved to Chapel Hill nine and a half years ago, I was briefed by local residents on a town ordinance that requires those living within the city limits to root first for the UNC Tar Heels and then, if they lose, for the Duke Blue Devils.  Since I am, like all theoretical anarchists, a good citizen, I shall plunk myself down in front of the tube and cheer Duke to the echo.  For me, this is simply a civic duty, but Susie, who was living in Chapel Hill when her two sons were boys, is a genuine fanatic.

Which brings me to Stormy Daniels.  I hope this interview does Trump some harm.  Hell, I hope he suffers the heartbreak of psoriasis.  But today I should like to express some sympathy for Melania Trump, or, as the Secret Service refers to her, FLOTUS.  By all accounts, Melania Trump is a beautiful, somewhat accomplished woman who has raised a son without the slightest help from her husband.  It is beyond question that she has been aware of her husband’s serial and multiple infidelities, and I leave it to the two of them to deal with that fact in whatever way husbands and wives do.  We all recall [if we are as old as I] that Ike had an on-going affair with his driver Kay Summersby while he was directing the invasion of Europe during WW II, and that  Jack Kennedy was notoriously unfaithful to Jackie, a fact used by J. Edgar Hoover to blackmail him.  Indeed, Truman, Nixon, and Carter seem to have been our most uxorious presidents of late, an unlikely grouping.  But Trump’s public behavior must be a source of constant mortification for his wife.  Try to imagine what it will be like for Mrs. Trump to walk into the White House FLOTUS offices tomorrow morning, well aware that the entire nation, including her own staff, have watched the Cooper interview.  I am not aware of anything she has done that would deserve that sort of public and personal humiliation.  Nor does her son, Barron, deserve it.  To be sure, he will probably grow up to be as appalling as his big brothers, but he is only a child now, and has not yet done anything to earn the ridicule he must suffer.

I will leave for another post my reaction to yesterday’s extraordinary Children’s Crusade.  As the prophet Isaiah tells us [11:6], “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”  Let it be so.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH COLLEGE STUDENTS TODAY?


The admirable activism of high school students, on display today in nationwide marches, got me thinking about the absence of activism on college campuses.  What differentiates today from fifty years ago – 1968?  The answer that came to mind was:  the draft, and student debt.

The devastating experience of the Viet Nam War, which almost broke the U. S. Army, moved military leaders to switch to an all volunteer military, with higher pay and something resembling career opportunities.  This suited America’s imperial stance in  the world, inasmuch as empires always need professional armies that can be deployed over long periods of time without excessively troubling the general citizenry.  The success of the switch is evidenced by America’s ability to engage in virtually constant military adventures without crippling objections on the political front.

The rise of student debt, which has reduced the more privileged sector of the population to a condition of modern debt peonage, is more complicated, but, I am persuaded, it is an essential cause of the political quiescence of today’s college students.

To get a handle on the situation, I decided to look at the rise in the tuition cost of my own alma mater, Harvard College.  In 1950, the year I started my education as a Freshman, Harvard tuition was $600 a year.  By 1968, when the Viet Nam War was in full flower, the tuition had increased to $2000, which is $1390 in 1950 dollars, more than double.  And in 2016, the last year I could find, Harvard’s tuition was $43,280, or $4374 in 1950 dollars.  So, adjusted for inflation, Harvard’s 2016 tuition is more than seven times as much as 1950 tuition.

In 1950, when I was a Freshman at Harvard, I got part time jobs paying sixty to seventy-five cents an hour, except for the spectacular job inventorying a Robert Hall clothing store at $1.25 an hour, which came around for one night twice a year.

To earn my tuition at that rate would have taken me maybe 900 hours of work.  A semester with exams was 16 weeks, a year was 32 weeks, so 20 weeks when I was out of school at 40 hours a week, for 800 hours, and 15 hours a week during school time for 480 hours would probably have earned me enough to pay tuition, room, and board.  In short, I could have worked my way through college at the most expensive college in America.

By 1968, working for the then minimum wage of $1.60, it would have taken me 1250 hours to earn my tuition, and more to cover room and board.  I would have had to go into debt at least somewhat to make it through.

By 2016, when the minimum wage was $7.25, it would have required almost 6000 hours of work to earn the tuition, which is to say 250 days working twenty-four hours a day!  Note that if the campaign for a national minimum wage of $15 an hour were to succeed, it would still take 2885 hours of work – 56+ hours a week year round – to earn the tuition, never mind the room and board.

Forgive me if I sound like an old fogey, but the current Harvard education is not seven times as good as the 1950 education [indeed, in some respects, I would imagine it is inferior.]

What has happened?  Young college students have been relieved of the threat of military service and burdened with a totally unmanageable debt that requires them to keep their noses clean and take safe good paying jobs.  It is not for nothing that 30% of Columbia’s graduating seniors take jobs on Wall Street.

Friday, March 23, 2018

NIGHTMARES


I am very frightened by the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor.  Trump may have seen him on Fox News, but he is no mere cable news commentator.  There is a real danger now that the United States will launch preemptive attacks against Iran or North Korea or both.  These will be described as limited surgical strikes carrying no threat of a ground war, but that is an illusion that will rapidly be undone by facts on the ground.  Trump is described simultaneously as giddy with the realization that he can do the job of being President all by himself without the irritation of advisors telling him “No!” and also panicked by the tightening noose of the Mueller investigation.  Bizarre thought it may appear, it may be that what agitates him the most is the danger of being exposed by three women as an inadequate lover.

All of us, myself most of all, have been putting our hopes on the November midterm elections, but things may blow up long before the intervening seven months have passed.  There is absolutely no reason to think that Congressional Republicans will place constraints on Trump, and I am very fearful that if we are in a new war, along with the old ones, when the elections come around, voters may rally behind the Administration.

It is very difficult at such a moment to think through a theoretical lecture on the theories of Karl Marx.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO


I have been absent from this site for several days because I have been brooding about my next Marx lecture.  I have reached the point in my lectures at which I must make good on my promise to “put the irony into the equations” so that Marx’s literary critique of the mystifications of capitalism, his economic critique of classical Political Economy, and his historical account of the slow development of capitalism within the old order are united in a demonstration that capitalism rests on the exploitation of the working class.  Yesterday, during my morning walk, I figured out how to explain this in a way that will, I hope, be both clear and persuasive.  This involves a fundamental critique of the Labor Theory of Value and an entirely new set of equations that build the mystifications of the capitalist marketplace into the mathematics.  I have no idea whether the lecture will be a pedagogical success – which is to say, whether it will make any sense to the viewers – but the lecture will encapsulate my novel interpretation of Capital for eternity, or what passes for eternity in the Cloud.  This seventh lecture will be followed by a final eighth lecture in which I look to the present and try to answer two questions:  First, what is the modern neo-classical mystification of capitalism that has taken the place of the old classical mystification; and Second, what is happening right now “within the womb of the old society,” in Marx’s pregnant phrase, that is preparing the way for the possibility, if not the inevitability, of Socialism?

Meanwhile, Trump is ensnared in the trap being laid for him by a porn star, a Playboy Playmate, and a former Apprentice contestant, and the consensus among the legal commentators is that he is in for a world of hurt.  If these three women are his undoing, I shall experience a conversion on the road to Damascus and start believing in a God with a truly divine sense of humor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ALERT, ALERT!

The new Marx lecture is number six, not number five.  The link just posted takes you to the correct lecture, but I must figure out how to edit the title so that it is correct.  Rats!

OK, all done.

On to Number seven.

NUMBER SIX!

Here it is, the sixth lecture on Marx.  No sooner is it posted than I must get to work on lecture seven.  A bloviator's work is never done.

Monday, March 19, 2018

NYAH, NYAH, I TOLD YOU SO

Faithful readers will recall that when the Grand Jury handed down an indictment of a nonentity for identity theft, I speculated that someone at Cambridge Analytica would be sweating bullets.  [See February 20, 2018]  Well, it looks like Cambridge Analytica is in Mueller's crosshairs now.  We shall see.

CRAP!

Stephen Baraban points out that my fancy literary quote is from Wordsworth, not Tennyson.  Maybe I should stick to The Big Bang Theory!  My profound apologies, and thanks to Stephen Baraban.  So much for my pathetic effort to appear cultivated.  I shall leave the error as a testament to my innumerable limitations.

A FEW RESPONSES


It would be impossible for me to respond to all the wonderful comments posted on this blog while I was away, but this morning, as I wait to go off and deliver my sixth Marx lecture, I would like to say a few words about some of them.

First, let me thank my old friend. classmate, graduate school apartment mate, and Columbia colleague, Charles Parsons, for his observations about the 50th anniversary of the ’68 Columbia student uprising, which happened when both of us were there.  I knew that Paul Cronin is bringing out a commemorative volume.  He asked me to contribute something, but after I did, he apologized and said it had to be cut for reasons of length.  No big loss.  Charles is of course right that since the event took place in the spring, it is this semester and not the fall semester that is the real anniversary, but I am hoping that Todd Gitlin and I will draw a few students who still want to talk about it when we teach next fall.  All I can say, quoting Tennyson, is Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ but to be young was very heaven.

To those who commented on Robert Heilbroner author of the classic work The Worldly Philosophers, Bob and I were pretty good friends back when I was teaching at Columbia.  He was heir to the Weber and Heilbroner clothing store fortune, and lived in an elegant Park Avenue apartment.  My first wife and I once attended a soirée there at which the guests were entertained by a concert pianist hired for the occasion.  He was a real class act and a wonderful person.  When I donated to the Houghton Rare Book Library at Harvard my original copy of the 30 page cablegram from John Reed in St. Petersburg announcing the October Revolution, I wanted to do so in his honor, but he modestly declined, so I donated it in the name of my grandparents, lifelong socialists in New York.

A propos the idea of taping the Gitlin/Wolff course, I thought this through with regard to the Marx course I taught at UNC Chapel Hill some years ago, and decided it was a bad idea.  There is no way it could be done without compromising the freedom and protection offered to students in a classroom setting.  Imagine a student taking the course who is considering a career on Wall Street [30% of Columbia graduating seniors!]  Would such a student, intrigued by Marx or Marcuse, want his or her voice and even face in such a setting on the Internet forever?  I suspect not.  If I permit readers of this blog to post comments anonymously [or, to be more precise, Anonymously], I cannot do less for my students.

Well, there is much more to say, but my lecture beckons, and besides, in this 24 hour news cycle, last week’s comments are old news.  J

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A GUEST POST BY TODD GITLIN

Here is a piece Todd published today in the NY Daily News.  teaching with him is going to be a hoot!



BY Todd Gitlin [4]
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, March 18, 2018, 5:00 AM
Last week's school walkouts against school shootings will probably not suffice to jolt America to its senses about guns — even if 100,000 students walked out in New York City, by one estimate, or a million nationwide, by another.  But the students have already accomplished something important: They refuse to stand idly by. They speak with the authority of victims but also the maturity of citizens. They honor the lost, and at the same time they think forward.  So they have mobilized an unprecedented force. This is not just a matter of social media. Their energy and eloquence, conspicuous after the Parkland, Fla., massacre, has put new facts on the ground. Where those facts will take us depends on what they do next and who follows the students' lead.

This week's March for Our Lives in Washington will amplify the call.  School walkouts were with us long before the age of instantaneous clicking. High school students took to the streets in the 1960s to demand reforms.  But the current walkouts are in one crucial way precedent-making. In the 1960s, the initiative came from adults who had been campaigning against segregation for years: ministers and civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress of Racial Equality.

This week, the students took the initiative. They were the leaders. In the 1960s, there were young leaders aplenty in anti-racist and anti-war movements, but the leaders of those movements were college and university students. I know, because I was in the thick of it, with Students for a Democratic Society. Enthusiastic high schoolers did join in, but they were troops more than officers. The most celebrated, and probably the most effective, wave of schoolchildren's protest came on May 2, 1963, when more than 1,000 teenagers trained in nonviolent action poured out of high schools in and around segregationist Birmingham, Ala., which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the most segregated city in the country."  Dr. King's followers had been protesting segregation for weeks but had run short of adult volunteers. King himself, at first hesitant to involve the young, was persuaded to try. The students would walk downtown, hoping to talk with the mayor about segregation. Hundreds were arrested. Set free, they turned out the next day, too.   Hundreds more teenagers turned out, too, and this time, Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor ordered his police to turn high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs on the demonstrators. This was bad for public relations. The images of assault on innocent victims circumnavigated the world and fueled still more civil rights activity, which culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Connor instantly became the poster boy for brutal white supremacy.
 
In October 1963, Chicago's vigorous civil rights movement declared a Freedom Day boycott to protest school segregation and the practice of assigning used textbooks to black students, among other indignities. Some 200,000 students marched in the streets. Other cities saw one-and two-day sequels, all led by civil rights activists and ministers:  New York in February, with some 450,000 staying out of school; Cleveland in April, with 85% of black students staying out; Seattle in 1966, led by the NAACP among others.

In each of these cases, objections were heard. High school kids were said to be too impressionable, too easily manipulated. "Outside agitators" were accused of stirring up trouble among docile Negroes. It wasn't only white racists who looked askance at the student insurgency. During the Birmingham protest, Malcolm X, fearing violence, took a swipe at the civil rights movement, saying that "real men don't put their children on the firing line."  King, on the other hand, said that actions like Birmingham's brought children "a sense of their own stake in freedom." He later wrote, "Looking back, it is clear that the introduction of Birmingham's children into the campaign was one of the wisest moves we made. It brought a new impact to the crusade, and the impetus that we needed to win the struggle."

Birmingham's actions were the first large-scale civil disobedience under King's leadership. The confrontation in the streets made for one of his most vivid actions.  Today too, partisans of the status quo are ever eager to deem student protestors to be pawns in somebody else's sinister game. In the folklore of five decades ago, apologists for white supremacy accused "outside agitators" of being the puppet-masters of the young. Today, without offering the slightest trace of evidence, gun fanatics accuse outspoken high schoolers of being "crisis actors" paid by the likes of their favorite demon, the philanthropist George Soros.  The high schoolers' insurgency is all the more impressive in contrast with the protest habits of their college-age elders. In recent years, despite strong campaigns for fossil-fuel divestment (a good cause) and a boycott of Israeli scholars (a bad cause), a great deal of campus energy that wants the world to think it is progressive remains self-enclosed.

Their feuds are internecine. They are parochial. They do not persuade the unconvinced. Many campus activists think they strike a serious blow against racism by shaking their fists at Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and other far-right darlings invited onto campus precisely to elicit outrage — or at Charles Murray, a conservative thinker who actually makes arguments. They fixate on the view that speech with which they disagree is tantamount to violence, and therefore believe that they are entitled to prevent or disrupt it.  They are not embarrassed to embrace a slogan that would have been anathema for every previous generation of progressive campaigners: "NO FREE SPEECH." Their bullying is, they think, purely defensive.

Liberals are dismayed and a gleeful right — which supports the nastiest president in history — gets to crow that it's the left that's thuggish.  Meanwhile, the campuses whose symbolic "political correctness" is routinely deplored by right-wingers are toothless or counterproductive. Their passions are directed against objectionable words and gestures, so-called "microaggressions," and not against the far more consequential macroaggression that systematically — through gerrymandering, voter ID laws, restrictions on voting hours and other  measures that dampen the vote for people of color, city dwellers and ex-felons — punishes the poor and minorities.  So when I walk onto the Columbia campus, where I teach, I do not see appeals for students to go to nearby swing districts, or anywhere else, to register voters, or to lobby state officials to keep the polls open. There are local Democrats on the Upper West Side who do that work, but not many college students, either at Columbia or other universities I visit.

The high school activists have leapfrogged their older sisters and brothers.  They too often isolate themselves from off-campus political allies with whom they might actually make life better for most people of color. They rarely actively campaign for candidates who support affordable housing, more affordable health care, environmental justice and desegregation.  Even as the post-women's-march Resistance mobilizes to support electable Democrats around the country, and otherwise oppose Donald Trump's most unjust and pernicious policies, not enough campuses teem — not yet, at least — with volunteers who fan out to register voters in swing districts, to build a political force in behalf of democratic, egalitarian change.  We are learning a lot through this split-screen look at two forms of protest.

High schoolers in Florida and elsewhere are acutely aware that they live in a world where their enemies hold power. With amazing speed, less than a week after Nikolas Cruz snuffed out 17 lives with his AR-15, they arranged for buses to take them to the state capital in Tallahassee, lobbying to tighten gun laws. (The Republicans who rule the Florida statehouse refused even to consider a bill to ban assault rifles.)  Many of the high school leaders know they have to take political action if they are not to keep running into stone walls. They talk about the need to register voters. They know they need to keep lobbying but even more, they need to help elect congenial politicians. 

What the young activists will do for an encore is in their hands.  Will they surmount the passivity that has retarded past gun control campaigns? Will they avoid burning out?  And will the power of their example inspire those who are slightly older and not at all wiser in the ways of citizen activism? Here's hoping.

_Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia
University and the author of "Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit and
the Promise of Occupy Wall Street."_

HOME AGAIN


Well, I am back, having just dodged really bad weather in Paris.  Although I cannot access my blog in Paris to post, I was able to read the comments, and my general impression is that you do not need me at all!  A lively, knowledgeable, vigorous discussion took place in my absence.  Maybe I should go away more often.

What is new in Paris?  The Seine is still above its normal level.  Our good friend Joan has a new little dog who is lovely but can never truly take the place of Apollon, who passed away when we were there in October.  Gael, our favorite waitperson at the café, has been promoted to daytime manager, well deserved.  Oh yes, I have been invited by a Marxist organization in Brussels to give a lecture in June as part of their celebration of the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth [an event not stimulating much in the way of recognition here in our benighted United States.]

While in Paris I completely changed my plans for the next Marx lecture, to be delivered tomorrow.  I will actually talk about what I said I would talk about, rather than going on a riff about Burt Reynolds, capitalism, and a hotel I watched being built several years ago.  I shall save my notes on that for a future lecture.

Let’s see, while I was away, Rex Tillerson was fired, as was a senior State Departmnent official for telling the truth, Trump’s body man was frogmarched out of the White House because of an out-of-control gambling problem, Conor Lamb won a smashing 627 vote victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford [a.k.a. Stormy Daniels] stated flatly on TV that the payoff to her to keep quiet about her affair with Trump directly involved Trump and that she has been physically threatened, details to be released in a Sixty Minutes interview to be aired next Sunday, and for the first time ever a Number 16 seed beat a number 1 seed in the first round of the NCAA March Madness.

I was only away for twelve days, for crissakes!

Seen from abroad, the United States looks to be spiraling rapidly into a modern reality TV form of dictatorship.  I am ashamed to have an American passport.

When the bags are unpacked and the laundry is done, I shall spend some time kibitzing the exchanges in the Comments section.

I missed you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

NUMBER FIVE

Here it is, number five.  You can all watch this while I fly off to Paris.  I will return in a little less than two weeks.  I leave it to you to make sure the world does not fall apart while I am gone.

Monday, March 5, 2018

GOOD NEWS

Thanks to Todd Gitlin's interventions and efforts, he and I have jumped through all the hoops and cleared all the bureaucratic hurdles.  Next semester [Fall 2018, the 50th anniversary of the great Columbia student uprising]  Todd and I will teach an upper level undergraduate seminar in the Columbia Sociology Department entitled The Mystifications of Social Reality.  It is scheduled for Tuesdays, 2-4 pm, and I shall fly up to New York each Tuesday to teach.  It should be a blast.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

YOU GOTTA LOVE THE EUROPEAN UNION

So Trump, unglued because the world is closing in on him, lashes out by threatening to impost tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the EU responds by floating the idea of tariffs on Bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles?  Why on earth those products?  Because Bourbon comes from the home state of Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Harley Davidson's corporate headquarters are in Speaker Ryan's home state.

I think our Dear Leader is outclassed.

A BRIEF THANK YOU

Several of you have had kind things to say about my lectures, including Anonymous [is there only one?], Professor Charles Pigden, and LFC.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  It means more to me than I can say that the lectures please and even instruct.  I guess I am, at heart, a stand up comic.

Oh, while I am at it, Andrew Blais, the book you are recalling is Games and Decisions by Luce and Raiffa, which has a proof of the Fundamental Theorem but not a proof of Brouwer's Fixed Point Theorem.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS

Let's face it.  Things are godawful and getting worse.  Even Tiggers like me have trouble finding something to bounce up and down about.  I grasp at every smidgen of good news like a man sinking into quicksand and reaching for a low-hanging branch.  This morning, after an extra early walk [beautiful full moon], I came upon two stories that lifted my spirits.  

The first was this story in the Washington Post.  It seems that Kansas has never gotten around to actually passing a law stipulating the minimum age for Governor, so five teenage high school students -- all young men -- have announced for the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominations this year.  It is immediately obvious from the Post story that any one of them would be superior to the rightwing idiot now occupying the post.  You gotta love a country in which this can happen.

The second story was an MSNBC report of a Russian sex guru, a young attractive woman currently in a Thai prison awaiting extradition to Russia, who claims to have eighteen hours of tapes and such connecting Russian oligarchs with the Trump campaign, which she will share with anyone who gets her out of jail.  Her story is about as likely as Trump's claim that he was an honors student at Wharton, but the report gave me a frisson of glee.

Now, there, don't say I never give you anything to smile about!

Friday, March 2, 2018

REGRETS


The disintegration of the Trump presidency is now taking place with such speed that by the time I return from Paris things may be totally changed.  How will the world ever survive without my commentary?  I begin to appreciate the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

CLARIFICATION

I am afraid I gave the wrong impression.  There will be four or five more Marx lectures, maybe even six.  There is a great deal more to say!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

UPDATE

I have been hard at work on my next Marx lecture, which is now mostly ready.  On Tuesday, after the lecture, Susie and I will fly to Paris for Spring break [despite the Siberian blast of cold air that has blown through.]  You will recall that I am unable to access my blog from my laptop, so I shall take an eleven day break from blogging, and return on March 17th to North Carolina.  Considering the speed with which the Mueller investigation is proceeding, the world may be turned upside down by then.

Not too long after I return, I shall teach a six week Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course here at Carolina Meadows, an Introduction to the Dialogues of Plato.  Next fall, it now appears very likely, I shall travel to New York one day a week to co-teach a course in the Columbia Sociology Department on the Mystifications of Social Reality with my old student and now Columbia Journalism professor Todd Gitlin, whom some of you may know as a lifelong activist and the third president of SDS back in the day.  

All in all, I am managing to fight off the ravages of time as I soldier on toward my eighty-fifth birthday.