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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, August 2, 2018

AS I WAS WALKING

I walked very early this morning, starting at 4:30 a.m., so early that I did not see any of the dogs with whom I have made friends.  As a consequence, I had time to think, and the result is that I have a number of things I want to say.

First of all, let me acknowledge that as an old man, I really do not fully appreciate the threats and challenges faced by young people making their way these days in the world of work.  I say this by way of apologizing for the hard line I have taken here on anonymous [and pseudonymous] comments.  To be sure, during the years before I was awarded tenure at Columbia [which is to say before 1964], I made myself reasonably obnoxious, challenging the President and the Dean of Harvard and the President of the University of Chicago while I was teaching there, as well as alienating numerous senior professors here and there.  But I was fortunate, and these breaches of academic etiquette did not cost me very much.  [I did lose jobs I wanted at Hunter College, Boston University, and Brandeis because of my political statements, but in retrospect I was better off not getting those jobs anyway.]  However, it would seem that things are a great deal harder now, and I am sorry that I have failed to take that into account.  Let us just agree that commentators, named or unnamed, will try on this blog to remember that we are comrades, not enemies, and will write in that spirit.

Second, my invocation of a line from The Sting was not meant as a comment on the dispute concerning Russia.  Its purpose was to remind us all that in politics, one never gets all that one wants, even when one wins, so one must be willing to take what victory brings and recognize that it will never be enough.  Even if we managed by some miracle to elect enough Ocasio-Cortez’s to control the House, and enough Bernie Sanders to control the Senate, and Elizabeth Warren as President, that dream world would probably just take us back to the glory days of the New Deal, which was not, I can report, a socialist paradise.  In reality, even a brilliant electoral success would yield much less.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as the Good Book says.

Third, I want to offer my own take on Trump’s incendiary tweet that Jeff Sessions should end the Mueller investigation right now.  [Those who sigh at these words and conclude that I am just an apologist for the Democratic National Committee are advised to turn off their computers and go read some Gramsci.]  Almost immediately after that tweet appeared, Trump’s lawyers called the mainstream media and went on television explaining that he was not giving an order, just expressing an opinion, as though he were himself merely a talking head on a cable news show.  The anti-Trumpers responded by proclaiming this an impeachable offense and opined that Trump had walked it back because he knew that firing Mueller would drive the Congressional Republicans into dangerous opposition.  I think all of that is way too complicated, and gives Trump more credit for rationally self-interested action than he deserves.

The explanation, I suggest, is much simpler.  Trump, like many narcissistic bullies, is a coward.  He became a media darling on The Apprentice by intoning each week the signature line “You’re fired!” but that was a scripted bit of theater, rehearsed and performed for the cameras.  The reality is that Trump has proven himself to be too weak and cowardly to fire anyone to his or her face.  He sends his underlings to do the job, and when they protest, as White House McGahn did when told to fire Mueller, Trump backs down.  Commentators have endlessly drawn parallels with the Saturday Night Massacre, but in that case, Nixon actually ordered Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox.  When Richardson refused and resigned, Nixon ordered William Ruckelshaus, next in line, to fire him, and when Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned, Nixon gave the order to Robert Bork, who complied.  Say what you will about Nixon, he was not a spineless coward and blowhard.  Trump is.

3 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Wouldn't it be possible for anonymous commenters to adopt pseudonyms so that we can tell them apart? They can even change the pseudonyms from thread to thread to make it harder to trace them, but at times there are several different anonymous commenters in one thread, all with differing political postures and that leads to confusion. I appreciate your need for anonymity. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, not all of us are tenured professors with highly protected speech at our places of employment. ;)

As to the Sting, after the music of Joplin there was the philosopher Jagger who told us, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes..."

Jerry Fresia said...

I also like the use of pseudonyms too. Better than Anonymous, I think, especially given that that sobriquet is used widely, if not overly so.

Back in the day when I would actually, physically participate in a variety of protests that ended in arrest, it was quite common, when being arraigned, to give the judge a false name (in the hope that such names would be recorded and that would be the end of our judicial travail). I was always Albert Parsons, an anarchist who was hanged, with others, for involvement in the Haymarket Affair. It was not uncommon for a woman to step forward and announce to the judge that her name was Ann Archy. Believe or not, judges would dutifully record the name, not even looking up, as we militant wannabees would stand solemnly, feigning respect for the process, thoroughly delighted.

I think s. wallerstein has a point.

A.P.