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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Sunday, July 22, 2018

ROLLING MY TUB


Spending several days cleaning up a database, merge printing letters of appeal for the campaign of young Ryan Watts, and then wrestling my cranky HP inkjet printer so as to merge print a corresponding set of envelopes [the printer every so often seizes up on the envelopes] had a quite unexpected side effect.  It gave me a sense of peace, however brief.  For a few days, I felt that I was actually doing something about the political disaster unfolding in plain view.  Now, I am painfully aware that what I was doing did not even rise to the level of a drop in the ocean, but I was doing it, not just talking about it.  At this point, I do not even know whether the effort will raise any money.  The next two weeks should tell.

As I have observed somewhere before on this blog, so long as you are just thinking about things, you might as well think about everything, since it is no harder than just thinking about something.  I mean, why think about trolley cars when you can think about the world historical mission of Capitalism?   But if you want to actually change the world, it takes an enormous effort to make a small change, and ten times as much effort to make a somewhat bigger change.

Taking back the House is really a rather small step, and it would be fatally easy to sit back and observe that taking the House will have very little effect on American imperialism or the crushing consequences of capitalism for the world’s poor.  But taking back the House is at least something.  Now that something, small as it is, requires flipping twenty-three House seats, and flipping just one of them requires an entire four month political campaign, and an entire four month political campaign requires raising serious money, and raising serious money requires sending letters to thousands and thousands of people, and preparing just five hundred of those letters requires that someone do what I did these past few days. 

Academic intellectuals are not accustomed to toiling in the vineyards.  They are not even accustomed to running a vineyard.  They are usually not satisfied with anything less than considering the theoretical preconditions of vineyards in general.  That is why good old Karl Marx observed that “philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."

10 comments:

Howard Berman said...

Bravo! Each nudge you give the world in the right direction, something or someone pushes back. You sound like a democratic socialist- I guess now isn't the time for Revolution- it's the time for political action one trench at a time

s. wallerstein said...

I'm not going to argue that your political strategy is wrong, but it does seem strange that you quote Karl Marx to support it, because I sincerely doubt that Marx's idea of what it means to change the world involves supporting mainstream Democrats.

Jerry Fresia said...

Speaking of campaigns, the fear of leftists making gains within the Democratic Party is shared by establishment figures of both parties: here's St. Comey:

"Democrats, please, please don’t lose your minds and rush to the socialist left. This president and his Republican Party are counting on you to do exactly that. America’s great middle wants sensible, balanced, ethical leadership."

Sensible, balanced,ethical leadership means ignoring the human catastrophes unfolding in Yemen and Palestine, the electoral collaboration with Israelis, the still growing inequality in the U.S. and the policies that cause it.

Anonymous said...

All thought, no action

vs.

All action, no thought

I actually always thought that when Marx wrote the passage you quoted he was actually urging that genuine thought and genuine action necessarily went hand in hand. Besides, didn't he spend an inordinate amount of time in the rotunda of the British museum/library trying to figure out how to undertake and encourage the right kind of action? Even in the present moment, maybe it just isn't so evident what the right kind of action may be, no matter that some are insistent they know what the right action is?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I thought I was making myself perfectly clear, but apparently not. I was not arguing for one sort of action rather than another, and certainly not for action AS OPPOSED TO thought!! I was trying, gracefully, to express the depth of my anxiety and fear, and the momentary relief I obtained from doing something, anything, that might in a tiny way make SOME difference in making things marginally better. I could not have been more clear if I had had a T-shirt made with the message or, God help me, learned how to tweet. Is there something about blogging that destroys communication?

Anonymous said...

I guess people relieve their anxieties in different ways. Some might find the legal novel "Necessity" by D.W. Buffa (who studied, so the dust jacket says, under Leo Strauss at Chicago) remedial. Th story begins with a Californian US Senator killing a US President on Air Force One at SFO. The President is described as a narcissist, a would-be tyrant, treasonous, . . . I've just started reading it so I don't know how the courtroom and other drama works out.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It certainly sounds promising.

decessero said...

Indeed. While others are noble enough, patient enough, public-minded enough graciously to share with us their own anxiety relieving actions which serve however minutely to further the potential common weal (if you appreciate the irony this word might evoke).

s. wallerstein said...

Corey Robin on "Russian and the Left"

coreyrobin.com/2018/07/23/the-question-of-russia-and-the-left-a-response-to-ryan-cooper/

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzt7JvsYIuI