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Thursday, April 19, 2018


Well, I bitched about the screw-up concerning my Columbia course next semester, and the response is extended discourses about bureaucracy and solidarity with the working class.  It recalls the old light bulb joke, "How many socialists does it take to change a light bulb?  Answer, a dozen.  Eleven to debate the hidden injuries of class, and one to go out and find an electrician."

Just to be clear, I am only being paid $8000 to teach the course [$2000 less than UNC Chapel Hill, a state university, pays], so in this situation I count as one of the exploited.  And the people I am complaining about are the College Committee on Instruction, which consists of six tenured professors, one untenured professor, and the dean of the College, not underpaid secretaries.

I mean, if we are not going to be able to complain about bureaucratic screw-ups under socialism, I am going to reconsider my commitments.


s. wallerstein said...

There will be no bureaucracy under socialism and so that anyone who complains about it will treated for the underlying antisocial psychiatric disorder. The treatment will not only be free of charge, as medical care will be a basic human right available to all regardless of race, creed, color, sex orientation or gender identification, but also an obligatory social duty, since all citizens committed to constructing socialism will seek and aspire to a healthy productive life.

Matt S said...

Totally off-topic, but I have to bring this up:

I was reading Colin Ward's book "A Very Short Introduction to Anarchism" today, and I came across this passage that had me dumbfounded:

"For a century, anarchists have used the word ‘libertarian’ as a synonym for ‘anarchist’, both as a noun and an adjective. The celebrated anarchist journal Le Libertaire was founded in 1895. However, much more recently the word has been appropriated by various American free-market philosophers – David Friedman, Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Robert Paul Wolff – so it is necessary to examine the modern individualist ‘libertarian’ response from the standpoint of the anarchist tradition."

That's right, Robert Paul Wolff is listed as a "free-market philosopher". I figured that I must be misunderstanding what Colin Ward meant, so I read on. Here's another quote from later in the book:

"Beyond an aspiration to repeal all ‘victimless crime’ laws, we did not learn about any commitment to a change in the United States penal system, which now imprisons a larger proportion of the population than any other nation that keeps reliable records. But in any case, the other philosophers of the new libertarian Right seem to have a less sweeping agenda. Robert Paul Wolff, for example, in the 1998 reprint of his book In Defense of Anarchism, suggests that ‘a system of in-the-home voting machines be set up’, each of them ‘attached to the television set’, to decide social and political issues. He asserts that ‘social justice would flourish as it has never flourished before’."

Let the history books remember the right-wing philosopher Robert Paul Wolff...

It seems like the only book of your's that he has read (if he did in fact read it...) is "In Defense of Anarchism". It's the only one that he cites. I'm wondering if you ever knew Colin Ward or otherwise might be able to explain this oddity.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Alas, I get that a lot. When the book was first published, I had a complimentary note from Murray Rothbard, then a leading right wing anarchist. I figure you can control what you write but not how your readers take it.

LFC said...

I confess to not having read In Defense of Anarchism. That said, I presume there is no praise for free-market-style libertarianism in the book. Which means that Colin Ward (and I don't know who he is w/o looking him up) misread it. Which is not good for a book in 'The Very Short Introduction...' series. It may be that Oxford Univ. Press, in what may be a somewhat desperate effort to publish as many of those somewhat overpriced little paperbacks as possible, has turned to commissioning or signing authors for them who really shouldn't have been signed. Or it may be an isolated mistake in an otherwise ok book. But if one's publishing plan is to keep churning out as many of those 'Very Short Introductions' as possible, eventually it's not unlikely that you're going to start scraping the bottom of the barrel -- either in terms of topics, or authors, or both.

Dean C. Rowan said...

Ward was a prolific writer and, per his obituary in The Guardian, "Britain's most famous anarchist." So much for celebrity.

Anonymous said...

What did Rothbard write in his note? That seems like an amusing anecdote!

Matt said...

I don't know much about Colin Ward, and it sounds like he's made a real Hash of RPW's book, but he got a nice tribute after he died on this old Crooked Timber post:

I'll admit that I wasn't sympathetic to the ideas expressed, but I'm not sympathetic to anarchism at all, so no surprise.

On the Very Short Introductions: they are a mixed bag, with some being really good and useful (I have very much enjoyed ones on The Celts, The Spanish Civil War, Foucault, the Koran, and others) and others being dull and/or not very useful. (I could barely finish the one I read on Clausewitz, for example.) They are mostly around $10, which doesn't seem too bad, though perhaps it's a bit much for the ones that are just re-packaged from the old "past masters" or "modern masters" series. (Many of the early volumes on philosophers are like this. I'll admit that Peter Singer on Marx and Hegel doesn't sound that exciting to me, but maybe I'm wrong.)

s. wallerstein said...


Brian Magee interviews Singer on Hegel and Marx here.

It's been a few years since I listened to it, and I'm not a Marx or Hegel expert by any means, but I recall that Singer's take on Hegel (he barely speaks about Marx) is quite illuminating for those of us who don't understand Hegel at all.

Singer's preaching about effective altruism and animal liberation are at times so irritating that one overlooks Singer's tremendous intelligence and philosophical ability.

LFC said...

thanks for the links on Colin Ward.