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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, March 19, 2018

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 soirĂ©e 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

7 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

I would imagine that someone who understands Marx well could make a lot of money on Wall St., and that a smart Wall St. firm would welcome a Marxist analyst to its staff of market experts.

If, as you claim and I don't disagree with you, Marx is the greatest social scientist who has ever lived, then anyone who wants to understand how capitalism works (to make money from it or to overthrow it) should study him.

howard b said...

What is the current situation vis a vis Trump objectively?
Andrew Sullivan sounds like he's panicking.
I think if we make it past the elections, we'll likely survive this farcical crisis

Stephen Baraban said...

Welcome back, Dr. Wolff! As a person who doesn't know all that much about social sciences, let me de-lurk for the 2nd time to point out that the wonderful quote "bliss was it to be alive..." is not from Tennyson, but is Wordsworth recalling the outbreak of the French Revolution in his long autobiographical poem _The Prelude_.

Stephen Baraban said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LFC said...

Would it be impolitic to ask how you acquired the orig. copy of the John Reed cablegram? The story is probably in your autobiography, but I haven't read the relevant section.

(Btw, Robert Heilbroner's son and I were college classmates, but our paths never crossed, which was not at all unusual in a class of approx. 1600 people. I think we had one very short, like 90-second, polite conversation at the beginning of freshman year, and that was it.)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Not impolitic at all. My great aunt Fanny, my grandmother's sister, was working as a secretary at the NY Call, a socialist newspaper. Reed was a stringer. When the cable came in, she transcribed it on her typewriter, and then asked whether she could keep the original. They said yes. It came down in the family through my mother, who was sort of the historian of the family, and when my father died [after my mother], I discovered it along with a vast archive of family papers in my parents' attic.

I also have the original of a letter he wrote describing the situation right before the revolution.

LFC said...

thanks